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Virtual Conference Details Fundamentalism’s Impact on Iran, The Region, and the World

Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) speaking at the Ramadan Online Conference
Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) speaking at the Ramadan Online Conference

On Wednesday, two days after the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, the National Council of Resistance of Iran hosted an online conference that featured Muslim religious leaders alongside political representatives of various Muslim-majority countries. Supporters of the NCRI and, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), watched the event from 2,000 locations spanning 40 countries and from Ashraf-3 in Albania.

Many speakers including the President-elect of NCRI, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi talked about the vastly different interpretations of Islam promoted by the Iranian regime and by the MEK. She referred to a 1983 interview of Massoud Rajavi, the Leader of the Iranian Resistance, about the interpretation of MEK from Islam and said, “The special attribute of the Islam that we believe in is that it is democratic. This Islam recognizes the rights of various denominations and creeds, and other schools of thought. This Islam is not something we have made up, but it emanates from the common roots formulated by Moses, Jesus, and Mohammad. And we can clearly see this in the Quran…”

Many also refused to apply the Islamic label the regime’s ideology altogether. Ambassador Marc Ginsberg, a former White House advisor on the Middle East, said for instance, “The Iranian regime carries out atrocities under the banner of Islam. And we all know this is not Islam. The mullahs do not practice peace.”

These remarks alluded to the frequently cited description of Islam as being a “religion of peace” when properly practiced. This message was noticeably important to those speakers who represented regional countries such as Syria, Iraq, and Yemen that had been damaged in recent years by the Iranian regime’s commitment to belligerence and force-projection. Mrs. Rajavi addressed those trends for the sake of recalling attention to the entry in her ten-point plan for Iran’s future which calls for peaceful coexistence with countries presently deemed adversaries of the Iranian regime.

This rivalry has consistently reinforced the Iranian regime’s backing of the Yemeni Shiite rebel group known as the Houthis, which has penetrated Saudi territory with Iranian-provided weapons on several occasions during Yemen’s year’s long civil war.

“Our children will only remember war from these seven years,” said the country’s former Human Rights Minister Mohamed Askar. “Yemen has an extreme humanitarian problem and this has been caused by the regime of Iran.” He then went on to downplay the significance of recent years’ negotiations between Western powers and the Iranian regime, implying support for alternative policies that the NCRI has repeatedly made explicit.

Mrs. Rajavi continued to emphasize the recent advances of a domestic opposition movement. “Today, the ruling religious fascism in Iran has stepped into a phase of failures and defeat despite all the bloodshed and clampdown that it has committed,” she said. “Yes, the time has come for the decline and defeat of religious fundamentalism and reactionary ideology.”

The bloodshed she referenced includes the killing of approximately 1,500 peaceful activists and innocent bystanders during a nationwide uprising in November 2019. Almost immediately after the protests broke out, the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei demanded that order be restored by any means necessary, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps responded by opening fire on crows, apparently with fatal intent. The severity of the crackdown stemmed partly from the fact that the uprising was not the first of its kind – another had taken place over about a month at the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018 – and partly from the fact that both uprisings featured explicit calls for regime change and slogans like “death to the dictator.”

Various speakers at Wednesday’s virtual conference praised the recent and ongoing efforts of Iranian activists while emphasizing that the impact promised to resonate beyond the borders of Iran. Ahmad Abou-Hashish, the deputy chair of the Palestinian Legislative Council, expressed this in terms of what could have been, had Iran’s 1979 revolution created a democratic prototype for the surrounding region as most supporters intended, rather than being co-opted by Khomeini and his fundamentalist faction.
“The Iranian revolution was supposed to free the Iranian people from the Shah’s regime, not to establish the dictatorship of the mullahs that have destroyed Iran and the countries of the region,” Abou-Hashish explained.

Sheikh Taissir Tamimi, the chief Islamic judge of the Palestinian National Authority, seemed to suggest that it is possible to reverse this impact when he declared, “I call on all Arab nations who have suffered from the terrorism of the Iranian regime to stand with the people of Iran and to support the Iranian Resistance.”

Tahar Boumedra, the former head of the Human Rights Office in the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, underscored the role that this support could play in promoting not only better practical outcomes for the region but also an improved global image for Islam. “Regime change in Iran is a victory for non-political Islam that respects human rights and dignity,” he said after calling attention to several of the actual and attempted human rights violations undertaken in the name of Tehran’s extremist ideology.

Boumedra joined Mrs. Rajavi in referencing the November 2019 crackdown as well as in connecting it to a much larger massacre of Iranian civilians in 1988. That incident involved the systematic execution of over 30,000 political prisoners over the course of several months, and it primarily targeted members and affiliates of the MEK. The killings stemmed from a religious edict by Khomeini which declared that active opponents of the theocratic dictatorship were not only enemies of the state but enemies of God himself.

The effects of that fatwa persist to the present day, with this and other religiously motivated charges still being used to regularly justify death sentences and other harsh punishments. John Pritchard, a bishop in the Church of England, summarized the situation by saying, “The regime is misusing religion to carry out atrocities” against Muslims and non-Muslims alike. He added on behalf of an international and multi-faith group of persons who support the Iranian Resistance: “We reaffirm our belief in freedom of religion in Iran, which is enshrined in Madam Rajavi’s ten-point plan.”

Rabbi Moshe Lewin, spokesperson of the Chief Rabbi of France also emphasized the need to support a democratic Iran and said, “Today, when the world is threatened by fundamentalism, it’s more important than ever to have this inter-religious dialogue. You are all dear to me and I know how hard you work to have Iran become a democratic country, and how hard you fight against fundamentalism. And this is why I will always be at your side. Iran needs a society at peace that enables each Iranian citizen to live decently.”