December 01, 2003,
TEHRAN, IRAN Most Westerners know very little, if anything, about the true psyche of the Iranian masses. Allow me to enlighten: For centuries, it has been dominated by fruitless anticipation and superstition. The people of my nation have been told to await a messiah who will finally deliver them; they faithfully cling to the idea that one great leader will relieve their suffering. Twenty-five years ago, the enemies of my nation took advantage of this embarrassing fantasy, setting the stage for the Islamic revolution. Since then, Iran has languished for more than two decades, and was doomed to fall for another mendacious and sinister mullah, Khatami, six years ago.
It was, then, good news for us when one of our compatriots (a woman, no less), Shirin Ebadi, won the Nobel peace prize earlier this year. We sincerely hope that this will help secularize our thinking and bring about meaningful change. It will have to: There is no other path for the future of our nation. So long as the militant Islamists are in power, talk of reform is futile.
The first and foremost task for a person like Ebadi is to help represent the Iranian nationalist mindset and identity to the world. The mullahs, however, are not making her job any easier: They criticize on religious grounds, condemning Ebadi's unorthodox views. But in her capacity as an Iranian ambassador to the world, her religion (whether compatible or at odds with the mullahs') is quite irrelevant. Religion is merely a private matter, and it must not and will not have any place in the future political system of Iran.
Now Mrs. Ebadi is at a very critical juncture. She can, with her wise secular words, shatter the suffocating bonds of theocracy, and represent to the world the desires of the Iranian nation. As she faces obstacles in doing so, she should be bolstered by the fact that nothing is nobler than the just, secular aspirations of my nation or the act of supporting them. She should remember the words of Thomas Paine: "Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst; every other species of tyranny is limited to the world we live in; but this attempts to stride beyond the grave, and seeks to pursue us into eternity."