By Robert Fantina*
On November 29, this year, Ayatollah Khamenei wrote his second letter to the youth of the western world. This was in response to the violence that occurred in Paris. There are several key points to this letter, worthy of consideration.
Ayatollah Khamenei, early in his letter, says: “The pain of any human being anywhere in the world causes sorrow for a fellow human being”. One wonders why that even needs to be said. How has the western society come to believe that those living in the Middle East, somehow love their children less? How has it accepted the notion that people in the Middle East are expendable, that they somehow don’t bleed or feel pain like those in the west? The answers to these questions are puzzling, but for the same reason, the Iranian leader was more than justified in raising this vital issue.
He further highlights the significant differences between the Paris attacks, and attacks on Middle Eastern nations: “First, the Islamic world has been the victim of terror and brutality to a larger extent territorially, to greater amount quantitatively and for a longer period in terms of time. Second, that unfortunately this violence has been supported by certain great powers through various methods and effective means”. Let us consider each of these points in detail.
That the Islamic world has, in fact, been victimized by greater and longer-term violence and terror cannot be denied. Palestine alone has been so victimized for over 60 years (more on Palestine later). Yemen, Syria, Iraq and other nations are often bombed by those who decided that those nations are their enemies.
This brings us to the Ayatollah’s next point: “Second, that unfortunately this violence has been supported by certain great powers through various methods and effective means”. The late U.S. civil rights leader, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, on April 4, 1968, said that: “The greatest purveyor of violence in the world : My own government. I cannot be silent.” It is mainly the United States that leader refers to, when he speaks of ‘certain great powers’ supporting this violence. The U.S. has a long history of destabilizing nations whose governments somehow displease it, often democratically elected governments that are too far to the left, or in a way or another threaten U.S. economic interests. Other times, it is the corrupt and all-powerful lobbying system within the U.S. that causes the U.S. to wreak such havoc on so many innocent people. The U.S. supplies the apartheid regime of Israel with nearly $4 billion in aid, much of it military, which is used to cause untold suffering to Palestinians, who have no army, navy or air force. It uses drone strikes, a point also raised by Ayatollah Khamenei, to target individuals, killing countless innocent bystanders every time. And, as the leader also pointed out, the U.S. was instrumental in the creation, training and arming of Al-Qaeda.
He further indicates that the U.S. and Israel are contradictory in the way they define terrorism. “Shooting down a woman in the middle of the street for the crime of protesting against a soldier who is armed to the teeth- if this is not terrorism, what is? This barbarism, because it is being done by the armed forces of an occupying government, should not be called extremism? Or maybe only because these scenes have been seen repeatedly on television screens for sixty years, they should no longer stir our consciences.” The U.S. is constantly criticizing Palestine today for occasional stabbings of Israelis in Jerusalem, but says nothing about the constant shooting of unarmed Palestinians by Israelis.
The attempt to force western-style governments on Middle Eastern countries is also brought up. The U.S. and its various allies and puppets have little or no knowledge of the cultures on which they seek to install a new form of government. So they bomb those nations, destroying their infrastructure, leaving them without industry or agriculture. And when they fight back against their imperial colonizers, the U.S. calls them ‘insurgents’, and increases its efforts to destroy them. Said the leader of the Islamic Republic in this letter: “I consider the imposition of western culture upon other peoples and the trivialization of independent cultures as a form of silent violence and extreme harmfulness”. This point cannot be made too strongly.
“Humiliating rich cultures and insulting the most honored parts of these, is occurring while the alternative culture being offered in no way has any qualification for being a replacement. For example, the two elements of “aggression” and “moral promiscuity” which unfortunately have become the main elements of western culture, have even degraded the position and acceptability of its source region.” The arrogance of the U.S. is manifest every time it invaded a nation with the goal of ‘regime change’. Iraq, for example, had a rich and diverse culture, with Sunnis, Shias and Kurds living in harmony, until the U.S. invaded it, attempting to force its bizarre brand of ‘democracy’ onto that unsuspecting nation. The country is now in constant turmoil, with radical groups firmly established and growing.
Furthermore, as Ayatollah Khamenei correctly said, ‘aggression’ is one of the hallmarks of U.S. governance. Diplomacy has never been high on the U.S.’s priority list. And while the U.S., and other western nations, are proud of having discarded what they might have considered unnecessary restrictions on clothing and sexual behavior, each culture should be able to set those standards for itself. The U.S. way isn’t, in some inherent way, the ‘superior’ way.
Towards the end of the letter, he gives a clear challenge to the youth he is addressing: “In any case, you are the ones that have to uncover the apparent layers of your own society and untie and disentangle the knots and resentments. Fissures have to be sealed, not deepened. Hasty reactions are a major mistake when fighting terrorism which only widens the chasms. Any rushed and emotional reaction which would isolate, intimidate and create more anxiety for the Muslim communities living in Europe and America- which are comprised of millions of active and responsible human beings- and which would deprive them of their basic rights more than has already happened and which would drive them away from society- not only will not solve the problem but will increase the chasms and resentments”. In the U.S., a leading presidential candidate has suggested barring any Muslims from entering the United States. This, it seems, is exactly the kind of ‘rushed and emotional reaction’ Ayatollah Khamenei referred to, and it does, in fact, ‘isolate, intimidate and create more anxiety for the Muslim communities’.
He closes on an optimistic note: “I want you the youth to lay the foundations for a correct and honorable interaction with the Islamic world based on correct understanding, deep insight and lessons learned from horrible experiences”. Currently, the misunderstandings are great, fostered by U.S. government officials seeking higher offices and fanning the flames of xenophobia. They are carried on the corporate-owned, government-controlled airwaves. Deep insight is needed to learn how to combat these very effective tools. Besides, the horrible experiences that people in the Middle East are currently experiencing, and that some have experienced for decades, must be broadcast to the world.
It is a daunting task for the youth of the west; one hopes they are capable of accomplishing it.
* Robert Fantina is an author and peace activist. His writing has appeared on Mondoweiss, Counterpunch, Trutout and other sites. His latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy
The views, opinions and positions expressed on Op-Ed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or positions of Khamenei.ir .