Cocky Canadian atheist Armin Navabi spent his early childhood in Iran. He is always very concerned to be holding approved views (and yells at those who dare to dissent). On his YouTube channel, Atheist Republic, he lost it when a politically-incorrect little child complained about having to read the Qur'an, "I'm not Arab, I'm Iranian." Assuming that Arab Iranians are similarly offended by the child, Navabi presumes to console them by way of assuring to them that they are Iranian, despite what the child had said. I seemed an excellent opportunity remind his viewers of Ayatollah Khomeini's view on the subject, but not to Navabi.
These issues that exist among people that we are Iranian and what we need to do for Iran are not correct; these issues are not correct. This issue, which is perhaps being discussed everywhere, regarding paying attention to nation and nationality is nonsense in Islam and is against Islam. One of the things that the designers of Imperialism and their agents have promoted is the idea of nation and nationality.
Navabi's juvenile atheism is too fragile to admit anything except all-religions-are-equally-bad, which precludes the Iranian protests being against Islam, as that would force him to criticise only Islam. We have seen how, in Banafsheh Zand's forty-two-minute interview specifically on the Iranian protests, the word Islam is not used once. In Navabi's essay, Iran’s Feminist Revolution, that appeared on 6 December 2022, the word Islam, and its variants, appear twenty times. So far, so good. We shall see how he, nonetheless, manages to keep Islam out of the protests. Navabi opens his essay with:
The current uprising in Iran is a revolution led by women. It centres on the enforcement of hijab, but the protests are about much more than the wearing of a headscarf. Hijab has become synonymous with the oppressive regime and removing it has become a symbol of protest. Opposition to hijab is the protestors’ rallying cry.
Opposition to hijab is not the protestors’ rallying cry. It is Women, Life, Freedom. Navabi offers a potted history of the status of women in Iran from the time of the Safavids to the Ayatollah Khomeini. It provides good pointers on where one might look deeper.
Reza Shah implemented a number of social reforms and, especially, boosted the status of women. In addition to introducing mass education and allowing women to take up paid employment, Reza Shah outlawed wearing the hijab in public. This marked the start of a schism between the monarchy and the clergy and sparked discontent among the many devout Iranians who held the ulama in high regard and disliked the Shah’s social innovations. (My emphasis).
“This marked the start of a schism between the monarchy and the clergy and sparked discontent among the many devout Iranians who held the ulama in high regard and disliked the Shah’s social innovations.” This framing strongly suggests that the hijab is the proxy battleground on which the state and the ulama have been fighting their civil war. When the ulama seized the state, of coarse, they knew exactly how to get “the many devout Iranians” behind them. To talk about a “feminist revolution” in this context is to call for the resumption of the Shah’s reforms, that is to say, to pick the losing side in a war that was lost forty-three years ago. Of course publicly burning the hijab is an attack on Islam. What else can it be? Navabi missed this one. But he got a second chance, albeit a less straightforward one, by mentioning Ali Shariati’s ‘liberation theology’:
Leftists like sociologist Ali Shariati were also highly influential in the movement that led to the 1979 Revolution. Shariati wanted to resurrect what he saw as Shia Islam’s revolutionary spirit. For him, Islam was a means of liberating the Third World from colonialism. Shariati argued that the clergy’s role should be a moral, not a political one. …Khomeini’s vision of a theocratic government was in direct opposition to the more secular ideology of Islamic leftists like Shariati. Yet Khomeini encouraged these leftist groups to join his supporters in overthrowing the Shah by lying about his intentions.
Was the Left too naive to see what was coming, or were they so enthralled to the Soviet Communist Party that they simply toed the line? Exploring this question might have alerted Navabi to the folly of virtue-signalling to feminists, but he blew that one, too.
Once the leftists and liberals had been defeated and the conservatives took full control of the Iranian state, hijab was imposed on all women. …Leftist guerrilla forces revolted against these impositions and were met with a ferocious crackdown by the Islamic Republic, whose secret police began eliminating potential political opponents through extrajudicial murders. (My emphasis)
What is ‘extrajudicial’ in an Islamic Republic? Like Banafsheh Zand, above, Navabi seems not to know what an Islamic Republic is. “These executions [were] one of the late twentieth-century’s most brutal episodes of state-sponsored terror.” Fascist terror would be more accurate, and they would do so again, even if it means killing tens of millions. Twentieth-century history teaches that. Stalin and Mao killed tens of millions, because they had ten of millions from whom to kill. There is no totalitarian regime to which this principle does not apply. According to Ayatollah Khomeini:
“The person who governs the Muslim community must always have its interests at heart and not his own. This is why Islam has put so many people to death: to safeguard the interests of the Muslim community.”
Stephen Hughes makes the point that, "Ayatollah Khomeini saw himself as God’s presence on the earth, so how could God fail? Khomeini like Adolf Hitler, blamed the failure on his people, so he began a genocidal purge to remove the ungodly for (sic) the soil of his Islamic Republic." Navabi continues:
“Unlike those protests [of 2017 and 2019], these [current protests] are no longer primarily demands for the repeal of mandatory hijab or the reform of the morality police. Now the people want the complete downfall of the theocratic regime. The protestors focus on hijab because it is the most tangible symbol of the regime’s authority: a constant reminder of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and of the regime’s powers of surveillance, control and repression.” (My emphasis)
The hijab was merely the catalyst. This part is easy. Harder to see, especially given the seductiveness of the idea of a “women’s revolution,” is that the protests are not led by women, but by the children of the landmine-fodder generation that survived the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War. The protests were initiated by the women of that generation, not only because they bear the brunt of Islam, but also because they have parents who, as children, were sent to run through Iraqi minefields. I will leave Christopher Hitchens to explain further:
What is happening in Iran is very interesting. Within the carapace of a theocratic state, an almost completely secular society is being created. This is for a ghoulish reason. The Iranian mullahs lost so many young people in the suicide waves that they sent against Iraq, the sending of gangs of school children and teenagers to clear minefields on the Iraqi border, there's not enough room in large parts of Iran to bury the number of people they killed. Large parts of the country is one big cemetery. They lost so many young people, that they had to pay Iranian mother's incentives: if you would agree to have three or more children, you could get quite a lot of subsidy and quite a lot of help from the regime. They tried to breed quickly a new generation, as the consequence of which it worked out alright, but not in the way they expected. As a consequence of which it's estimated that more than half the population of the country is under twenty-five and they all hate the mullahs. It’s what I call ‘the baby boomerang’ in Iran. (My emphasis)
It escapes the atheist Navabi that the protests in Iran are a mass apostasy from. The people of Iran are just so far ahead of Navabi, afraid as he is of leaving the feminists behind. The result is such trite nonsense as, “If the people can demonstrate that they do not want to be governed by Islamic law, it will be obvious that there is no reason to uphold the Islamic Republic,” and then the mullahs will pack up and go away. Again, Navabi even appears unaware of Islam, in particular of jihad and of al-wala’ wa’l-bara’ —love for Muslims and everything Muslim, hatred for the kufaar (non-Muslims) and everything kafir. Of course he is well aware of all of these, but he has to keep Islam out of the picture:
Today’s Iranian women have seized the leadership of this national project: the liberation of Iran. In doing so, they are true to feminism’s original roots, which were about uplifting everyone and strengthening the whole of society by granting equality to people from every group. Women may be leading the current uprising, but their goal is freedom for all Iranians.
“Seized the leadership,” from whom? “The liberation of Iran,” from what? Such questions complicate things for Navabi, so he goes for the non sequitur: “They are true to feminism’s original roots, which were about uplifting everyone and strengthening the whole of society by granting equality to people from every group.” Whatever complaints I might have about Caroline Glick, she doesn’t say stupid things; Armin Navabi does. It’s what happens when all you have is so-called ‘critical theory’:
“The Islamic Republic has a history of discriminating against a number of religious, ethnic and other groups. But since women are the largest oppressed group, to fight for their liberation has become a means of fighting against all the oppressions of the theocratic regime.” (My emphasis)
This kind of thinking is exactly why so many on the Left are in a mess. Glick comments, “It’s the sort of thing that you would expect for Western women across the political spectrum to be standing up and shouting about, but none of that is happening.” Of course not. Muslims are an even bigger “oppressed group” than Muslim women. Glick doesn’t realise how tainted she is, and Navabi hasn’t thought that far yet.
The clerics have failed to achieve prosperity for Iran,” says Navabi, “and are using their control over women’s bodies to try to hold onto the approval of their conservative base.” The only approval the ulama need is that which Allah has already given them in the Shari’a. Even Khamenei is not indispensable, for the ulama will turn against him, if he in any way turns against Shari’a, not that there is any prospect of that happening. Navabi continues, “They can’t improve living conditions in the country, so they enforce hijab and oppress women in order to seem to be accomplishing something…"
This is twaddle on several levels. Firstly, “enforce hijab and oppress women” came before “can’t improve living conditions in the country,” which, secondly, is something the Iranian state couldn’t care less about, “economics is for donkeys.” The Iranian regime treats concerns with the material conditions of this life with contempt. It’s priority is not governance in the ordinary sense of the word, but the fulfilment of the Islamic telos, all religion for Allah alone, towards the attainment of which it leaves no stone unturned. Stephen Hughes sums it up succinctly:
The idea that the ruler of the state must be the person best qualified to interpret Islam and enforce Muslim law upon the people is enshrined in the constitution of the Islamic Republic, which vests full power in the jurisprudent (faqih) at its head in the position commonly known as “Supreme Leader”.
To achieve all religion for Allah alone, “the jurisprudent” (of all the Muslims, by the way) must first “interpret Islam and enforce Muslim law upon the people” of Iran. To talk of “kangaroo courts” and “miscarriages of justice” in the context of Iran is to demonstrate ignorance of both Islam and of totalitarianism. The very existence of Shari’a is itself a kangaroo court and a miscarriage of justice. Under totalitarianism, the purpose of life is extraneous to life, distinct from it. In Islam, that purpose is to make it successfully through this life to the next life, success in this life meaning worshipping Allah and striving in the cause of Allah. Khomeini had no problem at all with completely destroying Iran, provided Islam prevailed.
In Navabi's shoddy analysis, he talks of the regime needing to seem “to be in control of some aspect of Iranian life. But this pretence is wearing thin.” They have been in control of every aspect of Iranian life, but not in the way they pretend. The "aspect of Iranian life" the mullahs control is the pretence itself, that everyone has no choice but to acquiesce in. Every Muslim community or society is held together by hypocrisy, and if the state is Islamic, hypocrisy is institutionalised into the organs of state, such the various morality police forces across the Muslim world. In Iran, for a number of complex reasons, systemic hypocrisy is particularly fragile.
No human can live according to Shari'a, unless that human is either a monster or a slave, but Shari'a is the instrument through which Islamic totalitarianism is enforced. The Iranian clergy find themselves in a situation not of their choosing, the long shadow of the Iran-Iraq War. The best they could make of a bad situation was to take revenge on the Iranian people for causing Allah to fail, and thereafter, to double down on enforcing Shari'a whenever hypocrisy slips, like a hijab, to expose the real society beneath its veil. Muslims, like all people, yearn to do what all people want to do, and whatever people want to do, Shari'a either forbids or severely constrains. Hitchens again:
Within the carapace of a theocratic state, an almost completely secular society is being created. …And if you want to get a drink, which, believe me, I did, I found a bootlegger at the airport, when I arrived. As a matter of fact, if you want someone to come round to your hotel room or your apartment and bring anything else you might like, any other form of alcohol or drugs or pornography or any other kind of video or publication, you can do that very swiftly. The mullahs are powerless to stop it. They may even, some of them, be profiteering from some of this illegal black market themselves. (My emphasis)
Armin Navabi with his right-on feminism, i.e., identity politics, i.e., ‘critical theory’, i.e., postmodernist paradigm, doesn’t get even close to Hitchens. Here is Navabi at his best:
Iran’s female-led uprising is neither left nor right-leaning. Representatives of the political groups that led the opposition against the Islamic Republic in the past have been noticeably absent from their leadership. The protest movement has captured the attention of the entire world, uniting people across political lines. The spectacle of innocent schoolgirls standing up to a violent and bloodthirsty regime has aroused the sympathies of people from across the political spectrum, both in Iran and abroad.
Why have “political groups that led the opposition against the Islamic Republic in the past,” been absent from the protests' leadership? Where are the Shariatis? Navabi sees no need to delve into why they are not so prominent today, even though he thought it necessary tell us that they were prominent before. “The protest movement has captured the attention of the entire world,” says Navabi. Including Russia, China, North Korea, Belarus, Qatar and Venezuela? Navabi is too superficial to have noticed this global alignment of totalitarian forces against the autonomous individual and against freedom. To go down that road is to muddy the waters. Let’s ignore reality and stick to the “feminist revolution.”
Caroline Glick would immediately see the folly in Navabi saying, “The protest movement has unit[ed] people across political lines,” because she complained about exactly this not happening. But it is in his conclusion that Navabi really lets himself down. “Although the uprising has been led by women," says Navabi, "they have invited men to march shoulder to shoulder with them.” (My emphasis)
“They have invited men,” as if Islam does not oppress men, or as if men are indifferent to the Shari’a horrors their society has been subjected to. Neither Navabi, nor feminist commentators on Iran, such as Maryam Namazie or Banafsheh Zand, care to mention that so many of the morality police officers are women, as, indeed, are those who arrested Mahsa Amini.
With seventy-six words to go to the end of his 1,365-word essay, Armin Navabi finally gets around to mentioning Woman Life Freedom. “The protestors initially chanted the Kurdish slogan Woman Life Freedom, but the women soon added the chant Man Nation Prosperity.” This puerile and clumsy slogan, Man Nation Prosperity, that contributes nothing regardless of who added it, is thrown into the same sentence as Woman Life Freedom to cut off and diminish the latter. It is again the shallow identity-politics pseudo-profound concern with “inclusion.”
Navabi’s obfuscation gets even worse than that of Maryam Namazie. He mentions that the Woman Life Freedom is of Kurdish origin, implying a link to the death of Mahsa Amini, who was Kurdish, and the "ethnic" dimension of the protests. But the slogan arose from the PKK in the early 2000s, and in particular, its YPJ, the multi-ethnic Women's Protection Units, during the Kurdish war against ISIS. Although the slogan burst into popular consciousness during the early weeks of the Iran protests, the world started taking it up already in 2015.
“But the women soon added Man Nation Prosperity.” (My emphasis) This “bigging-up” of women into some kind of politburo is Navabi’s idea of impeccable feminist credentials. It is patronising and offensive. Women do not seek validation in flattery or cheap compliments, although teenage girls might. Moreover, men are not waiting for clearance from women before they take to the streets to rid their country of Islam. They have been right in the thick of it from the start, whether it was Mahsa Amini’s father chasing the mullah away from his daughter’s funeral with, “Take your Islam and go!” or men rushing in to beat up a man who has just slapped a woman.
I point this out neither to absolve men, nor to tarnish women, but only to make the point that the woman-man divide obscures, rather than illuminates, the events in Iran. It obstructs, rather than facilitates, understanding. One can see why the old head-banging feminists finally feel the bit between their teeth and want to run with it, but a young man who set up a supposed freethought community should be alert to what’s going on here, rather than simply fall into line with another dogmatic orthodoxy. Iran might yet prove to be the anvil on which the matriarchy is finally smashed. Feminism, that has done so much good, but refused to die when its time came, might now give the ghost, and leave us, women and men, to be human again.
[Part 3: 4:34 versus 5:33]
- "The Islamic Republic of Iran is number one along with China in the number of executions. It is number one in the world for executing Juveniles. Rape of women and torture is the normal function of prisons and a sanctioned government practice." Iran /Death Penalty, A State Terror Policy, Idh.Org/Img/Pdf/Rapport_Iran_Final.Pdf
- Stephen E Hughes, Ayatollah Khomeini: How a monster rose to power, Association of Geo-Strategic Analysis, 2019, p36. https://www.academia.edu/38274716/Ayatollah_Khomeini_How_A_Monster_Rose_to_Power_2019_pdf
3. Hughes, p1.