10 March 2011

More unsurprising theocratic illiberalism in Iran

We’re a bit slow here in Melbourne to get some of the latest magazines, so I’ve only just got the October/November 2010 issue of Philosophy Now. In the ‘News’ section the editors have published a letter sent to them by an anonymous reader in Iran. While the actions described in the letter are distressing, they are sadly expected of a theocratic regime that seems bent on cutting off Iran from the modern world.

The letter:

After last year’s disputed election in Iran, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] blamed philosophy as the root of the problem. Sadeq Larijani, the head of the judicial system of Iran, followed in his footsteps to blame Western philosophy for corrupting the morals of the Muslim youth. Saeed Hajjarian, Iranian intellectual, journalist, university lecturer and reformist who was in jail for 3 months was brought on National TV to condemn, against his beliefs, philosophy, especially humanism, as corrupt. This show was particularly hard to watch since due to a failed assassination attempt 10 years ago Mr Hajjarian is unable to speak with a clear voice, is still using a wheelchair and is dependent on the constant care of doctors and family.

This was enough for over 40,000 students and professors in philosophy departments of Iranian universities to worry for their future. Now many professors and students are in jail and the Office of Higher Education has announced that the universities will stop accepting students in humanities [subjects] including philosophy, psychology, sociology, political science, social science, law and arts.

Kamran Daneshjoo, the Minister of Science, said that any university that goes against Islamic values should be demolished and his Secretary said that we do not need humanities to be taught in universities anymore. It is also worth noting that the publication of many books, especially philosophy books, which grew noticeably during Mohammad Khatami’s presidency, is now banned.

That’s right, it’s because of Satanic Western philosophy that Iran’s theocrats have to protect their good and pure vassals from being tainted by evil ideas like individual liberty, feminism, freedom of thought and speech, separation of religion and state, and universal human rights.

If all this wasn’t bad enough, there’s been news of the arrest and imprisonment of two liberal opposition leaders, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, in late February. Mousavi, one of the leaders of Iran’s Green Movement, has apparently returned home but is now under house arrest. Anti-liberal ministers have called Mousavi and Karroubi traitors and demanded their execution.

The recent Arab revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt may have reignited protests against the Iranian regime, which first began in 2009. But the Green Movement faces greater obstacles than its Arab counterparts, one being the more brutal methods employed by the Ahmadinejad government to crush any opposition, and another being a perpetual media lockdown that hampers activist organising and foreign press reporting.

Given Iran’s oppressive theocracy, it’s no surprise that its despots would view Western philosophical ideas as a threat to their power. After all, it’s an Endarkening that serves their interests, not an Enlightenment.


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