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Soroush: Referendum to Remove Iran's Supreme Leader's Powers

By Farzaneh Bazrpour, Rooz Online

Dr. Abdolkarim Soroush in Interview with Rooz

Dr. Abdolkarim Soroush

Rooz Online spoke with Dr. Abdolkarim Soroush about the issues facing the Iranian nation today, the 5-person statement and the mixing of religion and politics.  Emphasizing that if a referendum is to be held in the country, "The supreme leader's position and responsibilities must be revisited," Soroush contends, adding, "In order to save religion and ensure piety out of choice, not compulsion, secularism is the appropriate solution in my opinion."  Here are excerpts of the interview.

Rooz: The words "republic" and "democracy" are used to describe the rule of people over people in a political system.  Doesn't mixing religion with politics and government and constructing mixed concepts such as "Islamic republic" and "religious democracy" repeat the experience of religious dictatorship?

Abdolkarim Soroush (Soroush):  We all agree now that a religious dictatorship governs our country.  Prior to the religious dictatorship and the 1979 revolution, a monarchical dictatorship governed.  If we can speak about religious dictatorship, we can also speak about religious democracy.  By religious dictatorship we mean that a group of people rule as dictators under the banner of religion, extracting concepts even from religion to solidify their domination over people.  Dictatorship, however, is not divided into religious or non-religious ones. People can use religion to establish dictatorship.  This is not just a possibility but a reality that has materialized in our society.

Religious democracy also has meaning.  A group of people can try to establish democratic order in their country under the banner of religion and in accordance with religions teachings; a democratic order that gives all citizens equal rights, the right to political participation and all other rights necessary to a democratic regime, and most importantly, the establishment of an independent judiciary, which is the fundamental pillar of every democratic regime.  This has no inconsistency with Islam and is at the same time a pillar of democracy.

Rooz: What is the relationship between Iran's imaginary future government and religion, and Islamic jurisprudence?

Soroush: The relationship between the future government and religion can be summarized in a few points:

  1. The religious community must be able to operate freely and have freedoms.
  2. The religious community will fight against inequality and dictatorship in accordance with its religious duty.
  3. They will establish an independent judiciary in accordance with their religious duty.
  4. In accordance to their religious duty, they will extend equality to the entire society.
  5. In accordance to their religious duty, they will regard others as human beings and holders of equal rights.  Each of these issues can be realized on the basis of a religious duty.

Religious democracy is no different from any other democracy.  It can be called religious only because the responsibility is on the shoulders of the religious community.  In a religious democracy, an attempt is made, at best, to prevent the passage of laws that clearly and absolutely contradict religious pronouncements. These absolute and necessary religious pronouncements are very few in Islam.  There may be a lot of decrees, and we can sustain the most important ones, and if necessary, reform them through ijtihad (ie religious interpretation).  This alone ensures that laws are in accordance with Islam and the rest of religious matters are left to the personal beliefs of the pious.

... Payvand News - 02/20/10 ... --

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