While fundamentalism has become the new global threat, what is the strategic response to this threat? The response, in a word, is democratic Islam. Clearly, no one could warn the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims or 750 million Muslim women against the threat of fundamentalism with an un-Islamic model. So the central issue in our response is Islam itself. It is the genuine, democratic Islam that exposes the true nature of Islamic fundamentalism and provides an alternative to it.
Immediately, we find ourselves facing another question: what is genuine Islam? Are the crimes that the mullahs’ regime is committing in Iran in the name of Islam truly based on Islam’s teachings? The fact is that the mullahs have nothing to do with Islam and it would be the biggest gift to the mullahs to call their acts Islamic.
The biggest deceit and demagoguery is that power-hungry, evil fanatics such as Khomeini say that they represent Islam. Islam is the religion of hope, mercy, liberation, freedom, love and friendship and the religion of peace, development, progress, beauty, tolerance, lenience, kindness and sacrifice to attain prosperity and freedom for others. Islam is the religion of all the beauty that the earth bears and what is instilled in humankind. It holds humankind in the highest esteem, especially women, and seeks equality and freedom for women in away no religion had ever done before, with no parallel in history.
In contrast to this, the mullahs and reactionaries present Islam as a religion of strictness, torture, retribution, war, misery, hopelessness, compulsion and all that is bleak and dark in this world. It can best be described as a world the grave in which God has the role of the torturer of humankind.
The fundamentalists intentionally and on the basis of their gender-based worldview project an inverted image of Islam by making a huge issue out of such matters as the veil, as if Islam is only about the veil and nothing else. In more than 90 percent of the Quran, no distinction is made between women and men. Equality of women and men and their joint responsibility have been emphasized with unrivalled decisiveness throughout the Quran and they are jointly addressed hundreds of times. The vision of democratic Islam put forward by People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (main opposition group) was developed on the basis of this philosophy and interpretation long before Khomeini’s rise to power. Their Islam was diametrically opposed to the fanatic and feudalistic interpretations of Islam by the likes of Khomeini. While it was based on the Quran itself and the original teachings of Islam, the democratic Islam espoused by the Mojahedin of Iran won the hearts and minds of millions of young intellectuals, academics and students in Iran.
In theory and practice, the quarter-century confrontation between democratic Islam and Khomeini’s fundamentalism has been over the issue of freedom.