February 16, 2008


An Iranian Revolutionary, Dismayed but Unbowed (MICHAEL SLACKMAN, 2/16/08, NY Times)

MR. YAZDI opposed the student takeover of the United States Embassy in 1979, but that is not to say he was pro-American. He was a critic of Washington’s policies toward Iran, and an enemy of Zionism. But he wanted a normal state, one recognized by the international community, not a pariah, isolated and radicalized. He says he knew that taking diplomats hostage would lead to the kind of Iranian state that exists today, one that continues to reward the most radical ideas.

Unexpectedly, Mr. Yazdi finds himself today aligned with some of those hostage takers, like Abbas Abdi, who, like Mr. Yazdi, now want to reform the system, and, like Mr. Yazdi, have been marginalized for their views.

“We thought we knew a lot of things back then,” Mr. Abdi said. “Everything was simplified. We thought, if only the shah goes, everything will be solved and finished. But the revolution was right, there was no alternative, no solution.”

Mr. Yazdi says he is a fundamentalist, but what he means is that he is a Muslim intellectual, traditional in his adherence to ritual and teachings. But he is a staunch democrat who defines democracy not by the mechanics of governance, not by elections and institutions, but by ideas.

“We recognize tolerance as a basic component of democracy,” he said. “God has not created all of us alike — we are different — human society is a pluralistic society. In the Koran, God is telling us that man is created to be free. So we are free to think, and think different. So the aim of democracy is to recognize the pluralistic nature of human society. The second item is tolerance, I have to tolerate my opponent. With tolerance comes compromise; without compromise democracy doesn’t exist.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 16, 2008 6:53 AM
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