- Prof. William O. Beeman is the head of anthropology department
at the University of Minnesota. His inimitable and independent approach
toward the current affairs of Iran, one of the most controversial countries
of the world, resembles the attitude of Noam Chomsky in terms of perspective
and mindset and has cost him his reputation, professional credit.
- Regrettably, he was insulted and attacked by a number
of American mainstream media and fanatic neoconservatives over the past
years and even his academic colleagues blamed him for what they considered
to be his support for the main pivot of the "axis of evil".
- Prof. Beeman who speaks the Persian language fluently
believes that Iranian people should not be treated with disdain and arrogance
since their ancient superiority and historical backgrounds causes them
to be resistant toward the hostile rhetoric and inimical literature.
- He says that it's not justifiable with any conscious
and knowledgeable mind to allow Israel to accumulate an arsenal of 200
atomic warheads while putting lethal pressure on Iran to suspend its civilian
- In an interview for the Foreign Policy Journal, I talked
to Prof. Beeman on a variety of Iran-involved topics including the media
propaganda, nuclear dossier and the prospect of revolution.
- The Islamic Revolution of Iran emerged alongside a series
of brisk transformations and makeovers in the arrangement of international
deals and equations. One of these prominent contributions was the permanent
dissolution of CENTO pact. How do you perceive that? How did the Iranian
Revolution of 1979 impact upon the formation of international relations?
- The Islamic movement has been active for more than 100
years. One of the most important figures, Jamal ed-Din al-Afghani, (Asadabadi
for most Iranians) was very influential throughout the Islamic world. The
Islamic world was suffering from military and economic oppression from
Europe, largely because of the advantages the West gained through the Industrial
Revolution. He urged the following remedies:
- 1- Purification of Islam He claimed that the Islamic
world had lapsed because faith in Islam had lapsed. Renewed faith and practice
in Islam was necessary.
- 2-Reform He urged Islamic leaders to re-examine
Shari'a Law and practice to modernize in conformity with the modern world.
One of his followers, Mohammad Abduh of Egypt, "opened the door of
'Ijtehad" to enact legal reform.
- 3- Resistance He urged Muslims everywhere to resist
colonial influence. This led to groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, and
indirectly to the Iranian Revolution.
- All three of these elements were active in the Iranian
Revolution. The Iranian revolution was the first revolution in the Middle
East to oppose Western colonialism in the name of Islam. This was a complete
fulfillment of the promise of the Islamic movement. It was very inspirational
for the rest of the Islamic world. There was one difficultythe Sunni
world was uncomfortable that it was undertaken by the Shi'a community,
but Ayatollah Khomeini's picture was on the walls of Muslim homes everywhere
in the Islamic world from Morocco to the Philippines.
- So, do you believe that the new government of Iran managed
to polarize the distribution of political power by giving birth to a new
regional hub and fading the hegemony of the U.S. and Russia?
- Yes, I agree. However, just as the original Islamic movement
identified the alliance between corrupt Middle Eastern leaders and European
colonial power as the basis for misery in the Middle East in the 19th and
20th Centuries, so today do the leaders of some Middle Eastern nations,
who are allied with the West, decry Iran. However, the people of the Islamic
World respect and admire Iran's willingness to carry out the philosophy
of "Neither East nor West." So there is a distinction between
leaders of Islamic States, many of whom are even afraid of the Iranian
philosophy, and the people, who admire the Iranian philosophy. Again, this
distinction is more than 150 years old.
- Was the omnipotent catchphrase of Iranian revolutionary
thinking, i.e. the supportive umbrella for the oppressed nations and subjugated
people of the world, a major factor in the ultimate victory of anti-Western
movement of Iranians in 1979 which was spearheaded by Imam Khomeini?
- Yes, actually Imam Khomeini's philosophy was inspirational
for many people throughout the world; I certainly support this ideal. This
has been one of the hallmarks of the Iranian Revolution as it goes forward.
However, I would be less than honest if I didn't admit that this ideal
has not been completely realized in Iran. Iran's support for downtrodden
people in Lebanon and the Palestinian world shows the power of this philosophy.
It is an ideal toward which we all must strive. Consequently, people must
continually make their leaders aware of these ideals, and hold them to
those ideals. This should be a theme in the next Iranian elections, in
- Nevertheless, Iran has been grappling with a huge amount
of black propaganda and psychological attacks vindicated by the corporate
and so-called independent media of the West since the dissolution of the
U.S.-backed monarchy. How do you perceive that?
- Unfortunately, Iran has become the most popular villain
for American politicians. Both Democrats like Representative Gary Ackerman
and Republicans like Senator Sam Brownback can attack Iran and become popular.
In fact no American politician ever lost a vote by attacking Iran. Partly,
Americans are still mad about the American hostages in 1979-80. They are
also mad about Iranian opposition to Israel, which is largely supported
in the U.S. It wasn't always so. In the 1980s the universal villain was
Libya, and the rhetoric against Iran today is almost exactly the same as
the rhetoric against Libya. There is a practical reason for this. Lobbying
groups, such as AIPAC have enormous influence in the United States They
review all candidates for election, and have influence over every newspaper,
television and radio station. Their sponsored organizations, the Washington
Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), and the American Enterprise Institute
(AEI) have millions of dollars behind them, and large publicity agencies
working for them, their opinions and editorials appear in every U.S. media
outlet every day. It is very difficult to counteract these people. They
are actively working to promote attacks on Iran.
- As you implied, the root of anti-Iranian sentiments lies
in the nuclear activities of the Islamic Republic which the Western governments
and their affiliated corporate media portray as threatening to international
peace. Should Iran pursue its nuclear programs under the current pressures?
- Iran is granted the "inalienable right" to
the development of peaceful nuclear energy under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty. The United States and some European powers want to claim that Iran
should be different, and should have its treaty rights denied, because
some people thought that Iran "might" be making weapons. There
is absolutely no evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program, and
it should be allowed to continue to exercise its rights under the Treaty.
- How should the Western powers deal with Iran regarding
its nuclear program? Will the continuation of current "stick and carrot"
stance be fruitful in this framework?
- Iranians will grant legitimate respect to those who deserve
itto honorable leaders, virtuous scholars and wise teachers. They
hate "ghodrat talabi" (Desire for illegal power) when people
try to exercise power without legitimacy. Yazid is an example of such a
person. Just as Imam Hossein would not yield to the illegitimate authority
of Yazid, so will the Iranian people not yield to the illegitimate authority
of, for example, George W. Bush. The strong sense of spiritual purity and
justice is a characteristic of Iranian life, and Iranians will resist injustice
and illegitimate exercise of power, even if they must die for it.