An Open Letter to the Adults and Leadership of Iran,
The Ayatolla Sayyed Ali Khamenei, Leader to The Islamic Republic of Iran, has sent an open letter to the Youth of Europe and North America - a direct appeal to them to learn more about Islam. The wording is all very friendly, but sends chills up my spine nonetheless. One must assume his eminence would be thrilled if our Youth upon hearing about the greatness of Islam decided to convert. So since this is a friendly exchange you must be considering encouraging the Leaders of Israel to send open letters to your youth extolling the virtues of Judaism, and the Pope to extol the virtues of Christianity. Perhaps your youth may want to consider a different path? Oh wait, in Iran apostasy a crime, one punishable by death.
This does pose a problem, in Iran and many other Islamic states religious tolerance seems to be a one way street. When pictures of the Prophet Mohammad are depicted by cartoonists, Iran's response is to fight back with a Holocaust cartoon contest. So an insult to Islam demands an insult to some other faith (and not even the faith of the provocateurs)? Islam demands respect, but seems to offer none in kind.
Though I myself am an Agnostic, you might as well consider me an Atheist in that while the question of God is open, there is no doubt in my mind all the organized religions of the world are based on silly, childish, fairy tales and wishful thinking. This is my opinion, sorry if you find it distasteful. I believe that it is a basic human right for people to believe what they wish and express it without fear. You have my full considered consent to believe in Islam - you can say whatever you want about my beliefs and that of others without fear of retaliation. The opposite appears not to be true. Ahmed Salman Rushdie wrote a work of fiction called "The Satanic Verses." Since this is a work of fiction its meanings are up for interpretation, however your then ruler Ayatollah Fuhollah Knomeini issued a fatwa calling for the killing of Mr. Rushdie. The fatwa has since then been rescinded in weak fashion - Iran no longer calls for the killing of Mr. Rushdie, nor would it condemn his killing should it occur (and only came to this weakened stance to reopen trade with the west).
My own country is going to great pains to declare terrorism and Islam separate. Our leaders constantly remind us that there are many peaceful followers of Islam (and there are). There is however a great deal of hatred growing here. But it isn't just the terrorists that are fomenting this hate. When virtually every Islamic state of note restricts freedom of speech and religion, then in my opinion they are not much above the terrorists they so wish to be differentiated from, and it is this restriction of freedoms regardless of sect, Sunni or Shiite, that leads to the fomenting of terror in general. Can you cite current great Christian conflicts between Protestant and Catholic sects? A great portion of Islam is not only at war with the west, but at war with itself, largely because many (most?) regional Islamic powers only view their own interpretations of Islam as acceptable. Of course perhaps insistence on enforcing Islamic dogma is merely a blunt tool for use by those in power to retain control by hypocritical means.
It is hard to have compassion for and care about the suffering of people who would cheer for killing those for speaking ill of their Prophet. I say this because I stand with those that ridicule Mohammad (and so must consider myself at peril). Let me be clear on this point; I have no respect at all for Mohammad, he was a rapist, a murder, and a torturer. If you worship him, you worship a false Prophet. I would be among those who many of you would have my bones broken, my body burned, my head severed - if not restrained by international agreements so as to be able to do business with the kafirs. For those Muslims among you who would not wish this fate upon me and respect my right to my thoughts and my speech (as well as those of all others), then peace be unto you. If not, then why should I care about you? Will you really tell me there is not a multitude among you that wouldn't have me pay a dear price for what I have just said? Have not many Muslims said similar or worse words about most other faiths? What should be their punishment? Under our system - none - so who shows true compassion? The leaders of Iran and other Islamic countries have condemned people to death for words. I would be proud if my words merited such attention and opprobrium.
Islam must either evolve to embrace secular tolerance or it is doomed to an eternal war it cannot win with the west. This is not Christianity and Judaism versus Islam it is modern enlightenment and civilization versus the barbarism of the past. Let me state most emphatically; if Islam cannot abide freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of association, and freedom to enjoy all rights equally regardless of race, religion, or gender - then Islam is not a religion of peace and the theocracies based upon it will never truly be considered equal by the rest of the world.
I can have tolerance for a believer of Islam especially if he observes it in a way that does not restrict the freedoms of those around him. But I have no tolerance for regimes and political systems that build upon Islam (or any religion for that matter) as their foundation, because as far as I can see this leads invariably to the oppression of their people and coerces them into follow the national faith. If Islam is not coercive - then why are there laws against apostasy? Shouldn't a person's thoughts on religion and how to practice it be their business and not the government's? While Islam in many cases allows a person to practice another faith (if born into it and with many caveats), it seems being born into Islam is to give up any free choice in the matter.
Our freedoms here in the west have allowed you to talk to our youth; there are no government restrictions against them seeing your words. Are your youth open to our words, especially those critical of Islam? How hypocritical of you to use our freedoms to promote your message when you restrict so many other views under your system. Of the top 500 websites visited around the world, Iran restricts viewing by censorship of almost 50%. I am unaware of ANY official Iranian websites being so censored here in America. I guess you fear our words more than we fear yours.