Rahbar: West seeks to defeat Muslim liberation movements

Developing Just Leadership

Sayyid Ali Khamenei

Sha'ban 14, 1436 2011-10-01

Islamic Movement

by Sayyid Ali Khamenei (Islamic Movement, Crescent International Vol. 40, No. 8, Sha'ban, 1436)

I welcome our honorable audience and dear guests

Imam Sayyid ‘Ali Khamenei addressed the inaugural session of the First International Conference on Islamic Awakening, held in Tehran on 9-17 and 9-18-2011. Below is a translation of his remarks.

In the name of Allah, the Mercy-Giving, the Merciful. May the peace, blessings, and mercy of Allah be upon you all. Allah, the Almighty and the Truly Wise, says,

In the name of Allah, the Mercy-Giving, the Merciful. O Prophet, guard yourself against Allah’s power presence and defer not to those who reject Allah’s power presence and the dual-loyalists [as such deference will inevitably invite Allah’s corrective justice]: indeed it is Allah who is All-Knowing, Wise. [Rather] follow that which has been revealed to you by your Sustainer; indeed Allah is well acquainted with all that you do. And rely on Allah [alone] for none is more worthy of reliance than Allah (33:1–3).

I welcome our honorable audience and dear guests. What has brought us together on this occasion is the Islamic Awakening, which has been inspired by a greater awareness among the Muslim Ummah [of its own captivity and ultimate destiny]. This awakening has led to a major upheaval among the nations of our region, spawning in its wake uprisings and revolutions that could never have been contemplated in the calculations of the dominant, regional and international, satanic powers. These momentous liberation movements have razed to the ground autocratic and imperialist strongholds [in the Muslim East] and vanquished the tyrants guarding them.

There is no doubt that colossal social upheavals of this kind [which engage all sectors of society] have always culminated from the solid foundation of history and an irrepressible civilizational momentum, and are byproducts of the accumulation of wisdom and experience [in the fight for liberation and human rights]. Over the past 150 years, great intellectual and jihadi personalities, who were the inspirational and motivational force behind the Islamic movements in Egypt, Iraq, India, and other countries in Asia and Africa, contributed the forerunning and pioneering efforts that are responsible for the present state of affairs in the Islamic world.

The developments in the 1950s and 1960s led to a national power personality that deferred mostly to materialistic ideologies and thoughts, and because of this inherent character, the regional regimes fell prey to Western imperialist and colonialist powers. The lessons learned from this maturing experience [with taghuti power orientations] have contributed substantially to the evolution of general and profound understanding in the Islamic world. The dual impact of the Islamic Revolution in Iran — hailed by Imam Khomeini as “the victory of blood over sword” — and the establishment of the enduring, robust, courageous, and progressive Islamic Republic on the current Islamic Awakening is in and of itself a long story that deserves to be contemplated and researched. There is no doubt that the Islamic Revolution in Iran will be accorded a thorough and comprehensive chapter in the ultimate historical analysis and record of this new situation in the Islamic world.

For this reason, it cannot be overemphasized that the emerging facts and truths on the ground in the various Muslim countries are not simply disconnected events that can be easily severed from their past historical roots, and our own social and intellectual, Islamic background. Otherwise, it would allow our adversaries and the shallow-minded to present these liberation movements, in their warped and biased analyses, as a passing wave or short-lived phenomenon in order to snuff out hope in the hearts of those striving for justice and human rights.

In this fraternal dialogue with you I want to place special emphasis on three areas:

  1. the identity of these uprisings and revolutions,
  2. major threats and harms lying in their way, and
  3. recommendations for solutions that could forestall these threats and harms.

Regarding the first point, I believe the most important element in these revolutions is the genuine mass presence of people in the arena of action, struggle, and jihad. They have been present not only with their collective heart, desire, and commitment, but also with their individual bodies and souls. In public perception, whether in front of similarly concerned people or even in front of the largely indifferent, there is a vast disparity between the impact of a mass popular presence and that of a military cadre or armed combatants.

The events of 1950s and 1960s indicate that in some countries of Africa and Asia, the heavy weight of the revolution was not shouldered by diverse segments of the population and the youth from all parts of the country, but rather by the officers of a coup d’état, or small and limited armed groups. They decided and acted, and they themselves or the succeeding generation [unclear about the objectives that made them distinctive from their predecessors] changed their direction as a result of certain motivations. Their revolutions thus became their own worst enemies, thereby allowing their traditional adversaries [imperialism and Zionism] to once again prevail.

This is in stark contrast to the change that comes from the [collective will of all the] people. It is the people who bring their [once, but no longer fearful] bodies and souls to the arena of action, and by their jihad and devotion, push back and defeat the enemy. It is the people who make the slogans and set the goals; and it is they who identify, uncover, and pursue the enemy. They develop their vision of the future — although not comprehensively — and by this virtue, they do not allow the revolution to deviate from its original path, they do not concede to the enemy, they do not change course by compromising with the tainted few who sponsor special interests, and above all, they thwart the schemes of the enemy’s agents [and surrogates]. In such a grassroots movement [that unifies diverse constituencies onto a single platform], the revolution may be slowed a bit, but because of its grassroots foundation, it can avoid being short-sighted or on shaky ground. Allah (SWT) says in the Qur’an,

“Have you not considered how Allah sets forth the parable of a good word? [It is] like a good tree, firmly rooted, [reaching out] with its branches toward the sky” (14:24).

When I saw on television the brave body of the proud Egyptian people in Tahrir Square, I became convinced that their revolution would triumph. Let me confess something to you. After the victory of the Islamic Revolution and the establishment of the Islamic Republic in Iran, which caused an earthquake in the materialistic hemispheres of the East and West and brought unprecedented excitement and joy to Muslim peoples, we expected that Egypt would be next in line. The reason was the history of jihad, progressive thinking, and the presence of great mujahids and intellectuals in Egypt. In my heart, I was reciting this poem by Abu Faras,

I see you tear resistant/proof, ornamented with patience — penchant cannot tell you “do” or “don’t do”.

Of course, I’m nostalgic, nursing an affinity — but persons of my status do not have their secrets divulged.

When I saw the people of Egypt in Tahrir Square and squares in other cities, I knew I had received my response. The people of Egypt told me with words coming from their hearts: this sacred secret was nothing but the motivation and resolve to rise. And gradually these people cemented this thought in their minds, and at a historical juncture, they manifested their resolve and entered the arena in a magnificent show of power. Tunisia, Yemen, Libya, and Bahrain are no exception to this general rule.

In these revolutions, the principles, values, and goals are not written in prefabricated manifestos of factions and parties; rather they are written in the minds, hearts, and desires of each and every person present on the scene, and are declared in the context of their slogans and behaviors. Through these signals one can clearly discern the principles of the ongoing revolutions in Egypt and the other countries:

  • revival and renewal of national dignity and respect, which were previously broken and trampled under long years of dictatorial and corrupt rule, and the political domination of America and the West;
  • keeping up the banner of Islam, which is the profound din and longstanding attachment of the people, so that they can enjoy the peace of mind, justice, progress, and prosperity that is only achievable under the Islamic Shari‘ah;
  • resistance to the influence and domination of the United States and Europe, which have wrought the greatest damage and humiliation on the peoples of these countries over the past 200 years; and
  • countering the usurper and fictitious Zionist regime, which the imperialist powers have planted like a dagger in the heart of this region so that it can serve as a staging area for extending their diabolical domination after expelling a whole Ummah from its historical homeland.

There is no doubt that these revolutions, which rely on and demand these principles, are not to the liking of America, Europe, and the Zionists, and they are going to use all available means to deny them, but the truth will not change with their denial.

The widespread participation of people in these revolutions is the most relevant feature that constitutes their identity. Foreign governments that tried everything in their power and used all possible schemes to keep their tyrannical, corrupt, and subservient client rulers in control, only abandoning them when the indigenous people left no other choice, have no right to claim a share in the victory of these revolutions. Even in Libya, after causing irreparable damage, the intervention by America and NATO cannot distort the truth. Had it not been for the military intervention of NATO and America, who were formerly accomplices of Qaddafi, the people’s victory might have been delayed, but all their infrastructure would not have been destroyed, and innocent [civilian] women and children would not have been killed in this innocent war-torn country. The people, the elite who are of the people, and the others who are from the people are the true proprietors of these revolutions — and these are the ones who should be trusted to protect them and draw the path to the future.

Secondly, regarding the threats and harm, I should first emphasize that although there will always be threats, there are also ways to stay safe. The mere presence of threats should not weaken the resolve of an entire people,

“…verily, the stratagem of Shaytan is weak, indeed” (4:76).

Allah (SWT) says about a group of mujahids from early Islam,

…those who have been warned by other people, “Behold, a host has gathered against you; so beware of them!” Whereupon this only deepened their commitment, so that they answered, “Allah is enough for us; and how excellent a guardian is He!” and returned [from the battle] with Allah’s blessings and bounty, without having been touched by evil: for they had been striving after Allah’s goodly acceptance; and Allah is limitless in His great bounty (3:173–174).

We need to know what these threats are so that we are not surprised and are able [to have the confidence] to find our own solutions. We faced these same perils and threats after the victory of the Islamic Revolution, and overcame them. With the grace of Allah (SWT), the leadership of Imam Khomeini, and the sacrifices of our people, we managed to sail through them safely. Our enemies’ plotting still continues but so does the firm resolve of our people.

I divide the harm to these movements into two groups: those that have their roots within ourselves and come from our own weaknesses, and those that have been directly planned by the enemy. The first group of harms concerns the complacent afterthought that the job is over after the downfall of the corrupt dictator. The peace of mind and comfort that accompanies the victory, and afterward the declining motivation and weakening determination are among the first perils — and the most damaging threat is when individuals begin to ask for their share of the spoils of victory. What should immediately come to mind is the Battle of Uhud, in which the early Muslims seeking the spoils of victory caused their own defeat, and these mujahids were reprimanded by Allah (SWT). This is a good example that should never be forgotten.

Being shocked and awed by the overbearing appearance of the arrogant powers and feeling fearful of America and other interventionist powers are emotions that also fall into this category of self-inflicted harm, and should be avoided. The brave and the young should expel these fears from their hearts. Trusting the enemy and falling into the snare of their smiles and promises is another threat that needs to be avoided by the forerunners and leaders of these new liberation movements. The enemy must be identified regardless of what public face he puts on. The people and the revolution should protect themselves against the designs of this enemy that, at times, hides behind appearances of friendship and supportive gestures. Another aspect of this is to become overconfident and overlook the enemy. Bravery must be tempered with wisdom and good judgment. We must use all the treasures Allah (SWT) has put at our disposal against Shaytan al-Jinn wa-al-Ins. Causing division and pitting revolutionaries against one another, thereby allowing the enemy to penetrate behind the battlefront of struggle, is another great harm that needs to be avoided with all your power.

The second category of harm has been experienced by the people of almost every country in the region during the defining events of their day. The first of these is the ascension to dominance by those who are committed to America and the West. The typical script goes like this: after the downfall of one of its pawns, in an effort to perpetuate its continued domination, the West tries to sustain the basic pillars of the system and its levers of power by installing a different head on the same foundation. [If you accept this] it is a waste of all your efforts and sacrifices. At this stage, if they face resistance from the people, they introduce and offer other alternatives that are designed to divert the course of the movement. Such a scenario could take the shape of “recommended” [secular] government models and constitutions that will again throw the Islamic countries into the trap of cultural, political, and economic dependence on the West. Such influence, should it proliferate among the revolutionaries, could marginalize the genuine currents of the revolution in favor of greater financial and media strength devoted to a counter, West-leaning current. This would again mean domination by the West and the yet stronger grip of its outdated secular models that are a far cry from the basic principles of the revolution.

If these tactics do not produce the desired result [of thwarting the liberation movement], experience tells us that they will resort to anarchy, terrorism, and civil war among members of religious or ethnic communities and tribes, political parties, or even among neighboring countries and governments. Parallel to these actions, they will impose economic blockades and sanctions, freeze national assets, and launch an all-out media war complete with propaganda [against the “rabid” nature of the revolutionaries]. Their intention is to exhaust and frustrate the ordinary people and make the revolutionaries disappointed. Under these circumstances [of despair], it becomes easy to defeat the revolution. Assassinating the righteous elite of the society and those who have the capacity to build a following, defaming and vilifying others of influence, and even enticing some with money are among the usual ploys used by Western powers who lay claim to the “moral high ground”. In Iran, the documented evidence from the US Den of Espionage [its embassy in Tehran] that fell into the hands of the revolutionaries traced all these plots to the regime in the United States. And the “principle” behind these dirty tricks is to dilute the revolutionary momentum to a point where the people call for a return of the reactionary and dependent rulers.

In the last part of my remarks, for your consideration, I will present recommendations based on our tangible experiences in Iran and what has been gathered from in-depth studies of movements in other countries. Undoubtedly, conditions differ among states and countries. Nonetheless, there are incontrovertible truths that can prove beneficial for all. The first of these is that on the one hand by placing your trust in Allah (SWT) and having confidence in the repeated promises of divine victories in the Qur’an, and through astuteness, resolve, and courage on the other, it is possible to surmount all these obstacles and emerge victorious. Of course, the task you all have taken up is quite profound and momentous. Thus, you must bear great hardship for its sake. Amir al-Mu’minin, al-Imam ‘Ali (a) said, "Certainly, Allah does not break all-time despots/dictators except after extended times of leisure/affluence, and He has not healed the broken bones of nations except after long times of tribulation; and in between your [people’s] forward anticipation and rearward predicament lies a lesson to ponder."

Thus the most important recommendation is that you must always consider yourself as being present on the scene,

“Hence, when you are freed [from distress], remain steadfast…” (94:7).

When you have liberated yourselves, labor hard still, always consider Allah (SWT) to be with you as your aid,

“…and unto your Sustainer turn with all your attention” (94:8),

and do not allow your victories to make you arrogant or negligent,

“When Allah’s victory comes, and liberation, and you do see people entering Allah’s din in multitudes, then extol your Sustainer’s limitless glory, and praise Him, and seek His forgiveness: for, behold, He is ever an acceptor of repentance” (110:1–3).

These are the true foundations of a faithful ummah.

Another recommendation is the constant reappraisal of the principles of the revolution. This permits its slogans and principles to be refined so that they can be aligned with the foundations and irrefutable principles of Islam. Independence, freedom, justice, refusal to bow to despotism and colonialism, rejection of ethnic, racial, and religious partisanship, and the outright rejection of Zionism, which, today, comprise the pivots of the Islamic movements in Muslim countries, are all inspired by Islam and the Qur’an.

Write down your principles on paper [and communicate them broadly]. Preserve your genuine nature with a high degree of sensitivity. Do not allow your enemies to formulate the principles of your future system. Do not allow Islamic principles to be sacrificed for transient [special] interests. Deviation in revolutions begins with deviation in slogans and objectives. Never place your trust in the US, NATO, or criminal regimes such as Britain, France, or, Italy, which for centuries have plundered and divided your land among themselves. Look upon them with suspicion and do not be deceived by their smiles. Behind these smiles and promises lies conspiracy and betrayal. Find your own way by resorting to the blessed fountainhead of Islam and throw these foreigners’ prescriptions back at them.

A third important recommendation is to leave behind [as part of the last century] religious, ethnic, racial, tribal, and border conflicts. Recognize differences as legitimate and manage them: reconciliation among Islamic madhhabs is the key to salvation. Those who fan the flames of religious division by characterizing other Muslims as kafirs are the mercenaries and servants of Satan, even if they do so inadvertently.

Creating your own system of governance is your main and seminal task. This is a complex and difficult undertaking. Do not allow secular, Western liberal, extremist nationalist, or leftist Marxist models to be imposed on you. The leftist Eastern Bloc collapsed some decades ago, and the Western Bloc that took over is propped up through violence, war, and deceit, and does not appear to have a bright outlook. The passage of time is their enemy, but a friend to the Islamic current. The ultimate goal must be a unified Islamic Ummah and the creation of a new Islamic civilization founded upon commitment to Allah (SWT), rationality, knowledge, and morality.

The liberation of Palestine from the savage claws of Zionism must also be a prime objective [for any Islamic movement of liberation]. The countries of the Balkans, Caucasus, and Western Asia were liberated from the clutches of the former Soviet Union after 80 years of occupation. Why should the Palestinian people not be able to free themselves from oppressive, Zionist captivity after 70 years of degradation and humiliation?

The present generation in Muslim countries has the capacity to accomplish such great feats. The young generation of today is a source of pride for the past generations. As noted by the Arab poet,

Abu al-Sakhr’s honor and status comes from his being a member of Shayban [the tribe] — but I said to them, “Not so!” For the life in me, it is Shayban that draws its status and honor from his being from them.

Many a father is dignified by a son who scaled the peaks of honor — as ‘Adnan [the Prophet’s ancestor] did by having [in his offspring] the Messenger of Allah.

Trust your young generation. Reinforce their self-confidence and benefit them by the experiences of those who preceded them [in the battle for self-determination].

There are two important points in this connection. First, one of the most important demands of the people who have revolted and thus been liberated is to participate decisively in the management of their countries. And since they have confidence in Islam, their desire is to create a system of Islamic representation, that is, the rules for electing new leaders through a popular vote and the dominant principles and values of the society ought to be based on Islamic knowledge and the Shari‘ah. This can crystallize in various countries, depending on their conditions, through various methods and civic engagement. However, utmost care must be taken not to confuse just, Islamic representative mechanisms with Western liberal democracy. The secular, and at times anti-religious, Western democracy is anathema to Islamic representation, which is committed to the values and [social justice] principles of Islam in its system of governance [and not the institutional entrenchment of special interests in the public decision-making process].

Second, Islamic tenets must not be equated with backwardness, obscurantism, and ignorant and extremist biases. The demarcation between these two must be pronounced. Religious extremism, which is usually attended by violence, will cause you to fall short of the lofty goals of the revolution. This, in turn, will result in the loss of public support and the eventual failure of the revolution.

In summary, to speak of Islamic awakening is not to speak of a nebulous and abstract concept that is amenable to various interpretations. Rather, it is to speak of a palpable reality in our real world that has dominated the public discourse and resulted in great uprisings and revolutions, removing from the scene some of the enemy’s most savage proxies. Nonetheless, the scene remains fluid and hence needs to be shaped and brought to a conclusion. The ayat recited at the outset contain a complete and effective set of guidelines, especially at this sensitive and momentous juncture. Though they are addressed to the Holy Prophet (PBUH), we all are their interlocutors and responsible for adhering to them. In these ayat, taqwa in its lofty and broad connotation is the first recommendation. Then comes the rejection of the orders [systems and social conventions] of the kafirs and munafiqs, adherence to the divine revelation, and, finally, trust in Allah (SWT). And there is no better conclusion or introduction than the words of Allah (SWT), cited earlier,

In the name of Allah, the Mercy-Giving, the Merciful. O Prophet, guard yourself against Allah’s power presence and defer not to those who reject Allah’s power presence and the dual-loyalists [as such deference will inevitably invite Allah’s corrective justice]: indeed it is Allah who is All-Knowing, Wise. [Rather] follow that which has been revealed to you by your Sustainer; indeed Allah is well acquainted with all that you do. And rely on Allah [alone] for none is more worthy of reliance than Allah (33:1–3).

Peace and the mercy of Allah be yours.

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