International TV interview with Fariborz Pooya and Bahram Soroush
October 4, 2004

Maryam Namazie: Recently, I had written: the Islamic ‘scholar’ ‘Qaradawi’s support for women’s ‘modesty’ and violence against women and his condemnation of sexual acts as ‘perversions’ are no different from the Islamic laws in Iran that we have fled… [T]his is not a question of freedom of speech or an academic/theological debate; rather Qaradawi is part of a political movement in power in countries like Iran, which has adversely affected innumerable real live human beings.’ I have received a number of letters on this. One of them states: ‘you can’t say that Qaradawi equals the Islamic regime of Iran; the Islamic regime of Iran is Shia and Qaradawi is Sunni; how can you equate the two?’ Your comments?

Fariborz Pooya: I could understand that some people would not want to take responsibility for the crimes committed by the Islamic government of Iran. In such situations, you always have people who try to dissociate themselves from the actual crimes being committed on the ground. That is the basis of their defence. It is an attempt to not take responsibility for what is happening.

In a broader sense, however, Qaradawi, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Hamas movement in Palestine, the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Muslim Association of Britain, they are all part and parcel of the same movement, i.e. the political Islamic movement. Some of them are in power and actually committing the most outrageous atrocities against the citizens of those countries and other countries. Some are in opposition. Some are in Europe. Their behaviour, like any political movement, is very pragmatic, i.e. they act according to the power that they have at any given moment.

We have to recognise the fundamental fact that this is a political movement and we need to see it, evaluate it and judge it as such. It is no good to say that the crimes of the Islamic regime of Iran have nothing to do with the rest of the Islamic movement, because they actually defend it. They see themselves as ‘brothers’. When there is a hostage-taking in Iraq, it is the Muslim Association of Britain and the Muslim Council of Britain that intervenes and actually send messages to their ‘brothers’. They are not wholeheartedly condemning the hostage-taking; they are not organising demonstrations against the hostage-takers in Iraq; they are negotiating with them and calling them brothers. They are in fact expressing their true relationship. This is a political movement, and these are its various shades and aspects. Of course, we are not saying that it is Qaradawi who has committed those crimes in Iran, but he comes from the same movement – the objective of which is to establish an Islamic government everywhere. That’s what we need to recognise and act according to this definition.

Maryam Namazie: Some say that you can’t put all of these groups and individuals in the same category. For example, someone has said Qaradawi has given some very ‘humane and pragmatic’ fatwas – which is quite funny. Or that he has said that it’s alright for women not to wear the Hijab under some circumstances, particularly women who live in a secular country; or that Muslims should be part of the political processes in the West and the countries that they live in. So they say it is daft to talk about the Islamic theocracy in Iran in the same breath as you talk about someone like Qaradawi. Any comments?

Bahram Soroush: It’s a very sad world when people like Qaradawi are cited on women’s rights! One must have really reduced one’s expectations of human values and equality to praise the likes of Qaradawi when they don’t give ‘inhumane’ fatwas. I haven’t heard Qaradawi condemn the atrocities of political Islam in Iran or around the world. He is part of the same movement. Even if there are differences between individuals within that movement, those are differences of degree, which by no means justify supporting one faction of this movement over another. You may find that in other movements as well. In fascistic movements, for example, you would find that, say, the British National Party may be to the left of the National Front. But does that mean that they are not part of the same category? It’s really absurd and nonsense. It’s just that the people who are saying these things have caught themselves up in a framework; they have to come out of that framework and look at the profile of this movement. It’s a right-wing movement, from its left to its right, from one end of the spectrum to the other. The picture you get is one of a reactionary movement that is against the very basic rights that people have been championing for years. If it weren’t for particular political policies behind those categorisations, it would just seem nonsense and nothing more. But when you consider that there are interests and forces that want to have political and economic ties with states like the Islamic Republic of Iran and other Islamic governments, then Qaradawi fits in there…

Maryam Namazie: But actually Qaradawi has said some atrocious things as well. We only hear things that have been translated into English; you can only imagine what he is saying in Arabic. But the things that they’ve deemed okay to translate into English is that homosexuality is a perversion and that you have to leave it up to the states to decide what to do with homosexuals, which we know means execution in practice. He has said that wife-beating is acceptable in some instances. He has said that women should be modest, and we know that Atefeh Rajabi was executed in Iran because she was considered ‘immodest’. So how can they even say he is a moderate?

Fariborz Pooya: There are certain political tendencies that will find justifications for anything. Historically, we have had that – in Iran, in the Middle East and in Europe. They have no objection and will find some sort of excuse. I think there is a division of labour – between the Western governments and the so-called ‘anti-imperialists’. The Western governments want to accommodate the Islamic movement; they want to negotiate with it; they have interests in keeping the Islamic government, as a political means to control the whole capitalist system in the Middle East. For them, the Islamic movement is part of a wider agenda. Of course, they want to get rid of its most militant form and try to bring in a ‘moderate’ form that fits in with the whole capitalist production and control of government in the Middle East.

On the other hand, in Europe you have the so-called ‘anti-imperialists’, occasionally talking with a Leftist slant, that try to accommodate this movement within Western countries. So there is a division of labour. They are part of the same class interests, part of the same class movement. The Islamic movement is part of the reactionary backlash against the progressive and working-class movements in the Middle East and in Europe. Anybody who defends that movement and this reactionary backlash against the progressive movement is in the same rank and needs to be treated as such.

Maryam Namazie: One of the things that some of these ‘anti-imperialists’ have said here in the UK is that Qaradawi has worked to free hostages in Iraq, and that we are not talking about all of the positive things he has done. They say ‘if he is such a controversial cleric, then how come he was one of the main speakers alongside Bill Clinton and Richard Holbrooke at the US-Islamic World Forum, or how come the French foreign minister thanked him for his condemnation of the abduction of French journalists’? So he has actually also had a part in helping to free the hostages in Iraq, they say. What is your comment on that?

Bahram Soroush: First of all, being on the same side as Bill Clinton and Richard Holbrooke doesn’t bring you much credit! They are not the yardsticks of justice, equality and progressiveness. They are among the people who helped to come to power and become strong the likes of the Islamic regime in Iran and this fascistic Islamic movement that we are confronted with. They would do anything to accommodate them, as long as they are not a threat to Western interests. For example, in Afghanistan the Taliban was in power for years. In Iran, the Islamic regime has been in power. They have been slaughtering people and committing all sorts of atrocities. But it was only after September 11th, when there was an attack on the USA that we see a confrontation developing between these former friends. We had been fighting for the rights of people in those countries for years and they were silent. So being on the same side as mainstream politicians doesn’t bring you legitimacy. That’s one thing. And as far as his part in freeing the hostages are concerned, it’s exactly because of their affinity to the hostage-takers, i.e. the people who are doing the actual deed in the field that they can act as these go-betweens and emissaries. And when they do that, the aim is to promote themselves as an acceptable version of political Islam. Within the political Islamic movement you have those who are carrying the weapons and those who are doing the talking.

Maryam Namazie: Any final comments?

Fariborz Pooya: The important thing is to recognise that the Islamic movement has been confronted by the progressive, popular movements in Iran and the Middle East. People are sick and tired of the political Islamic movement. Very soon the fundamental relationship will change, and the only thing that will remain for people who have been supporting the Islamic movement would be to be answerable for that support. We treat them as the friends of the Islamic movement. Tomorrow when the Islamic regime is overthrown in Iran, when the Islamic movement is pushed back in the Middle East, the only thing left for people who supported that movement would be to find a place to hide, because they have to be answerable to humanity. I think what they are doing today in supporting the Islamic movement in Europe and becoming its surrogates is a most despicable position to be in.

The above is an International TV ( interview dated October 4, 2004.

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