by Ayesha Khan (Islamic Movement, Crescent International Vol. 33, No. 2, Safar, 1425)
Among the many functions around the world celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution was one in Toronto, Canada.
The Islamic revolution is that stage in the Muslims’ struggle when the Islamic movement overpowers the existing jahili order in society and replaces it with an Islamic State. Only one Muslim state has achieved this breakthrough in contemporary Muslim history: Iran, 25 years ago, when the US-backed regime of the Shah was consigned to history. Immediately, the West and most regimes in the Muslim world launched a vicious propaganda campaign against the fledgling Islamic State. There has been no let-up since.
Although the Islamic State of Iran is far from being a perfect model, its shortcomings pale into insignificance compared with the blunders perpetrated by others all over the world. Yet the negative propaganda has been so intense that even some well-wishers of the Islamic State have been driven onto the defensive. Thus, when it was time to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, there was some uncertainty about how people might react. This reflects the success of the vicious anti-Iran, anti-Revolution propaganda of the West, which is beamed into Iran as well as all over the world.
There are many others who feel that the Islamic Revolution is an event worth celebrating, especially on the occasion of its 25th anniversary. In February anniversary celebrations were held throughout the world. A remarkable phenomenon of the Islamic Revolution is that it is celebrated not only by the people of Iran but by Muslims of all backgrounds and origins, because they feel an instinctive affinity with it. The most elaborate programmes were held in Islamic Iran, but there were also major celebrations in other parts of the world. One of the biggest events took place in Toronto, home to a large Muslim community, on February 14. The programme was attended by several hundred people from various communities, reflecting the wide appeal the Islamic Revolution enjoys as a phenomenon of change in Muslim societies. Its popular appeal rivals in importance the liberation of Palestine and al-Quds. There was also an exhibition of Islamic art and calligraphy by Iranian artists, demonstrating the flowering of cultural talent in Iran since the Revolution. Some of the artists were also present, displaying their artwork at various venues throughout Canada, including Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.
The programme in Toronto on February 14, held at the huge hall of the Islamic Centre of York Region, attracted a very large audience; the speakers panel was also very diverse. Professor Mohamed Elmasry, president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, was joined by Imam Mohammed al-Asi from Washington DC, Iqbal Siddiqui, editor of Crescent International, from London, Dr Fazel Larijani, cultural attache at the embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Ottawa, Dr Liakat Takim, professor of Islamic studies at the University of Denver, and Sister Wahida Valiante, vice president of the Canadian Islamic Congress.
After brief welcoming remarks by Zafar Bangash, director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought, Dr Larijani touched on the different theories advanced about the Islamic Revolution, but his presentation focused on modernization theory and its implications in three broad areas: Iran, the Muslim world as a whole, and Muslims in North America. In the Iranian context this theory relates the rapid modernization during the Shah’s regime in Iran to the cultural alienation of the vast majority of the people who rebelled against it, overthrowing the monarchy. In the larger Muslim world, encounters between Europeans and the Muslims led to a clash on many fronts. Because the Muslim world was internally weak, that conflict led to colonization and finally secularization.
The presence of Muslims in North America, and indeed in the West in general, in large numbers is a more recent phenomenon. The interaction and cross-fertilization of ideas between Muslims and the host communities is essential for a creative process of dialogue leading to peace and security for all. Rooted in spiritual and ethical values, Islam is able to address the ills inflicted by modernity and globalization. It requires Muslims to be aware of their divine responsibilities in order to protect their own societies and enlighten those of other faiths and beliefs.
The other speakers addressed the problems facing Muslims in the Western world. Dr Liakat Takim touched on the pressures Muslim youth face in North America, both from their parents as well as from the larger society. He emphasised the importance of parents becoming more sensitive to the needs of the youth growing up in this environment; otherwise a chasm of cultural alienation may set in. Iqbal Siddiqui shared the particular perspective of Muslims in Europe and pointed out that Islamophobia was not a new phenomenon; the ongoing controversy pertaining to the ban on hijab in France must not be viewed in the context only of what the French government is doing today. As long ago as 1989 Muslim girl students faced the wrath of French school officials for wearing the hijab.
Professor Elmasry addressed developments in Canada arising out of the events of September 2001. He said that the Canadian Islamic Congress had made representations on behalf of Muslims to warn against some of the oppressive bills that have since become law. He also mentioned the new bill, C-2, before Parliament, that aims to block people from viewing other televisions channels, such as al-Jazeera, al-Manar and Sahar TV, by satellite. Sister Wahida Valiante addressed the issue of vicegerency (khilafah) and its implications for life on earth. She said that it was an onerous responsibility that mankind as a whole and Muslims in particular had to fulfill.
The keynote speaker for the evening was Imam Muhammed al-Asi of Washington DC. He started by pointing out that Muslims had throughout history faced difficult situations; the present period is no exception. But what it indicates is that the West, despite claims to allowing freedom of expression and divergent points of view, is determined to crush the Muslim voice. In fact, a determined effort is under way to prevent any expression of Muslim identity in the West, or indeed anywhere in the Muslim world. This also agrees with the policies pursued by the zionists in Occupied Palestine. He then focused on the anti-Muslim policies of the present incumbent of the US presidency. He said that although the US is recognised as a global military power, no power has ever been permanent. All civilizations have had their moments of glory; then they have collapsed. The US, too, is on the decline, despite its seeming military power. Yet this power has been largely neutralised in Afghanistan and Iraq, where small groups of people have taken on the mightiest army in the world and inflicted considerable losses on it. The same is true of the Hizbullah in Lebanon, who took on the zionist invaders of Lebanon and drove them out of their country despite the heavy adverse propaganda against them.
The success of the programme highlighted the great esteem the Islamic Revolution enjoys among Muslims of all backgrounds. It was a fitting tribute to one of the greatest events of the 20th century, which is a remarkable phenomenon of success in the Muslim world following the disintegration of the Ummah into nation-States as a result of the imposition of colonial rule. If other Muslims were to emulate the example of Iran and bring about their own Islamic Revolutions, the Muslim world would then be in much better shape than it is today.