The commemoration of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini on the 26th anniversary of his passing took place at the Islamic Center of York Region on May 31. Among the speakers was Moulana Zaki Baqri, Zafar Bangash and myself. Despite hate-filled demonstrators with placards and megaphones, threatening attendees, 400 people came. Sadly, many others turned back, intimidated by the angry demonstrators.

The protesters, over 100 Iranian Canadians, Jewish Zionists and even elected politicians, were denouncing Ayatollah Khomeini as an unjust dictator, though the topic of the conference was “Khomeini's fight against injustice”. Richmond Hill MPP, Iranian Canadian Reza Moridi, called the commemoration “a shame”, though he didn't consider his joining the Jewish Defense League and B'Nai Brith in the uncultured screaming and threats of violence a shame as a Muslim and an Iranian.


Zafar Bangash told one journalist that if the demonstrators were against injustice, why were they demonstrating against the struggle against injustice? His only conclusion was that they supported injustice. This is starkly demonstrated by their support for Israel, and the policies of injustice in Palestine perpetrated by the Israelis and supported by the Zionist demonstrators.

The Jewish Defense League was loudest of all, itself an organization which was labeled in the FBI's “Terrorism 2000/2001” report as a “violent extremist Jewish organization”. The JDL’s purpose is purportedly to protect Jews from anti-Semitism, but instead it became a loud proponent of anticommunism and Islamophobia, bombing Soviet and Arab properties in the US, and targeting for assassinations alleged “enemies of the Jewish people”, ranging from Arab-American political activists to neo-Nazis. Sadly (shamefully) it is alive and well in Canada, thanks to the active support of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The work of the Ayatollah in the fight against imperialism was highlighted by Moulana Baqri. In the first place, this meant the revival of sharia law and creation of an Islamic state to replace the modern secular laws.

It also means working with other forces to fight injustice. The Ayatollah worked to promote cooperation with progressive third world countries. He told a Cuban delegation to Tehran in April 1979, “Government should focus on being in the service of the nations. The nations will then support them.”

This practical Islam was at the heart of the Iranian revolution. Despite the war with Iraq (funded by the US), and the constant subversion and boycotting by the West, peasants were given land and the country became self-sufficient in cereal production, all Iranians can now read and write, health care clinics came to villages, and life expectancy went from less than 56 in the 1970s to 70 in 2000. The UN praised Iran’s birth control program which began in the 1990s. 

This was perceived as a threat by the other major Islamic state, Saudi Arabia, grounded in its fear of Iran as an inspiration to the Muslim world, in light of its own pretensions to lead the Muslim world down its supposedly Islamic path. This was addressed by Zafar Bangash and myself in our addresses based on our new books, Bangash's Doomed Kingdom of the House of Saud, and my Islamic Resistance to Imperialism. 

In all respects, Saudi perfidy in international relations contrasts with Iranian principled policies, grounded in Islam. Sadly, due to the Saudi control of the holy cities and its massive funding by the US, the Saudis continue to hoodwink Muslims, despite the open fact that it condones the activities of imperialists and Zionists, and leaves its own people in poverty.

In the foreword to The Doomed Kingdom, Muslim scholar Muhammad H al-Al-Asi notes the parallel between the Saudi occupation of the holy cities and the Israeli occupation of al-Quds. “One occupation sings to the other...” He also makes the telling point that 15 of the 19 purported perpetrators of the 9/11 devastation were from Arabia. (No terrorist have ever come from Iran.) Yet the US continues to support the Saudis and undermine the Iranians.

Bangash's book explores the changes (or lack of them) with the passing of King Abdullah in January. Despite dismissing dozens of officials, policy has not changed in its essentials. It still supports the US, fighting Islamists in Syria, now actively bombing Yemen at US behest, effectively supporting the ISIS-led fight against Yemeni Islamists. “The terrorist groups the Saudi regime has sponsored and financed have so far failed to achieve their geo-strategic object. Instead, they have grown into Frankenstein-style monsters that now threaten the Saudi regime itself,” writes Bangash.

Despite its phenomenal wealth, there is mass unemployment and poverty in Saudi Arabia, for which there is no excuse, considering the massive income from oil revenues, and the 'help' from its US allies. Saudi billionaire prince al-Wahid ibn Talal has described the high unemployment and mass poverty as two of the five “ticking bombs” in the country. He is a businessman and not involved in policy matters, but he has spoken out because he sees that the Sauds' hold on power is at risk.

In response to the growing threat, the regime approved a decree in 2013 banning calls for reform and prohibiting the exposure of corruption. It targets both terrorists and those critics calling for reforms and respect for basic rights of people, effectively making all forms of opposition—violent or peaceful—illegal. There are at least 30,000 political prisoners, mostly Sunni. But youtube has provided a window of opportunity for brave Saudis. King Abdullhah's daughter Princess Sahar published a video urging people to rise up. She is now under house arrest in Jeddah.

The demonstrators outside the meeting on Sunday targeted the veneration of Ayatollah Khomeini with good cause. As imperialism continues to face concerted opposition and the Saudis continue to lose credibility, it is inevitable that Islamic Iran, more stable and more and more respected, contributes to the weakening of Israel and the main Muslim ally of the US. “Ayatollah Khomeini is dead but Ayatollah Khomeini is alive,” said Toronto Sun Columnist Tarek Fatah at the demonstration, though the irony of his statement was clearly lost on him.

My own talk contrasted the various strains within Islamism, which began in the early 19th c under the Saudi Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, who prohibited any political involvement by devout Muslims. The Salafi, the breeding ground of today's violent jihadis, are a spin-off of the Wahhabis.

Most Muslims were not happy with colonial rule and realized they had to fight it. Political Islam came to Egypt in the 1920s under the Muslim Brotherhood, founded by Hassan al-Banna. In a short decade, it became the most important political movement, and with good reason: not only was the Muslim Brotherhood advocating the end of colonialism, but was helping the poor and fighting for social justice, as the Quran exhorts.

If legitimate elections had been held in the 1930s – 1940s, the Muslim Brotherhood would have been swept to power, as they were in 2012, in Egypt's first real elections. This explains why the Saudis so quickly joined the Egyptian coupmakers—the real 'kafirs'—in 2013 to crush the Brotherhood. They saw that they would be forced to allow elections after the Brotherhood success, and that would mean their demise.

The current battle is indeed a 'clash of civilizations ' as coined by US analyst Francis Fukuyama, though we should keep in mind Gandhi's proviso. When asked what he thought of western civilization, he answered, “I think it would be a very good idea.” Already by the 1930s, it was clear to any thinking, moral person that the new order of capitalism, being spread around the world by imperialism, was amoral, without genuine culture.

Though all religions seek to have morality at the heart of society, now only Islam stands firm to resist the disintegration of society. This is because Islam puts political and economic obligations at its heart.

Despite the travails in the Middle East, and the misguided policies of the US and its Saudi accomplice, we can be hopeful: Islam is alive and will, and holds at its heart a firm believe in the spiritual nature of man and society, and the obligation of Muslims to work actively to promote this.

Speech by Eric Walberg on the 26th Anniversary of Imam Khomeini in Toronto -English


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Canadian Eric Walberg is known worldwide as a journalist specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia. A graduate of University of Toronto and Cambridge in economics, he has been writing on East-West relations since the 1980s.

He has lived in both the Soviet Union and Russia, and then Uzbekistan, as a UN adviser, writer, translator and lecturer. Presently a writer for the foremost Cairo newspaper, Al Ahram, he is also a regular contributor to Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Global Research, Al-Jazeerah and Turkish Weekly, and is a commentator on Voice of the Cape radio.

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