Slackman on Montazeri’s challenge to the Iranian government

NYTimes Michael Slackman’s article on Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri indicates again how conflicted, and contradictory the actual practice of administration in Iran has turned out to be. He was one of the original promoters of the concept of “Velayat-e Faqih,” the juristic guardianship, the concept that underlies Iran’s current theocracy, and was, in fact, at one time the teacher of the current leading “faqih,” Ali Khameini – now addressed as “ayatollah” although he never earned such a high level of scholarly achievement. Slackman says that Ayatollah Montazeri has argued for years that even in a religious state legitimacy comes from the people.

“The government will not achieve legitimacy without the support of the people, and as the necessary and obligatory condition for the legitimacy of the ruler is his popularity and the people’s satisfaction with him,”

Once the designated successor to Ayatollah Khomeini until he began to criticize Khomeini’s practice in 1988, he is now a respected voice of opposition to the current regime. “He criticizes this regime purely from a religious point of view, and this is very hurtful. The regime wants to say, ‘If I am not democratic enough that doesn’t matter, I am Islamic.’ He says it is not an Islamic government.” (Mehdi Khalaji).

He has for years challenged the abuses of power in Iran. Even in the time of Khomeini, “He mocked Ayatollah Khomeini’s decision to issue a fatwa calling for the murder of Salman Rushdie, author of “The Satanic Verses,” saying, “People in the world are getting the idea that our business in Iran is just murdering people.” It was in January, 1988, that Montazeri’s objections to a wave of executions of political prisoners and his recoomendations to the leadership that Iran should export the revolution by example, not by violence. For that he was forced to leave government.

He has not, however, ceased to criticize the government, and now his criticisms of the Khameini regime have become exceedingly dangerous to it. A recent statement:

“A political system based on force, oppression, changing people’s votes, killing, closure, arresting and using Stalinist and medieval torture, creating repression, censorship of newspapers, interruption of the means of mass communications, jailing the enlightened and the elite of society for false reasons, and forcing them to make false confessions in jail, is condemned and illegitimate.”

He says that the Islamic Republic of Iran is neither Islamic, nor a republic, and the supreme leader has lost his legitimacy.

Dangerous words for a regime now believed guilty of stealing an election and then brutally crushing the thousands of citizens who objected to it.