By Prof. C. M. Naim for New Age Islam
In the June 20, 2012 issue of the Urdu newspaper, Sahafat (Delhi), the following news appeared under the heading, "Seminar on Iran Held at the Raza Library."
"Rampur, 19 June (Sahafat Bureau) A seminar on Iran was held today in the Meeting Hall of Asia's great Raza Library, presided over by the famous poet, Azhar Enati. The seminar began with a recitation from the Quran by Anwarul Hasan. Then the Director of the Raza Library, Dr. Syed Azizuddn Husain Hamadani, cast light on the aims of the seminar. He said that today the people of Iran were ready to do anything for the welfare and progress of their country. That there was no difference between the cultures and civilizations of India and Iran and that Iran had put an end to monarchism (shahanshahiyat) and secular government (la-mazhab hukumat) through the Islamic revolution brought about by the Ayatullah Khomeini.
Dr. Iqtidar Muhammad Khan said that among all Islamic countries only Iran had presented Islam's true picture. There was democracy there and also a two-party system. In Iran, women had more rights than men, and those rights were in accord with the Shariah. Women covered their bodies, but the faces were left exposed. They stood side-by side with men in the cause of their country's progress in all fields, including the army. He also said that when he went to the tomb of the eighth Imam, Imam Ali Raza (PBUH), at Mashhad he was amazed to see that nearly two hundred thousand people there recited the Quran mornings and evenings.
It was that Sharai passion due to which no European nation could cause any harm to Iran. He did not see any sectarian differences in Iran, and found that all lived happily together, and worried only about the defence of their country.
He said that the Imam Khomeini started his campaign against the power of the Shah because the Shah of Iran, at the urging of his European friends, was gradually destroying Islam. Now, however, much emphasis was placed on Islamic teachings, and with respect to Shariah Iran was far ahead of other Muslim countries. Other Muslim countries did not have anything that could be called democracy; they were only protecting monarchism disguised as Islam. He added that it would not be amiss to call the Iranian president, Ahmadinejad, a ‘Man of Iron’. The meeting was conducted by Dr. Shamim Sabir.”
The news raises several important questions.
1. Since the Raza Library is a national institution, supported entirely by every Indian citizen’s tax money, should its events begin with a recitation from the Quran?
2. What is the significance of a reading from the Quran in Arabic when it is not explained how the recited verses contribute to the particular event? Is it done only out of some misplaced sense of piety?
3. What is one to make of the learned Director’s claim that there were no differences between the civilizations of Iran and India? Does Iran also have Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain cultures alive and thriving like in India?
4. Why does the Director think that a secular or la-mazhab government in Iran was unacceptable, and had to be replaced by an Islamic government? Is a secular government not acceptable in every country where the majority population is Muslim? Is secularism good only for India and the West?
5. Finally, is the Raza Library a proper platform for projecting the political conflict going on between Iran and the Arab states of the Arabian Peninsula?
C. M. Naim, Professor Emeritus, SALAC, University of Chicago