Leader’s Speech at 3rd Strategic Thoughts Forum

The following is the full text of the speech delivered on January 4, 2012 by Ayatollah Khamenei the Leader of the Islamic Revolution at the 3rd "Strategic Thoughts Forum" in a meeting with Iranian intellectuals.

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

I welcome the dear brothers and sisters and I express my gratitude to the honorable people who have taken part in this communal and crucial work. In particular, I would like to thank those who spoke in this meeting: both the ones who raised certain points and the ones who made criticisms. I would also like to sincerely thank the chairman, Mr. Vaezzadeh, both because he has managed this meeting very well and because he has made essential arrangements regarding the form and content of this meeting over the past few months with the help of other people.

The purpose of this meeting and other such meetings is to exchange views on the essential issues of the country with outstanding personalities. This meeting is called "Strategic Thoughts Forum" and in fact the goal is to try to develop strategic thoughts, but we can divide these thoughts into different categories: for example, justice or women and family. Then we would have a long list with more than twenty items each of which carries the name "thought". The plan is to let outstanding personalities - who will help Islam and the Islamic Republic with their intellectual and spiritual innovations - reach a consensus in every area.

Of course, the purpose is not to discuss every detail of a particular subject in such meetings. This is not possible in practice. The purpose is to open the path to confronting the problems which the country would face in the future. In particular, we want to open up a path in theoretical areas so that outstanding figures of the country, people who are intellectually active and experts in different fields can play a role in developing a right theory which will form the basis of implementation and planning. This is the purpose. In the theoretical area, we have both strengths and weaknesses. The same is true of practical areas. These strengths and weaknesses are revealed in such meetings. Relying on expert discussions in every field, we can identify our strengths and weaknesses and we can try to eliminate the weaknesses. Such meetings provide us with the opportunity to make improvements and eliminate weaknesses.

As far as theorizing is concerned, we need to know in what areas we are advanced and in what areas we have fallen behind. In certain areas, we are truly advanced. In certain other areas, we are truly backward. For example, regarding the issue of women, so many Islamic sources and teachings are available to us: we have access to ayahs of the Holy Quran, both the ayahs that are directly related to the issue of women and the ayahs that are partly related to this issue. We need to theorize these things. We need to shape these things into usable theories and we need to make them available to everybody. We need to make these theories available both to ourselves for the purpose of planning and to those who challenge us and ask questions. This point was mentioned in the meeting and it is right. Today an increasing number of people are asking questions about the views of the Islamic Republic - which has 30 years of experience. Of course, you know as well as I do that many people come to us and ask questions. An increasing number of people want to know about different issues in the Islamic Republic. Therefore, it is necessary to provide answers.

Two such meetings have been held. One meeting was about developing an Islamic-Iranian paradigm of progress and the other was about justice. Although these two issues are separate, they depend on one another. Good measures have been adopted: the dear brothers and sisters should know this because it will affect the actions that we want to take about tonight's subject of discussion. You should know that work is continuing in a serious way. Dr. Vaezzadeh mentioned these things. The details of the work that has been done are more than what he mentioned in his report because he wanted to be brief. Good things have been done. In particular, the center that was established to develop an Islamic-Iranian paradigm of progress is doing very good things with the help of researchers. In fact these meetings sow seeds in fertile lands. Providing water for these lands depends on factors some of which have already been taken care of and efforts are being made to take care of the other factors. Of course, the general atmosphere of our society also helps these seeds to grow. We are not in a hurry. We want things to be done quickly. That is to say, we do not like laziness, falling behind and other such things, but there is no rush. We do not want to act in a hasty way. We want the outcomes of our efforts to be dignified, profound, durable, presentable and defendable. By Allah's favor, these meetings - both this meeting and the previous two meetings - will fulfill this purpose. I am confident that this will happen.

The issue of women and family is among the primary issues of the country. The friends, ladies and gentlemen who spoke in this meeting proved this point. There is no need for me to add anything to what you explained in detail. Your statements are enough to show the importance of the issue. First of all, Iranian women play an extraordinary role in the Islamic Republic, just as they did in the Revolution. Maybe the dear youth who have attended this meeting were born after the Revolution and they do not know what happened during those times, except through certain reports all of which are unfortunately incomplete. All the reports that have been prepared about the Revolution are incomplete, one-sided and short. This is a big shortcoming that has to be addressed. Although this is not among strategic theories, it is among strategic measures that have to be pursued. Those who are older know that women played a role both during the time of revolutionary activities and during the early years of the Revolution - namely, during the first one and a half years when the general revolutionary movement started. Iranian women played an important and fundamental role. If women had refrained from taking part in the protests, those massive demonstrations would not have been as effective as they were. Moreover, in certain cities such as Mashhad, it was women who started the demonstrations. That is to say, it was women who initiated the popular movement. Of course, they were attacked by the police. It was later on that men joined in.

Similarly, they engaged in revolutionary activities and played a role in establishing the Islamic Republic. They also played a role after the establishment of the Islamic Republic - namely, during the war, during hard times, during the time of difficult tests. "To such a degree that the earth seemed constrained to them, for all its spaciousness." [The Holy Quran, 9: 118] Our country went through difficult times during the war. Some people would learn about the war by listening to the radio or watching TV and some others would enter the battlefields with all their heart and soul. The reports that have been prepared about the war are full of heroic actions and enthusiasm and they are all accurate reports: I know this because I read a lot of memoirs prepared by our war veterans. That enthusiasm, that love for selfless struggle and martyrdom, that courage to face death and other such things are all accurately reflected in the reports. However, from a general perspective, the war brought about difficult times. A battalion that fights at a particular frontline with enthusiasm is not aware of the plans of the headquarters for that frontline. It does not know the weaknesses. It does not know which concerns are serious. It does not know what shortcomings and what concerns exist beyond the headquarters, in the country at large. It was hard times. During those times, our women played an extraordinary role. Mothers and wives of our martyrs and the ladies who provided tactical support behind the frontlines - they played an extraordinary role. Our women were even active in military operations as well. The book written by Mrs. Hosseini "Da" shows this. There are no standards to measure the value of such work. There were mothers who had lost one, two, three, four sons in the war: this is no joke. Such things are easier said than done. When our child catches a cold and coughs, how worried do we get? Now imagine that three of your children get killed: is this a joke? Such mothers entered the arena with their strong motherly emotions and played such a role that hundreds of other mothers were encouraged to send their children to the battlefield. If these mothers had cried and complained to Imam Khomeini (r.a.) about the war when they received the bodies of their children, definitely we would have been defeated in the war during the first few years. This shows the importance of the role that mothers of our martyrs played.

The patient wives of our martyrs were young ladies who lost their young husband at the beginning of their married life. First, they were prepared to let their husband go to the battlefield, knowing that he might never return. Then, they tolerated his martyrdom and proudly held up their heads. They played such an unparalleled role. There are certain ladies who are still living with their disabled husband. There are some ladies who decided to marry a disabled war veteran. It takes a lot of selfless motivation to voluntarily marry a disabled man who might even be embittered because of his physical conditions or post-traumatic stress disorder. It is one thing to be prepared to take care of such a person two hours a day, for example: and he expresses his gratitude each and every day you take care of him. It is quite another thing to be prepared to marry him, which means taking care of him becomes your responsibility. These ladies decided to make this sacrifice. It is not possible to measure the importance of their role.

I admit that our magnanimous Imam was the first person who understood this role. There were many other things that he understood but we failed to understand - such as the role of the people. He understood the importance of the role that the people could play and this was at a time when nobody else could understand the importance of this role. There were certain luminaries who used to tell us, "Do you really think it is possible to make a big achievement by relying on the people?" They were so condescending that it sounded as if they were not speaking about human beings. But Imam Khomeini (r.a.) was different. He appreciated the role of the people. He discovered the potential of the people and he called on them to take action. He became an influential figure because he was sincere and because his words were coming out of his enlightened and pure heart. Therefore, everybody stepped into the arena. When it was time to establish a committee, people from different social backgrounds signed up for the committee. Students signed up. University professors signed up. Seminarians signed up. High-level religious scholars signed up. Ordinary people signed up. They all came and signed up for the committee. When it was time for the war, everybody went to the battlefield on Imam Khomeini's command. Towards the end of his life, when Imam Khomeini said everybody had to play a role in constructing the country, everybody entered the arena. The effect of his pioneering actions has continued into the present era. I believe even today whatever progress we make is because of Imam Khomeini. The people moved forward and the motivation is being passed down from generation to generation.

Imam Khomeini (r.a.) had the same attitude towards women. He understood the importance of the role that women could play, otherwise there were certain luminaries among our religious scholars who had to be convinced whether it was necessary to let women take part in the demonstrations. They used to say that women should not take part in the demonstrations. Imam Khomeini's thought and determination were the firm pillar that people used to rely on in order to stand up against such views, views which used to be presented by important centers. God bless his soul until the end of time.

In any case, the role of women is a unique role. It is necessary to preserve this role because it has a future. The Revolution is only thirty two years old. Even a human being is considered young at the age of thirty two, let alone a revolution. This divine system must persist hundreds of years. It is very young. Our women must stay present on the national scene: this is necessary for our future. Therefore, we must make efforts regarding the issue of women and try to preserve the potential that exists in our society in this regard. This is the first reason why we must discuss the issue of women. The second reason is the issue of family. The honorable speakers raised very good points about the issue of family tonight. The discussions were really good. I would say on average, the level of the discussions was better than good: correct comments, good statistics, good inferences, good reasoning, comprehensive perspectives. Experts analyzed the multi-faceted issue of women and family from all perspectives. You shed light on this sensitive and important issue. One can clearly see the dimensions of the issue now. I really benefited from your comments.

Therefore, the issue of family is a very important issue. Family is the main pillar in society: it is the main cell that makes up society. This is not to say that if this cell is healthy, other parts of society will also become healthy or if it is unhealthy, other parts of society will become unhealthy. Rather, healthy cells mean a healthy body. Our body is nothing but a collection of cells. Any living organ is a collection of cells. If we manage to keep healthy the cells that make up an organ, we will ensure the health of that organ. This shows how important the issue of family is.

It is impossible for an Islamic society to make progress in the absence of healthy, lively and dynamic families. In particular, it is impossible to make progress in the absence of good families when it comes to cultural matters and certain other matters are not cultural in nature. Therefore, the family is an essential unit. It might be argued that there is progress in the west in spite of the breakup of the family. The breakup of the family unit in the west, whose manifestations are increasing on a daily basis, will have its effects on western societies. We must not expect to see the consequences too soon. The effects of global and historical events do not reveal themselves instantly: they appear in a gradual way. And they have already revealed some of their effects. The day when the west achieved those advances, the family unit was intact. Even moral principles used to be observed in man-women relationships: of course, not in an Islamic way. Somebody who is familiar with the west would confirm this both about Europe and about America. The issue of observing moral principles in man-woman relationships, the issue of modesty, the issue of avoiding slander - these principles used to be observed those days. These immoral actions appeared in the west in a gradual way. The ground was laid at that time and things deteriorated into the current situation. The current situation of the west will bring about a very bitter and hard future for them. This is the second reason.

The third reason is that regarding the issue of women, we have been criticized most by the camp of our enemies over the past thirty two years. They stressed the issue of women since the beginning of the Revolution. They criticized us. They claimed that the issue was as serious as terrorism and violation of human rights although there was nothing at that time and it was not clear what decision the Islamic Republic would make about women in general. They started promoting the idea that Islam was against women. Of course, this issue has been pursued until today. We must confront them in this regard. We cannot underestimate the importance of global public opinion. Not everybody is spiteful. Not everybody is malevolent. Only certain people are malevolent: this malevolence is particular to politicians, policy-makers and other such people. We must not allow ordinary people to fall for this great deception. Therefore, we must step into the arena.

Of course, I would also say that the west has been avoiding the issue of family in a clever way. In all the discussions that they start, the issue of women is always present while the issue of family is never discussed. Family is the weak point of the west. They raise the issue of women, but they never mention the issue of family. This is while women and family are not separate from one another. Therefore, it is necessary to pay attention to this issue.

This meeting has been very good. I benefitted from the comments made by the friends who spoke in this meeting. More importantly, I realized that regarding the issue of women and family, there are many things that we have to do as far as scholarly and specialist matters are concerned. The number of the things we have to do in this regard is so large that it would be appropriate to consider establishing a center for such matters, as was suggested by some of the friends. It is necessary to do these things. Of course, I spoke to the people who work for my office - Mr. Vaezzadeh and others - regarding the necessity of continuing the work on the issue of women and family. They are planning to do certain things. By Allah's favor, important things will be done in the area of theorizing, in the area of creating a discourse and in the area of brining this discourse closer to implementation. Of course, if the issue is turned into a discourse, it will not be difficult to implement it. That is to say, it will be possible to address all the criticisms that they level against the Majlis, the Guardian Council, the administration and others. The dominant discourse in a society is like air: everybody breathes it, whether they know it or not, whether they want it or not. It is necessary to create this discourse. Of course, our media, our clergy, our luminaries and our university professors can play an important role in this regard.

We need to address the theoretical shortcomings in these areas. As a result, we will have to invest on research as much as we can. Some of the friends gave me the abstract and full text of their articles and I read them. After reading the articles, I came to the conclusion that the Islamic Republic should invest on researching this issue as much as it can.

It is necessary to analyze and critique the theories that exist in the world without adopting a passive attitude. Avoiding a passive attitude is very important. Of course, tonight I noticed the critical spirit among all the people who spoke in this meeting. I noticed that they have adopted a critical view on the situation of the west regarding the issue of women and particularly the issue of family. Of course, the criticisms that were leveled against the west were mostly related to the issue of family. But I believe that regarding the issue of women and family, the most problematic part is the western view of women and it is not possible to explain this in one or two sentences. It is western policies that constitute the biggest insult to women and the biggest blow to the dignity of women. Even radical feminists are harming women without knowing it. When I say they harm women unknowingly, I am being optimistic, which means that those who are in charge do not know what they are doing. It is possible that there are certain backstage policy-makers who know what they are doing. And this has probably been specified in Zionist protocols. That is to say, degrading women and turning them into an object of pleasure for men are among the things that have been specified in those protocols.

One might have problems with the credibility and authenticity of those protocols, but a careful look at the Zionist system and the Zionist network of propaganda would reveal that this is what they are doing. They might not be forced to degrade women, but there is a tendency. That is to say, this has turned into such an inviolable norm that nobody dares act against it. For example, on a formal occasion, a man should wear formal clothes. He should wear a tie. He should wear a shirt with long sleeves. He is neither allowed to wear shorts, nor is he allowed to wear a T-shirt to a formal occasion. But a lady should not cover major parts of her body on the same formal occasion. It is a problem if she wears a dress that completely covers her body. It is a problem if she is not attractive enough at the meeting. It is a problem if she does not wear make-up. This has become the norm. And they are proud of it. In the west - especially in America and in northern parts of Europe, in Scandinavian countries - there are important centers that are presenting women as objects of pleasure for men. Women are advertised in newspapers and magazines and nobody protests. This has become the norm. What would be a stronger blow to women? Providing such role models for women is one of the biggest blows to them: of course, I am speaking about western women and those who follow western norms, not our women. Therefore, we must not adopt a passive position on this wrong culture. The west has been seriously misled in the issue of women and family. It is not just the issue of family: the west has been seriously misled in the case of women's identity and personality as well.

In these analyses, we must make use of our scientific assets, which are not few in number. It is possible to extract tens of progressive theories and paradigms regarding the issue of women and family. It is necessary to theorize in these areas by considering all the dimensions and elements. We must prepare and present theories in these areas. These are long- and medium-term moves that we must make. It is necessary to make use of the pure and progressive teachings of Islam in the Holy Quran and hadith.

I have written down a few things to discuss, but we do not have enough time and similar issues were discussed in the meeting, so there is no need to repeat them. Among the things that I have written down, what I would like to discuss is that the Islamic view of women is extraordinarily exalted. I believe many of the problems related to women are due to the problems of family life in that women are the axis of family life. We have many legal and cultural shortcomings. Sometimes ladies - from the Majlis, Islamic seminaries and other organizations - contact us and speak about their problems, which are mainly related to domestic problems. If women have psychological security in the home environment, if they have moral security, if they have peace, their husband would definitely act like their clothes, just as they act like clothes for their husband and there would be kindness between them. "And they (women) have rights similar to those (of men) over them." [The Holy Quran, 2: 228] If this essential Quranic principle is observed in the family, then it will become easier for women to tolerate and overcome the problems outside the home environment. If a woman can decrease her problems in the home environment, she will definitely manage to succeed in the social environment as well.

Islam has important and interesting things to say both about the issue of women and about the issue of family. First of all, gender is a secondary issue from an Islamic point of view. The primary issue is the dignity of human beings, which is not at all affected by gender. Islam addresses human beings in general. Of course, in the Holy Quran, the phrase "o you who believe" addresses men from a grammatical point of view, not women. And the reasons are clear to us. I do not want to start a discussion about why in Farsi we refer to people with the word "mard-om" and not "zan-om". [In Farsi, "mard" means "man" and "zan" means "woman"] Similar things can be said about the words "human" and "man" which are used in English to refer to both men and women. The existence of these words does not prove that the English and Persian cultures are male-dominated cultures. No, the reason is something else. In the home environment, men represent outside life and women represent domestic life. Men have been built to be the façade. Allah the Exalted has created men in a way that they can act as the façade. Women have been created for a different purpose. Therefore, men are more visible: they are in evidence. And this is because they have certain natural characteristics and not because they prefer to be in evidence. But regarding the issues that are central for human beings, there is no difference between men and women. For example, notice that when it comes to closeness to God, there are outstanding women such as Hazrat Zahra (s.a.), Hazrat Zeinab (s.a.) and the Virgin Mary. Their position is beyond our imagination. In an ayah of Sura al-Ahzab, it has been said that there is no difference between men and women. Maybe this was because Islam wanted to criticize the assumptions of the Jahaliyya era regarding women. "Surely the men who submit and the women who submit, and the believing men and the believing women, and the obeying men and the obeying women, and the truthful men and the truthful women, and the patient men and the patient women and the humble men and the humble women, and the almsgiving men and the almsgiving women, and the fasting men and the fasting women, and the men who guard their private parts and the women who guard, and the men who remember Allah much and the women who remember - Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a mighty reward." [The Holy Quran, 33: 35] In this ayah, there is a distance between submitting to God and remembering God. Careful attention to these Quranic phrases would reveal a truth: women have been mentioned alongside men throughout the ayah. For example, both men and women have been described as humble and almsgiving: there is no difference between them.

In the holy Sura Aal-e Imran, after repeated uses of the phrase "our Lord", it is said, "So their Lord accepted their prayer: that I will not waste the work of a worker among you, whether male or female, the one of you being from the other." [The Holy Quran, 3: 195] There is no difference between men and women. Elsewhere in the Holy Quran, women have been described as superior to men in order to criticize the assumptions of the Jahaliyya era. Nowhere else in the Holy Quran do we find such things, except about individuals. "Allah sets forth an example to those who disbelieve the wife of Noah and the wife of Lut." [The Holy Quran, 66: 10] The wife of Noah and the wife of Lut are examples of people who disbelieve, not examples of women who disbelieve. "They were both under two of Our righteous servants, but they acted treacherously towards them, so they availed them naught against Allah, and it was said: enter both the fire with those who enter." [The Holy Quran, 66: 10] "And God sets forth, as an example for those who believe, the wife of Pharaoh" [The Holy Quran, 66: 11] Again, Allah the Exalted mentions the names of two women as examples for those who believe. Notice how many believers - including luminaries, righteous people, God's saints and prophets - have come and gone since the beginning of history. When Allah the Exalted wants to mention an example and a role model for all believers, He mentions the names of two women. One is the wife of Pharaoh "when she said: my Lord, build for me a house with You in the garden and deliver me from Pharaoh and his doing."[The Holy Quran, 66: 11] The other is Mary the daughter of Imran "who guarded her chastity and We breathed into (her body) of Our spirit and she testified to the truth of the words of her Lord." [The Holy Quran, 66: 12] This is amazing.

Therefore, gender is a secondary issue from an Islamic point of view: it is a side issue, which becomes meaningful only on certain occasions in life. It has no effect on the general path of humanity and it has no meaning as far as this general path is concerned. The nature of their work is different: "A woman's jihad is taking good care of her husband." This means that the wife of a young mujahid - who lays down his life and goes to the battlefield - will receive the reward for her husband's jihad. This is because the trouble she goes through is not less than the trouble her husband goes through. Of course, taking care of one's husband is very difficult. It takes a lot of genius for a woman to nurture peace and kindness in the home environment in spite of her husband's expectations, bad behavior, coarse voice and towering height. This would really be an example of jihad, an example of the greater jihad, which refers to fighting one's passions.

There are many things that can be said about the issue of family. It is necessary to distinguish between different roles of women as wives and as mothers. In a family, a woman plays the role of a wife, which is an extraordinary role even if she does not play the role of a mother. Imagine that there is a woman who either cannot or does not want to give birth to a baby, yet she has to play the role of a wife. We must not underestimate the role of a wife. A man who wants to be useful in society must have a good wife in his home, otherwise he cannot be useful in society. We tested this idea during the time of revolutionary activities and after the victory of the Revolution. The men who had the support their wife managed to remain steadfast during their revolutionary activities and they also managed to continue in the right path after the victory of the Revolution. Of course, the opposite is also true. I used to marry boys and girls to one another. Sometimes I would tell the young couples, "There are many women who help their husband enter Paradise. There are also many women who push their husband into hell. It is all up to women." Of course, men can also play the same role. Regarding the issue of family, we must not ignore the role of men. Therefore, playing the role of a wife is very important. A woman has to play the role of a mother as well, which was explained in detail in this meeting, but there are many other things that can be said in this regard.

The issue of women's employment is among the issues that are raised. We are not opposed to women's employment. Personally, I agree with different kinds of social activities, be it economic or political, social, humanitarian. All of these things are good. Women make up half of our population and it would be very good if we could make use of this half in such areas. However, it is necessary to keep two, three principles in mind. One principle is that women's employment should not overshadow their main responsibility. That is to say, it should not keep women from attending to their family and doing their work as mothers and wives in the home. And this is possible. I think I remember certain ladies who used to do all these things at the same time. Of course, this is a little hard for women who are employed. They have to study, teach, do household chores, give birth to babies and raise them. Therefore, we completely agree with the kind of employment and social activities that does not work against the main responsibility of women because it is not possible to find a replacement for their main responsibility. If you ladies do not bring up your children at home, if you do not give birth to babies, if you do not take care of your children so that they do not suffer from emotional problems, nobody else will be able to do these things for you: neither your husband, nor other people for that matter. Only a mother can do these things. But if you fail to do your job outside the home environment, tens of other people would be prepared to take your place. Therefore, your priority should be the responsibility that cannot be done by somebody else.

The government also has a duty to fulfill in this regard. The government must help the ladies who have accepted full-time or part-time jobs for different reasons so that they can act as mothers as well and get round to their household chores. The government must help employed ladies get round to their other responsibilities by letting them take vacations, retire early and work fewer hours a day.

The second issue is the man-woman relationship in the workplace, which is a serious issue in Islam. Of course, a major portion of this issue is related to the family. That is to say, pure looks and hearts of a married couple cause family life to become warm and solid. If both sides of a marriage cleanse their eyes of impure looks and cleanse their hearts of temptations, there will be mutual contribution to the warmth of the family environment. But if the eyes, hands and tongues of the married couple are treacherous, if their hearts are devoid of love and commitment to their married life, the family environment will be cold and lifeless although they might keep up appearances.

I read in the articles - which I received from some of the friends who have attended this meeting -that sometimes going out and having a job outside the family environment causes unfounded suspicions. But it does not matter. After all, if suspicions are created - whether they are unfounded or not - they will have their effect. Suspicion is like a bullet that is fired from a gun: if it hits a person in the chest, it will kill him and it does not matter if the person who fired the gun did it intentionally or accidentally. The bullet would not discriminate. The bullet would not fail to rip through the chest it hits simply because the person who fired it did not do it intentionally. The bullet would definitely rip through the chest it hits. Similarly, suspicion would have its effect, whether it originates from a truth or it is caused by excessive concern, illusions or questionable assumptions.

Another point that I would like to speak about is the issue of marriage. There is a kind of sanctity to marriage from the viewpoint of the divine religions I am familiar with. I have not researched this issue thoroughly though. Maybe some of the friends who are prepared to work on this issue should start researching it. This is not a bad idea. Wedding ceremonies are mostly religious rituals. Christians hold wedding ceremonies in a church. Jews hold their wedding ceremonies in a synagogue. Although Muslims do not hold their wedding ceremonies in a mosque, whenever possible, they hold their wedding ceremonies in holy places or on holy religious occasions and Muslim weddings are mostly conducted by religious figures. When a religious figure is invited to marry a couple, he speaks about religion. Therefore, the rituals are completely religious. There is a sacred aspect to marriage. We must not take this sacred dimension away from marriage. Taking this sacred aspect away from marriage would lead to the reprehensible things that have unfortunately become common in our society. The heavy amounts of money that are specified as mahr have emerged to guarantee the success of marriages, but this is wrong. In the worst case, when the husband refuses to pay the money, he is imprisoned for two, three years, but the wife does not get anything. She does not benefit at all. The only thing that happens is that her family breaks up. Imam Hussein (a.s.) has been quoted as saying, "We did not hold weddings for our daughters, our sisters and our wives unless with a mahr that was based on the Sunnah."Our Imams could have made a different decision, but they did not. For example, Imam Hussein (a.s.) could have demanded one thousand dinars if he wanted to. He did not have to settle for fifteen dirhams. Our Imams could have recommended a higher mahr, but they did not do so and there is a wisdom to what they did. It was a very good and calculated move.

It is saddening to hear about wedding ceremonies which are needlessly extravagant. These are among the things for which we need to create a new discourse. Influential ladies and gentlemen, university professors, clerics, the IRIB and our media should work on these areas in order to change this situation.

Now I would like to make a point about the role of men. It is the role of women in the family that is constantly stressed and the reason is clear: women are an essential element in the family. But it is not the case that men do not have a role or responsibility to fulfill in the family. Indifferent men, cold men, immoral men, the men who do not appreciate the efforts of their wife- these men harm the family environment. A husband must be appreciative. The entire society must appreciate the efforts of housewives. It is necessary to consider the work of housewives as highly valuable. There are some women who could have pursued their career or continued their education at university. There are even some women who are highly educated - and I have seen such women - yet they decide to stay home and raise their children. There are women who decide to quit their job for the sake of their family, which does not affect the work that should be done because tens of others are prepared to do the job. It is necessary to thank such women. The ladies and gentlemen who spoke in this meeting said that there should be certain kinds of insurance for such women. Yes, it is necessary to pay attention to their economic problems, insurance and other needs.

Children should also play a role in a family. Children are one of the most important elements of a family. Their role is to respect their parents and this is an issue that requires a detailed discussion.

In any case, I would like to thank all of you. I am satisfied with today's meeting, which was a good meeting. Hopefully, God will be satisfied with all of us. I hope the efforts you have made will be noticed by the Imam of the Age (may our souls be sacrificed for his sake) and I also hope you will continue these efforts. A good proposal was put forth in this meeting regarding an international project on the issue of women, but there was not enough time to discuss it. I saw that proposal and I support it: we can make use of the views expressed by the lady who spoke about international issues. It is a good idea to start an international project on the issue of women.

May God bless all of you. Dear God, bestow Your blessings and guidance on the people who have attended this meeting. Dear God, make what we said, what we heard and what we did - or will do - serve Your cause and accept them from us. Dear God, bestow Your blessings on these people and on the entire Iranian nation, particularly the officials who have taken on many responsibilities in this regard.

Greetings be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings