October 16, 2001

Khomeini's curse:
One man's perversion of Islam

S. Rob Sobhani

"Let the American president know that he is the most repulsive member of the human race today, because of the injustice he has imposed on the Muslim nation. Today the Koran has become his enemy." These are not the words of Osama bin Laden, but those of the late Ayatollah Khomeini, arguably the godfather of hate towards America. Indeed, the phenomenon called Osama bin Laden did not happen in a vacuum. The roots of Islamic terrorism against America were nurtured by the founding father of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Since his arrival on the international scene in 1979, the Ayatollah Khomeini was at the vanguard of hate-filled anti-American statements. And, at every Friday prayer sermon since then for the last 22 years ,the Islamic Republic of Iran has perpetuated the atmosphere of violence against the United States in the Middle East by chanting the refrain: "Death to America."

His hatred of America was not based on any religious precepts, but was purely a political power play. The man whom he replaced, the Shah of Iran, was modernizing his country with American assistance. The only way to do so was to limit the power of the members of the clergy who were rigidly opposed to modernization. Any move forward was viewed as an assault on the traditional power base of the clergy in Iran. Therefore, secular education, full participation of women in nation-building and family planning were viewed as a direct threat.

The first victims of Khomeini's "Death to America" campaign were the American diplomats held hostage for 444 days. But it was not just Americans whom he held hostage, the Ayatollah Khomeini, hijacked Islam in the process, and held Islam hostage until his death in 1989. His successor, the Ayatollah Khamenei, continues to follow in the footsteps of his mentor. In the name of Islam, the government of Iran has waged a non-stop "jihad" against America , and its ally, Israel.

The word "Hezbollah" was never part of the Middle East lexicon until 1982. That year, Ali Akbar Mohtashemi-Pur, who currently serves as a member of parliament and a foreign policy adviser to the "moderate" President Khatami, founded this terrorist group while he was Iran's ambassador to Syria. He was instrumental in the 1983 suicide bombing in Beirut that resulted in 241 dead Marines. Last June, the United States indicted Iranian officials and Iran-backed Saudi Hezbollah for their involvement in the 1996 attack against U.S. Air Force housing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 American servicemen. All of this murder and hate took place under the banner: "Party of God." But in fact, the name "Hezbollah, Party of God," is blasphemous, because in Islam there is only one God and he cannot have a party.

Herein lies the fundamental problem facing America and its war against terrorism: Muslims have allowed their beautiful religion to be hijacked and held hostage by fanatics intent on advancing their personal agendas. Not surprisingly, the handwritten words left behind by Mohammad Atta, one of the terrorists who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks, resemble instructions Khomeini imparted in 1984 to the thousands of children who were given the "keys to paradise" before blowing themselves up on land mines during the Iran-Iraq war. Osama bin Laden is merely a continuation in the timeline of hatred toward America begun by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979.

Muslims living in America must speak out loudly and with one voice: "Osama, stop manipulating our religion to feed your own megalomania." The leadership of the Muslim community in America must embark on a tour called "Free Islam." Fifty clerics representing the 50 states of the union must immediately begin this tour, starting in Egypt, which is home to a majority of the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. They should say unequivocally: Those Egyptians who carried out this act are not going to end up in heaven as suggested by Osama bin Laden. They were criminals, not good Muslims. From Egypt, they should go to Lebanon, home to Hezbollah. They should condemn the members of Hezbollah for the blasphemous use of God's name. God, they should remind their fellow Muslims, is above politics and not a tool of the politicians.

The tour should then travel to Qatar, home of the Al-Jazeera television network, which is a major voice in the Arab world. Through Al-Jazeera, these American Muslims must denounce -- in the strongest terms -- attacks against America and demand that their fellow religious leaders in the region join them in this condemnation. The tour should end in Pakistan, home to 147 million Muslims who have become increasingly politicized by Osama bin Laden. In Pakistan, they should directly accuse Osama bin Laden of murder, and sacrilege and condemn all of his followers.

U.S. Special Forces are now in Afghanistan, on the front line of our war against terrorism. This is a war to safeguard the freedoms that we Americans -- including American Muslims -- enjoy. Therefore, it is the moral obligation and patriotic duty of the Muslim leadership of this country to start the campaign of wresting back control of Islam from the violent extremists.

The tragedy of Sept. 11 was the result of a vitriolic anti-American hatred started by one fanatic, Ayatollah Khomeini, and put into action by Osama bin Laden. The onus now rests on the Muslims in America to begin the campaign of reversing this atmosphere of hate by actively joining in the war against terrorism with all the means at their disposal. In the process, they will have freed millions of peace-loving Muslims around the world who are enslaved by the perversion of their religion.

S. Rob Sobhani is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and president of Caspian Energy Consulting.

Posted on the web with the permission of the author.

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