Ms. Rajavi is the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
Last Wednesday, billions of Muslims around the world celebrated Eid al-Fitr, which marks the joyous end of the holy month of Ramadan. To practicing Muslims of all stripes, Ramadan is a season of compassion, self-betterment and community, values wholly denigrated by the persistence of terrorism and tyranny under the name of Islam.
The spasms of violence in Orlando, Istanbul, Bangladesh and, most recently, Saudi Arabia, are the deliberate outcomes of a frightening and aggressive world outlook that offers a twisted image of Islam. Its foot soldiers strip Quranic verses and the traditions of the Prophet of all context in a vain–and illegitimate–attempt to justify murder, conquest and subjugation.
This is not Islam.
From the outset, when Prophet Mohammad invited all to accept a single God, he told people that this would bring them salvation. God said in the Holy Quran that the Prophet had come to open the chains from people’s hands and feet. Prior to this, Jesus had said, “Love one another just as the Lord loves you.” Before him, Moses invited people to a religion that considers human beings as part of one family, describing the various peoples, ethnicities and tribes as branches that lead back to a single source.
So, all of us, as the children of Abraham, are brothers and sisters. What is essential in relations among human beings is not retribution, tyranny and exploitation, but freedom, compassion and unity.
Sadly, oppressive rulers and forces have interpreted Quranic verses over time in accordance with the most reactionary schools of thought. In the course of this conflict, two diametrically opposed versions of Islam have emerged. One is based on tyranny. The other is based on freedom.
From the mullahs ruling in Tehran, to the Lebanese Hezbollah, to Boko Haram and Daesh, all exhibit a twisted commitment to the oppressive and tyrannical interpretation. But one need only look to the Quran to realize that they stand in stark contrast against the truth of Islam.
The truth of Islam
What today’s extremists introduce as “Jihad” is nothing other than sheer terrorism and brutality. The meaning of jihad in the Quran is to rise up against injustice, something that has even been enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Quran gives permission for jihad only to those who face injustices, are being murdered or forcibly exiled from their country. Ironically, Muslims who oppose the rule of clerics or caliphs, as well as non-Muslims who refuse to surrender to them, are the primary targets of this falsely labeled “jihad.”
Extremists also espouse brutal inequality and violence against women, depriving them of basic rights, barring them from leadership roles, and oppressing them as second-class citizens. But Islam played a pioneering role in opening the path of liberty and equality for women. From the earliest days, hundreds of women gained prominence by swearing allegiance to the Prophet and assuming responsibilities in political, social and military matters.
Another horrifying trait of extremists is their attempt to discredit moral, humanitarian and Islamic principles as they grapple for power. Before becoming the leader of Iran, Khomeini in his book titled The Islamic State deemed as permissible mass killings in order to ensure the survival of the state or, as he put it, in order to “uproot many of the corrupt races that are harmful to society.”
Is it not true that monotheistic religions were revealed in order to imbue human beings with moral codes and humanitarian principles? Were the Ten Commandments of Moses or everything that Jesus and Mohammad said not intended to contain the aggressive, greedy and oppressive tendencies of human beings in order to inaugurate a path toward freedom?
It brings me deep sorrow that extremists of all stripes portray themselves as defenders of Islamic and moral standards. In order to implement unjustified violence, which they falsely describe as “Islamic punishments,” they have amputated limbs, gouged out eyes and stoned women to death with indescribable barbarity.
No one has trampled upon Islamic law more than this bunch. As the Quran says, “And of men is he whose speech about the life of this world pleases thee, and he calls Allah to witness as to that which is in his heart, yet he is the most violent of adversaries. And when he holds authority, he makes effort in the land to cause mischief in it and destroy tilth and offspring; and Allah loves not mischief” (Quran 2:204-205).
The spirit of goodwill
It is critical for true followers of Islam to stand up against perversions of our faith. And there are many groups who seek to do this, one of which is the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), the main component of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). Since its founding in 1965, the group has embarked on a theoretical effort to understand the truth of Islam and wipe away dogmatic and static readings of the Quran. The NCRI succeeded in promoting in Iranian society the credible views of Islam on freedom, human rights, social justice, gender equality and the rights of ethnic and religious minorities and other matters.
Muslims worldwide must come together to reject sectarianism and religious conflicts. We must declare that the struggle is not between Shiites and Sunnis, or Muslims and Christians, or the people and culture of the Middle East against the people and culture of the West. Rather, the main struggle is between tyranny and extremism on the one hand, and democracy and freedom on the other. And as this month of Ramadan comes to an end, we must not allow the spirit of goodwill to leave with it.