[These are my notes of President Rouhani’s meeting with American Muslim community leaders during his visit to the United Nations (UN) on Sept. 19, 2017. Pres. Rouhani spoke in Farsi. These notes are NOT a transcription of the official translation, but they represent my impression of the meaning of his remarks. I apologize in advance for any errors regardless as to whether the fault lies with me or the real-time translation.]
When Muslim lands were invaded and occupied by foreign powers, the most important job of Muslims was to defend their lands. The oppressors appeared to have been ejected, but they continue to advance their own interests through those dictators who have been put in place. The West’s scientific and technological advantage helped that process and it is a necessity for the ummah to close this gap. I am happy that Islamic countries in the last few weeks had their first gathering of leaders in science and technology to set forth detailed plans to make such advancements, which the president hopes is the first step to return to the point around the time of the Renaissance when we were the teachers and exporters of scientific and technological knowledge to other countries.
But we have seen a new issue since the beginning of the new century that some of the extremists have started to promote terror and violence under the guise of Islam. Where did this extremism begin? What was the role of Zionism and the great powers? The Great Powers do not want to see terrorism against innocents (by whatever label we put on them) to stop and wish it to continue. Our hearts are filled with sorrow when we see the blood of innocents shed, but there is a higher level of sorrow and pain: besides the heads of innocents Islam is being beheaded.
We have no doubt that true Islam is a guiding light in the world. The Prophet (saws) was not a blessing for Muslims only but for the entire world. For us, religion is to free us from all oppression. The faith of the righteous is to enable them to be guided from the darkness into the light. Yet the religion of light and guidance has become known as the religion of terror, even though the number of terrorist savages does not surpass 100,000 (compared to 1.5 billion Muslims in the world). We cannot have jihad before enlightenment, or we have the jihad of ignorance. The terrorist groups in Iraq no longer have the strong positions they held in the past. Terrorists in Syria and Lebanon have been reduced in the same way, but if terrorism is to be defeated we must present the true face of Islam to our youth. As long as terrorist groups have the power to recruit, the problem has not been solved.
Another problem is the idea that Islam is against the will of the people, against the ballot box, against democracy. But the Holy Qur’an commands us to consult with the people. Did not the Prophet consult with the people even though his knowledge came from the Creator Himself? He taught us by his governance that we must be close to the people, consult with the people and decrease the distance between science, knowledge, logic, and Islam and defeat the mentality that would have it otherwise. Islam is the region of science, of wisdom, and of elections. If we are to choose his path we can ultimately overcome the challenges we face. I do not say democracy is without problems or science is without weaknesses or human knowledge is perfect, but that with science, fairness, and knowledge we must manage our society and hope Almighty God will aid us to fulfill our responsibility during these difficult times.
[During the short question period, attendees expressed gratitude for the virtually unique willingness of the President of Iran (and his predecessors) to openly meet with and listen to American Muslim leaders. One asked that Iran change its policy on Syria (support of the Asad regime). Another urged Iran to connect with the American broader public and to invest in a serious public relations program to that end and to provide aid to the countries hosting refugees.]
Rouhani. The people of Palestine have for seven decades been driven from their homes and their lives and lands. The people of Yemen have been the victims of violence and now of disease. In Myanmar over 100,000 have been displaced and run into Bangladesh. This afternoon the PM of Bangladesh says 400,000 refugees have been driven to Bangladesh in the past decades, and land mines have been laid along their path to prevent them from coming back.
Syria is a complex issue. For six years we have witnessed the suffering of the Syrian people, driven for their homes and killed. There is a mixing of [democratic and liberal] opposition and terrorists. We must create a cease-fire after which peace talks and agreements can take place with a free election to put in place a government which must be respected by all. Those driven from their homes and lands must be repatriated. You see like events in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Libya. What we see today are difficulties due to terrorist groups that only benefit the Zionists. We wholeheartedly believe Iran must have good relations with our neighbors but unfortunately there are some countries with which relations are not what we would like them to be, principally Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. The only way to overcome these problems is dialogue. The continuation of tensions does not benefit Saudi Arabia or Iran or Bahrain. We must stand next to one another and feel like brothers and like a single family.
It is absolutely true that Iran does not have a strong lobby here. Unfortunately, Mr. Trump in his speech to the UN today spoke of Iran in an insulting manner, not befitting a nation’s president. We are duty bond to live up to our commitments and whenever we have been given a commitment we have lived up to it. We have Megawatt power plants, but we remain absolutely committed to international treaties including the nonproliferation treaty. We have always been against weapons of mass destruction as being against Islam. Within the framework of the treaty all sides must adhere to the agreement. Yet Mr. Trump says it is a shameful deal, which is an insult to his own people. The entirety of the EU entered into this agreement. Pres. Rouhani expressed his joy and gratitude for the opportunity to be a part of this meeting, saying it is his loss that we have not had time to hear from all who have wished to speak.
Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute
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