April 25, 2020
The modern economic and political situation in Iran is far from being good, but it has changed for the best since the removal of some international sanctions. However, this country is still split by different opinions regarding two aspects, namely the necessity of developing nuclear weapons and the need for getting closer to the West. This paper is an imaginary case of being an Iranian citizen who chooses the future of his or her country by referring to the works of Abdolkarim Soroush and Jalal Ali Ahmad. These Iranian thinkers propose different approaches to the problems from the point of view of Iranian mentality, which is why it is necessary to clarify some of their aspects from the position of Constant, Hitler, and Gandhi. The research of the sources states that Iran needs no nuclear weapon, but requires seeking solutions to engage in cooperation with the West being seen as a partner and not as an oppressed party.
The Position of Iran
Currently, Iran experiences severe economic and political pressure because it proclaimed a policy that was accepted as hostile by the Western countries. One of the basic reasons for this is that Iranian politicians were opposing the country to the West and recognized the development of nuclear weaponry as the most useful tactic. The latter has been mostly based on fear because the fear of the oppression from the West should have been substituted by the Western fear of Iranian nuclear power. However, throughout recent decades, nothing critical had happened except the fact that the economy and social life of Iran have worsened drastically due to the economic sanctions. These sanctions were validated because of the general agreement that Iran had been secretly developing the components of the nuclear bomb. Thus, there is a need for rethinking the predominant political philosophy of Iran and developing more productive policies, which would save the country from deep economic and social crisis.
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The politicians of Iran have a choice of the philosophy that should be put as the main driving force for future changes. These changes should be refusal from the attempts of creating a nuclear bomb, and the development of cooperation strategies with the West when being recognized as a partnering nation in return. Such options have become clear after consideration of the work of two Iranian thinkers, namely Abdolkarim Soroush and Jalal Al-i Ahmad. The final choice of the paper rests on the ideas of Jalal Al-i Ahmad, but it should be applied with various restrictions because of bearing exaggeration in terms of opposing the West. Also, there is a need for finding the support for the ideas of both thinkers in the works of Constant, Hitler, and Gandhi and explaining them through their framework. Such need can be described by the fact that the Iranian worldview and political conditions differ from the ones of the Western philosophers and thinkers. Therefore, further sections of the paper explain the reasons for selecting the ideas of Jalal Al-i Ahmad and discuss them along with the works of other philosophers and politicians.
The Future Policy of Iran
Although both Abdolkarim Soroush and Jalal Al-i Ahmad aspire for the future of their country, their positions significantly differ, with the first author pursuing cooperation with the West, and the second one strongly opposing it. As a result, there is a need for comparing and contrasting their works with the aim of explaining the reasons for choosing the philosophy of Jalal Al-i Ahmad as the most productive one. Initially, the ideas of Soroush look also positive and productive because this scholar devoted significant time to characterize the aspects of social life in Iran. The major advance of his theory is that he stresses that the major disadvantage of the traditional life in Iran has been that “social sciences and humanities were considered as products of corrupting Western thought” (Sadri & Sadri, 2000, p. 13). As a result, by rejecting these sciences, Iranian society has been restraining its own progress and rejecting the opportunities for education. Due to the works of Soroush, an Iranian citizen can realize that religious thought has been dominating over all spheres of social life. Accordingly, the philosophy of science faced misunderstanding and disparities with the philosophy of religion in Iran (Sadri & Sadri, 2000). In this sense, the positive impact of the work by Soroush is that it attempts to adapt the Western knowledge to the diverse spheres of life in Iran, which seem to be too much guided by religion.
The increase of knowledge of the consequences of science and its positive impact on humanity is one of the keys that the society of Iran has been misinterpreting. Consequently, by concentrating on the aspect of whether religious knowledge is susceptible to some kind of evolution (Sadri & Sadri, 2000), Soroush attempts to bridge Iran with the West. Similarly, although he admires the importance of the Islamic Revolution for the country, the scholar indicates that it had a specific disadvantage, which led to the fact that Iranian scientific thought is weak. Thus, he states that the revolutionaries aimed at abolishing the regime of the shah and were not aware of such perspectives as “global economy, modernity, information-driven administration, and so on” (Sadri & Sadri, 2000, p. 20). As a result, having such differences, Western civilization was accepted as hostile and the one that does not meet the needs of Islam. One of the most important arguments of Abdolkarim Soroush in this respect is that all systems have their weaknesses (Sadri & Sadri, 2000). The problems of any religious society are hypocrisy and ideologization of a religion becoming “an instrument of fanaticism and hatred” (Sadri & Sadri, 2000, p. 21), which is the case with Iran. However, the drawback of the scholar’s viewpoint is that he did not pay attention to the cases of military activity of the West, which is why it may seem that the source of intercultural misunderstanding is located in Iran. Another drawback of Soroush’s theory is that his focus is the analysis of scientific and religious life without reference to real-life problems and their solutions. In contrast, Jalal Al-i Ahmad focuses on these questions revealing both historical and contemporary precedents of the Western hostility and proposing some real-life solutions.
It may seem that the work by Jalal Al-i Ahmad is hostile towards the West, which is the drawback of his writing; thus, it should be accepted with specific restrictions. However, its benefit in contrast with the writing by Soroush is that it focuses not only on religion but on the fundamental differences between Western and Iranian societies. First, the work adequately locates the positions of the political players of the world map stating that the US and other Western nations are developed, whereas Iran represents one of “the hungry nations” (Al-i Ahmad, Campbell, & Algar, 1984, p. 28). By this means, the author delivers an implicit thought that rich people have never understood the needs of the poor. Moreover, he defines that Western nations are the ones that have “high wages, low mortality, low fertility, well-organized social services, adequate foodstuffs… and nominal democracy” (Al-i Ahmad, Campbell, & Algar, 1984, p. 28). In contrast, the hungry nations have low wages, high mortality, high fertility, the absence of social services, inadequate foodstuffs and “no notion of democracy, the heritage of imperialism” (Al-i Ahmad, Campbell, & Algar, 1984, p. 28). Therefore, it is evident that both political players represent entirely different positions with the one being overpowered as compared with another. Therefore, the former has more opportunities for oppressing its counterpart.
Furthermore, the scholar explains the reasons that led to the fact that Iran and other disadvantaged nations fell into dependence on the West. These reasons include both internal and external aspects, and the author criticizes all of them. The external reasons include industrialization, the development of knowledge and education, and the military activity; whereas the internal ones are irrelevant social and economic policing. The thinker states that both groups of reasons turned the West into producers and the ascending part of the world, which keeps “the beat of progress” and the poor nations into “moribund” part of the world with stagnation (Al-i Ahmad, Campbell, & Algar, 1984, p. 28).
Also, the scholar states that his country, as well as other countries, has scattered motive forces, and the people have not found their individual way of development (Al-i Ahmad, Campbell, & Algar, 1984). Probably, as a result, Iran has been looking at the opportunity of having nuclear weapons as one of the means of influence on the West. However, one presumes that giving all financial and intellectual resources of the country to the development of nuclear weapons, whereas having deep social problems, was a mistake. This approach implies the lack of vision of the nation’s authorities because they prefer to cherishing their political ambitions instead of meeting the needs of the starving nation. In this sense, the positive aspect of the work by Jalal Al-i Ahmad is that he not only criticizes Western nations but enlists the drawbacks of the Iranian policy. Thus, the scholar states that such advanced countries as the US-built machines that manifested the age of industrial progress, which made the developing nations be the consumers of American products (Al-i Ahmad, Campbell, & Algar, 1984).
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Such countries as Japan opposed this perspective and were hostile to the US, but it was taught the “right policy” by the atomic bomb; therefore, there is no use in combating the state. Instead, Iran should revise its national policies and try to assist the nation in becoming more industrialized. As a result, the thinker states that Iran experiences the state of “occidentosis”, in which it has to consume the products of the industrialized nations because it has not acquired enough knowledge in producing its own equipment and machinery (Al-i Ahmad, Campbell, & Algar, 1984). In this situation, being a consumer of the West means that Iran would never acquire enough industrial progress because the developed nations need consumers. The scholar recognizes that being rivals with the West was more productive for Iran because of the spirit of competition, which is now substituted by “the spirit of helplessness, the spirit of worshipfulness” (Al-i Ahmad, Campbell, & Algar, 1984, p. 43).
Therefore, Iranian policies should be directed towards improvements in the spheres of education and technology. The money spent on the development of nuclear weapons would have a more productive impact on the nation in the case it is spent on science and education. Turning to the history of the country, Al-i Ahmad states that it was prosperous at the times of the Silk Road when the Iranians were taking taxes from merchants and did not support any progress (Al-i Ahmad, Campbell, & Algar, 1984). As a result, when the trading countries turned to the use of the oceanic and sea waters for trade, Iran was left behind. Without international trade, the state had been losing its income. Instead of advancing alternative ways of development, it rooted in religious dogmas while restraining the progress in science and education.
Although the country is mostly rural, people keep moving to towns and cities, where they find no workplace and struggle for a living. This demonstrates that Iran has no proper middle class that can enforce the progress (Al-i Ahmad, Campbell, & Algar, 1984). Therefore, the country should adopt the idea of Al-i Ahmad and not rely on the West. It should also turn its financial and political resources towards the social and economic transformation of the country refusing the idea of having nuclear weapons.
Characterizing the Ideas of Al-i Ahmad through the Works by Constant, Hitler, and Gandhi
Although the ideas of Constant, Hitler, and Gandhi are different, each of them finds its reflection in the work of Al-i Ahmad and is critical to consider as a support of the chosen point of view. Thus, the work by Constant (1806) indicates that there are two states of relations between the countries, namely war, and commerce. The scholar is assured that war is more likely to be selected by the nations that are less “civilized” (Constant, 1806), which has long been the case with Iran. This country has had a predominantly rural population governed by religious dogmas, which restrained its process. As approved by Al-i Ahmad, in their history, the predecessors of modern Iranian citizens engaged in numerous religious wars with Christians (Al-i Ahmad, Campbell, & Algar, 1984). As a result, the nation should refuse wars and engage in commercial relations in order to reach the continuous progress of social life.
Another argument for refusing war and nuclear weapons is that constantly developing weaponry removed the military aspect of struggling against danger and brought only fatality (Constant, 1806). Therefore, modern wars are mostly lethal and do not develop any courage within the nation; hence, the nation should save its resources better for such other activities as national development. By entering modern “useless wars” (Constant, 1806, p. 81), the state commits the “greatest offense”, and its citizens should oppose this perspective. In this sense, Iran may attempt to choose the policy of non-violent resistance developed by Gandhi (Dalton, n. d.) and try to regulate the relationship with the West by means of political opposition to its military initiatives. However, this is probably the least efficient initiative because the country is at a state of war, and it is hard to establish a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
From a broad perspective, the future policy of Iran should be of “disobedience” to the economic oppression from the West (Dalton, n. d.) with a preference for the development of its “inner forces” that is the education of the nation. Also, a peculiar fact is that Al-i Ahmad’s and Hitler’s ideas coincide in the aspect of the struggle for the future of their nations. Thus, Al-i Ahmad states that Iran is in a dependent condition from the West (Al-i Ahmad, Campbell, & Algar, 1984). However, Hitler expresses a negative attitude towards “Western democracy” that is unfair towards the German nation (Hitler & Manheim, 1943). At the same time, Hitler’s views of the problem are mostly idealistic and abstract, whereas Al-i Ahmad refers to the history of Iran and proposes real-life solutions. More than that, the work of Al-i Ahmad has no indication of national socialism or fascism, which approves the fact that although he is hostile towards the West, he seeks for inner solutions instead of fanning another war.
Summarizing the presented information in the imaginary case of selecting a future policy for Iran, one opts for refusing nuclear weapons and cooperating with the West as a partner. The analysis of the works by Abdolkarim Soroush and Jalal Al-i Ahmad allows stating that the latter’s ideas are the closest to the needs of Iran. The reason for this is that, in opposition to Soroush’s viewpoint, Al-i Ahmad does not recognize the problems of his society as caused by religious dogmas that have been refusing science. Instead, the scholar conducts historical, political, and economic analysis demonstrating that having nuclear weapons is of no use when the nation requires education and economic development. Similarly to Hitler, Al-i Ahmad recognizes the negative impact of the West, but he associates it with the established tradition of consuming Western products instead of following the path of industrialization. Having proper industrial power and educated citizens, Iran would demonstrate that it is a civilized country refusing warfare and choosing the path of non-violent resistance, which is the economic and political rivalry.
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