Space of Existence for Opposing Views- Current Protests in Iran
The protests in Iran in the past number of weeks have made their way on international news. It is easy to demonize our enemies, those who suppress our wishes, those who impose lifestyles which we do not want, and of course those who are violent. And sometimes only a bloodshed and a violent revolution seem to send the direct message to an administration system that people want changes.
I wish to share in this article, an angle of flowering in this situation. An angle of view in which the citizens protesting can find a space of freedom despite the circumstances; and also for the government leaders facing mass protests to pass their test of a theocracy, which is presently the regime system in Iran. There is a space of freedom which the common citizens can find despite the circumstances. There is a also a tremendous exam for the spiritual leaders of a state facing mass protests , where the act of violent enforcement of religious teachings becomes indeed a direct devaluation of that very religious or spiritual position.
A number of defenders of Islamic governance, argue that Islam and politics cannot be separated, and that is why Islamic leaders are also politicians. While fully acknowledging that point, at the same time one cannot deny the fact that a spiritual path which is not chosen freely by heart, but chosen by violent imposition of an outside entity, is not only totally void of spiritual value, but it is also an offensive action devaluating the position of a spiritual leader. A spiritual leader is a person that people go to with a total feeling of safety, looking for a refugee of comfort in order to get closer to the Divine. Therefore any imposition of force and fear-instilling methods, automatically devaluates and offends the position of a spiritual leader. This is precisely why reaching the position of a spiritual leader is extremely hard, because it only works through pure inspiration and love; anything else lowers the level of such a position.
The citizens of Iran are not allowed to form political parties which do not abide to Islamic Sharia rules currently in practice by the government. Like people in all other countries, not all citizens feel ‘at home’ in such a life path, so there are atheists, and also people who choose other religious believes. This lack of space for forming disagreeing parties is suffocating for some citizens, besides the fact that the very practices of judiciary are not agreed upon by a number of scholars and academics even of Islamic interpretations themselves. However academics and scholars who present researched disagreements are often harshly punished and silenced. Many women in Iran like to express their beauty like many other women around the world, however the forced imposition of the hijab inhibits and frustrates them. There are women who of course feel ‘at home’ wearing the hijab and are happy wearing it. But there are others who do not want it, yet they are forced to wear it. Therefore the problem is not the hijiab, nor a Sharia system per se, but the IMPOSITION of those on citizens who do not see life in that same way, citizens who are people of good will but find their life path otherwise than that which the government is proposing. A system of violent forcing and imposing inhibits citizens from choosing what feels right for them as persons of free will and free choice.
So in such a situation, how can a citizen find breathing space to feel peace while trying to ask for some changes?
While the protesters may be demonizing the government for imposing its ways on citizens, they can also recognize the victim in themselves which is ironically a state of accomplice to acts of imposition and abuse. No abuser can exist without an abused, the two entities need each other in order to exist. Therefore one first step for finding that space of freedom is to remember that the victim has a choice of not feeling nor thinking himself a victim, specially once he is denouncing the act of imposition by the party in front of them (in this case the government). Letting go of the victim, enables the citizen to let go also of demonizing the regime which is dis-empowering in itself. By letting go of the victim state of mind, one regains power. Once the power is regained, one can think in more creative ways, ways to present objections, questions, and create pressures for the changes that are sought. Asking for space of existence for the different political parties is crucial for the space of freedom that people want. Asking for space of existence for the changes of religious believes is crucial for the freedom that people need to grow and evolve. Asking for economic changes, and institutional changes, with concrete propositions moves the way forward. No one from the government nor from outsiders can impose anything on a population of 80 million (Iran’s population), unless the majority of the population is not capable of recognizing what they are being imposed on. The majority of the population need to reach that space of freedom where they know they can choose, learn, and change what helps the betterment of their life. The resources of citizens is much more varied than the resources of a government leader. The resources need tapping into, and that requires a sense of personal power and internal freedom.
Leadership is a two way process, that from the citizens’ level of knowing, and that from the leaders’ knowing. Abuse is also a two way process, that from the abuser’s power, and that from the abused’s victimhood.
I invite the Spiritual Leader of Iran, to prove his spiritual power by showing that people follow him without the use of weapons, thus refrain from the use of physical aggression. A spiritual leader who is followed through the use of violent force on citizens is an imposed leader not a loved one. For the sake of the very dignity of the position of a spiritual leader, I invite him to allow people to come to him through love and safety rather than through force, and hear the citizens presenting their voices. Weapons are what unwanted political leaders have to resort to in order to keep their position. The Shah of Iran made this mistake when protests broke out before the 1979 revolution. Instead of giving space of existence for the opposing views, he suppressed and silenced them violently. The same mistake is being made by the Iranian government today: not giving space of existence for opposing views and parties.
I invite also the protesting citizens of Iran, to find their space of freedom inside, that space which no one has a power to touch. The resources of citizens are much more varied than the resources of a government, and those resources can be tapped into: intelligence, creativity, information, learning.
May the citizens of Iran flower, and may the spiritual leaders in Iran value their spirituality enough to refrain from the use of weapons on the citizens of their country. Having to use force and aggression in order to be followed, is a direct devaluation to the very position of being a spiritual leader, because it proves that the leader does not inspire respect and love, nor is he convincing enough to be followed in his teachings, so he has to use force to impose himself. Space of existence for opposing views and parties is the only real proof of a government in service of all its citizens.