One of the characteristics of western culture is that it makes sins look normal, particularly sins relating to carnal desires. Today this situation is at its extremes in the west – mostly in England and also in certain other countries including America. Homosexuality, which is a big sin, has become a value. They criticize certain politicians because they are opposed to homosexuality or homosexuals. Notice the extent of moral degeneration.
DATE: October 14, 2012
Speech delivered on October 14, 2012 by Ayatollah Khamenei the Leader of the Islamic Revolution in a meeting with the youth of North Khorasan province.
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, and peace and greetings be upon our Master and Prophet, Ab-al-Qassem Mustafa Muhammad, and upon his immaculate, pure and chosen household, especially the one remaining with Allah on earth.
This meeting is completely youthful and it enjoys all the positive characteristics that are associated with youth. You dear youth are our source of hope, both today and in the future. I carefully listened to the points which were raised by the honorable youth who spoke in this meeting. I believe that very good comments were made in this meeting, which confirms my previous opinion that this province has improved in terms of intellectual level. Over the past few days, whenever people from this province – including youth, families of our martyrs, teachers and university professors – spoke in the meetings, every moment of their speeches filled me with joy and happiness. This shows that thankfully the intellectual level of the people of Bojnourd and North Khorasan province is high. It is necessary to preserve this intellectual level and try to improve it on a daily basis. Of course, we government officials have a responsibility to appropriately utilize this great divine blessing to benefit the Revolution and the Islamic Republic: I hope we are blessed with the opportunity to do so.
In this meeting, I would like to discuss and clarify the issue that I raised on the first day of my trip: the issue of progress. Progress is a very important issue and we should discuss it. Of course, discussing this issue should not give us a feeling that we have dealt with it completely: no, this is just the beginning. I pointed out that progress is a concept which – to a large extent – has the potential to incorporate the goals of the Islamic Republic. I explained that progress is associated with change and movement: it is a path. How can progress be our goal? I explained that there is no limit to progress. Progress is a process. It is a path, but there is no end to it: it continues forever. This is because human beings change constantly and human capacities are boundless. I pointed out that progress enjoys certain dimensions and that the Islamic conception of progress is different from the one- or two-dimensional conception of progress in western culture. In Islamic thought, progress is multi-dimensional.
From an Islamic point of view, one of the dimensions of progress is lifestyle. This is an important dimension. Today I would like to discuss this issue in detail. The goal of life is salvation. From a spiritual point of view, we must attach importance to lifestyle. Even if we do not believe in spirituality and spiritual salvation, it is still important to pay attention to lifestyle so that we can have a comfortable life, a life in which there is psychological and moral security. Therefore, the issue of lifestyle is an essential issue and we should discuss it and as I said, this is just the beginning.
Comprehensive progress can be considered as efforts to build a new Islamic civilization. After all, the Islamic conception of progress has a manifestation in the outside world. Let us say that the goal of the Iranian nation and the Islamic Revolution is to build a new Islamic civilization, which is an accurate evaluation. This new civilization has two important parts. One part is the necessary instruments and the other part is the content and essence. It is necessary to pay attention to both parts.
What are the instruments? The instruments are the values that we interpret as signs of our country’s progress: science, inventions, industry, politics, political and military power, international credibility, public relations and the tools that are necessary for public relations. All of these things are the instruments of civilization. Of course, we have made good progress in the country in this regard. Many good achievements have been made in the area of politics, in the area of scientific matters, in the area of social issues, in the area of inventions and in different other areas. In spite of the pressures, threats and sanctions by our enemies, we have made good progress as far as the instrumental part of civilization is concerned.
But the important part of civilization is what makes up the essence of life – namely, lifestyle. This is the important part of civilization. The issue of family, wedding customs, housing, clothing, norms of consumption, food, cuisine, hobbies, orthography, language, business, behavior in the workplace, behavior in university, behavior at school, behavior in political activities, behavior in sports, behavior in the media, behavior towards one’s parents, behavior towards one’s partner, behavior towards one’s children, behavior towards one’s boss, behavior towards one’s employees, behavior towards the police, behavior towards government officials, travel, personal hygiene, behavior towards friends, behavior towards enemies, behavior towards foreigners: these things are the essential part of civilization and they make up the essence of human life.
For the most part, the new Islamic civilization – which is what we want to present to the world – is made up of these things. These things are the essence of life and what is referred to as “life wisdom” in Islam. Life wisdom is not limited to making and spending money. It is not about how to make money and how to spend it. No, all the vast areas which I mentioned earlier are part of life wisdom. Among our hadith collections, there are certain sections – called “Kitab ul-Ishrat” – which are about these things. And in the Holy Quran, there are many ayahs in this regard.
One can think of this latter part as the software of civilization and the former part can be considered the hardware of civilization. If we fail to make progress in the latter part, we cannot achieve salvation and spiritual peace and security, no matter how much progress we make in the former part. And you see that this is the case with the western world. In the west, there is depression, there is despair, there are nervous breakdowns, there is lack of security in society and in the family environment, there is nihilism. This is while they have wealth, they have atomic bombs, they have achieved different scientific advances, they have military power. What is important is that we should be able to reform the essence of life, namely the important part of civilization. Of course, we have not made great progress in this regard after the Islamic Revolution. In this regard, we have not made as much progress as we have in the instrumental part. We need to identify the problems. Why have we failed to make progress in the latter part?
After we have identified what causes the problems, we should start thinking about ways of eliminating the problems. Who is responsible for this? It is outstanding intellectuals and political personalities who are responsible for this. It is you young people who are responsible for this. If a discourse is created in our society with the purpose of eliminating the issues and problems, we can be sure that we will make good advances in this regard, considering the vibrancy that the Islamic Republic and the people of Iran enjoy, considering the capacities that exist in the country. Then it will be easier for the Iranian nation to become prominent in the world. Promoting the Islamic ideas of the Iranian nation and the Islamic Republic of Iran will become easier. It is necessary to identify the underlying issues and problems and to try to find solutions for them.
Our outstanding personalities are responsible. Our Islamic seminaries are responsible. Our universities are responsible. Our media are responsible. Those who can speak to the people are responsible. Managers of many of our organizations – especially, organizations whose responsibilities involve cultural matters and education – are responsible. Those who are in charge of educational planning in our schools and universities are responsible in this regard. Those who are in charge of material development in our educational system are responsible. These responsibilities lie on the shoulders of all of us. All of us should work on these areas and move forward.
Therefore, we need to identify the issues and problems. That is to say, we need to pay attention to the issues and problems that exist in these areas and try to identify the causes. In this meeting, I would like to pose a list of questions. Of course, this list is not definitive.
Why is the culture of teamwork not strong enough in our society? This is a problem. Westerners have claimed [the virtue of] teamwork for themselves, but a long time earlier Islam had recommended its followers to “help one another in righteousness and piety” [the Holy Quran, 5: 2] and to “hold fast by the covenant of Allah all together and be not disunited.” [The Holy Quran, 3: 103] According to the latter ayah, even when holding fast by the covenant of Allah, Muslims should stay together and “be not disunited”.
Why is the divorce rate high in certain parts of our country? Why do the youth of certain parts of our country turn to drugs more than the youth of other areas? Why do we fail to treat our neighbors the way we should? Why do we fail to visit our relatives as often as we should? Why is our driving not disciplined enough? This is a problem. The way we drive in the streets is one of our problems. And this is not a small problem: it is a major problem.
How necessary is it for us to live in apartments? How appropriate is it? What are the requirements [of living in apartments] and how committed are we to these requirements? What are the norms of wholesome recreation? What kind of architecture is common in our society? Notice how many of these varying issues are related to lifestyle, namely the main and essential part of our civilization. To what extent is our architecture consistent with our needs? How rational is it? How about the way we dress? How about the makeup our women wear? How appropriate is it? To what extent is it beneficial? Are we completely honest in our marketplaces, in our office environments and in our daily interactions with each other? To what extent is lying common among us? Why do we speak behind each other’s backs?
Some people avoid working although they are physically capable of working. What is the reason? Some people are unreasonably aggressive in social environments. Why are some of us aggressive and impatient? To what extent do we respect the rights of other people? To what extent do we observe this principle in our media? To what extent do we observe this principle in the virtual world? To what extent do we observe the law? Why do some people break the law? The tendency to break the law is a dangerous malady.
To what extent do our people have a sense of responsibility? To what extent are we committed to social discipline? To what extent do we try to produce high-quality products? How much attention do we pay to quality of production in different sectors? Why are certain good proposals and ideas never implemented? Why are effective working hours so low in our administrative organizations? Eight hours of contractual work should result in eight hours of effective work. Why is effective working hours as low as half an hour or one, two hours? What is the problem?
Why is consumerism common among many of our people? Is consumerism an honor? Consumerism means spending whatever we earn on the kind of things that are not necessary for life. What should we do to uproot usury in society? How do we respect the rights of our partners in life and our children? What should we do to prevent divorce and breakup of the family from spreading among us the way they have spread in the west?
What should we do to safeguard our women’s honor in society and in the family and at the same time enable them to fulfill their social responsibilities and safeguard their rights in society and in the family? What should we do to prevent our women from being forced to choose one of these things? These things are among our essential issues.
What is the limit to the number of children that we can have? As I pointed out before, one day we adopted a temporary decision and later on we forgot that it was temporary. As an analogy, imagine that you are told to turn on a faucet and keep it running for one hour, but you turn it on and leave. We did the same thing: we forgot the nature of our decision for 10, 15 years. I have received reports that our society will suffer from aging in the not too distant future, that the young nature of our population will disappear. What is the limit to the number of children we can have? Why are there special houses for single people in certain big cities in our country? How did this western malady find its way into our society? What is luxury? Is it bad? Is it good? To what extent is it bad? To what extent is it good? What should we do to keep it within reasonable limits?
These things are different issues related to lifestyle. There are tens of similar issues. Some of the issues that I mentioned are more important than others. This is a list of the things that constitute the essence of civilization. Judgments about a civilization are based on these things.
One cannot judge a civilization on the basis of its machines, industries and wealth. One cannot praise a civilization on the basis of these things while its people suffer from numerous problems. These things are just instruments to achieve the essence I discussed: to give the people a sense of peace, to help the people live with hope, to provide security for the people, to help the people move forward and improve themselves to a favorable level.
There is an issue called “culture of life”. We should try to define this concept and translate into action the way Islam wants. Of course, Islam has given us the specifics of this culture. The specifics of this culture are rationality, morality and rights. Islam has specified these things. If we do not consider these issues in a serious way, we will not be able to achieve Islamic progress and establish a new Islamic civilization. No matter how much industrial progress we make, no matter how many inventions and discoveries we make, we will not be able to achieve true Islamic progress if we fail to take care of this aspect of our civilization. We need to make a lot of efforts in this regard.
As far as this culture and its requirements are concerned, there are a few points which we should pay attention to. The first point is that our social life and our lifestyle depend on how we think about life. What are the goals of life? Any goal that we choose for our life will naturally entail a certain lifestyle. There is an essential issue in this regard and this essential issue is faith. We need to specify a goal – a goal for life – and we need to develop faith in it. In the absence of faith, it is not possible to make progress and do the right things. We might decide to put our faith in liberalism, capitalism, communism or fascism. Or we might decide to put our faith in pure monotheism. After all, it is necessary to put your faith in something and move forward. The issue of faith is important: faith in a principle, faith in an ideological principle. It is necessary to have such faith, and lifestyle will be chosen on the basis of this faith.
There is a fallacy in this regard, which I would like to discuss with you dear youth. A few western pseudo-philosophers proposed the idea of “de-ideologization”. In intellectual articles, you sometimes see de-ideologization. The claim is that it is not possible to run a society on the basis of ideology. This idea has been put forth by a few western philosophers or pseudo-philosophers, and a number of people repeat it in our country without understanding the depth of it, without understanding the dimensions of what they are repeating thoughtlessly. No nation that wants to build a civilization can do so in the absence of ideology. No nation can build a civilization without following an ideology, a school of thought. The nations that have built materialistic civilizations in the world have done so through an ideology, and they have openly announced this. They announced that they believed in communism. They announced that they believed in capitalism. They announced that they believed in capitalist economy. They announced their ideology and made efforts on the basis of their ideology. Of course, they had to face certain troubles and pay the price in certain cases. Without a school of thought, without having an ideology, without making efforts and paying the price for following a particular school of thought, it is not possible to build a civilization.
Of course, some countries are imitators. They have learnt something from those who built the materialistic civilization and they have built their lives on the basis of it. Yes, they might achieve certain superficial advances, but they are imitators. They are not the kind of people who build civilizations. They have no roots and they are vulnerable. If a storm breaks, they will be wiped out because they do not have roots. They are imitators and imitation harms them in the worst way. Some of them are lucky enough to get the benefits of the materialistic western civilization and many of them do not get any such benefits: they only get the disadvantages.
I do not want to mention the names of any countries, but there are certain countries whose economic growth is presented as a role model in the statements and writings of some of our intellectuals. They might have achieved certain industrial advances. They might have achieved certain advances in materialistic areas or in areas relating to science and industry, but they are imitators and their foreheads have been branded with the disgrace of imitation. Moreover, they suffer from all the disadvantages of the current materialistic western civilization, but they lack most of the benefits and advantages. Today it is becoming clear that this materialistic western civilization has created certain problems for humanity and for its followers.
Therefore, it is not possible to build a civilization in the absence of a school of thought, in the absence of an ideology. Faith is necessary for building a civilization. A civilization that is based on an ideology will achieve advances in areas relating to science and industry, and its ideological backing will guide and manage all the advances it makes. A society which chooses monotheism as the basis of its work, a society that moves forward on the basis of monotheism will achieve all the benefits of building a civilization. It will be able to build a great and deep-rooted civilization and it will promote its thoughts and culture in the world. Therefore, the first point is that faith is necessary. Dragging societies into faithlessness is one of the plots that the enemies of building an Islamic civilization have been pursuing in a serious way.
Today in intellectual environments, there are certain people at different levels who advise us against ideological slogans. They question the 1360s, when ideological slogans were most common. They themselves are afraid of adopting ideological, revolutionary and Islamic slogans and they want to strike fear into the hearts of other people as well. They say these slogans will results in certain troubles, sanctions and threats. From an optimistic point of view, we may say that these people have not studied history books. Of course, there are pessimistic views as well. If they had studied history books and knew the destiny and origin of the existing civilizations, including the materialistic western civilization that wants to conquer the world, they would not be saying such things. We may say that they are unaware and that they have not studied history books.
A society without values, a society without an ideology, a society without faith might achieve wealth and power, but even when it has achieved wealth and power, it becomes an animal that is full and powerful. And a human being who is hungry is more valuable than an animal that is full. This is not what Islam wants. Islam wants human beings to be wealthy and powerful and at the same time, it wants human beings to be thankful to Allah the Exalted and serve Him. Having noble human characteristics, being powerful and serving Allah the Exalted: these are the kinds of things that Islam wants. Islam wants to build true human beings and it is a role model in this regard.
Therefore, faith is the most important requirement for building a new Islamic civilization. As people who believe in Islam, we have found this faith. We have put our faith in Islam. We can find whatever we need in Islamic ethics and in Islamic lifestyle. We need to research and discuss these things. We have worked a lot on Islamic jurisprudence. We should also do a lot of high-quality work on Islamic ethics and practical Islamic rationality. Our seminaries are responsible in this regard. Our knowledgeable people are responsible. Our researchers are responsible. Our universities are responsible. We need to work on these areas and make this work the basis of our planning and teaching. This is what we need and what we should pursue today. This is the first point about building an Islamic civilization and achieving this essential part of civilization, namely lifestyle.
Each and every one of the things that I mentioned has been generally or specifically discussed in Islam. Different ways of treating the people around oneself, different ways in which we behave, different things that exist in one’s social life: all of these things have been discussed in Islam. Travel and ways of doing so have been discussed. Parents have been discussed. Cooperation has been discussed. Ways of treating friends has been discussed. Ways of treating enemies has been discussed. Everything has been discussed in our Islamic sources either specifically or generally, and those who are good at inference and research can obtain whatever they need from our Islamic sources.
The second point is that in order to build the essence of the new Islamic civilization, we need to seriously avoid imitation. We need to seriously avoid imitating those who are trying to impose certain lifestyles on peoples of the world. Today western civilization is the only example of this imposition. This does not mean that we are hostile to the west. What we say is based on research: it is not based on irrational enmity and hostility. Whenever we speak about the west, the western civilization, western methods, western plots and western hostility, they interpret this as hostility towards the west. They say that we are hostile towards the west. No, we do not bear grudges against the west. What we say is based on careful studying and research.
For those who have imitated the west, imitation has brought about nothing but loss and catastrophe. This is the case with imitating countries that might have achieved wealth and technological and industrial progress on the surface. The reason is that western culture is an aggressive culture. Western culture is a culture that destroys other cultures. Wherever westerners went, they destroyed local cultures and essential social foundations of the host countries. They did their best to change the history of other peoples, their language and their orthography. Wherever the English went, they made the local people speak English and they wiped out rival languages wherever they identified them. In the Indian subcontinent, Farsi used to be the official language for several centuries: Farsi was the language of all correspondence among state organizations, the people, scholars, major schools and outstanding personalities. The English came and prohibited the use of Farsi and they promoted the English language in its place.
Today Farsi has been sidelined in the Indian subcontinent, which used to be one of the main Farsi-speaking centers. English is the official language in the Indian subcontinent. English is the language of official correspondence. The majority of outstanding Indian personalities speak English. They have to speak English: it has been imposed on them. This happened in all the countries where the English were present during the time of colonialism. They imposed English on their colonies. We did not impose Farsi on any country. Farsi used to be common in India and it was the Indians themselves who welcomed it. It was outstanding Indian personalities who composed poetry in Farsi. From the 7th and 8th century of the Islamic calendar to the recent times before the arrival of the English, there were many poets in India who used to compose poetry in Farsi, poets such as Amir Khosrow Dehlavi, Bidel Dehlavi and many other poets. Iqbal Lahori was from Lahore, but his Farsi poems are more famous than the poems he composed in other languages. Unlike the English who promoted English in India, we did not promote Farsi. Farsi became common in India in a natural way: because the Indians liked it, because Indian mystics, scholars and outstanding personalities spent time with Farsi-speakers. But the English came and forced the Indian people to abandon Farsi: they specified punitive measures for speaking and writing in Farsi.
The French, too, made the French language obligatory in their colonies. A leader in one of the countries of North Africa – which used to be dominated by the French for several years – arranged a meeting with me when I was President. He would speak to me in Arabic. Sometimes he would not find the right Arabic words to say what he wanted to say. He would turn to his deputy or minister and ask him in French how to say in Arabic what we had in mind. He was an Arab, but he could not make himself understood in Arabic. He had to speak French and ask his friend how to say what he wanted to say. This shows to what extent they had been isolated from their native language. They imposed this situation on them for many years. The same is true of the Portuguese, the Dutch and the Spanish. They imposed their language on the local people wherever they went, which is why their culture is an aggressive culture. Western culture is an aggressive culture.
Westerners destroyed cultural and ideological foundations wherever they could. In countries such as ours – where direct colonialism did not exist and the English failed to directly influence our country thanks to the selfless efforts of certain luminaries – they paid certain people to act as their agents. If the Anglo-Persian Agreement of the year 1919 had not been met with resistance from people like Shahid Modarres and certain other freedom fighters, Iran would have definitely been colonized, just like India. There were certain men who did not let this happen. But they imposed their culture on us through their agents, through installing and strengthening Reza Khan Pahlavi, through installing intellectuals who were dependent on the west, but I do not want to mention their names. Certain ministers and famous political personalities of the Pahlavi system were agents of the west and they had been tasked with transforming the culture of our country. They did whatever they could. One example is the issue of banning hijab in the country. Another example is how they pressured the clergy in order to undermine their position in the country. There were many other things which were pursued during the reign of Reza Khan Pahlavi. Western culture is an aggressive culture. Wherever it goes, it destroys identities. It destroys the identity of peoples. Western culture makes minds materialistic. It makes money and wealth the goal of life. Noble and spiritual values as well as spiritual transcendence are wiped off of minds. This is the characteristic of western culture.
One of the characteristics of western culture is that it makes sins look normal, particularly sins relating to carnal desires. Today this situation is at its extremes in the west – mostly in England and also in certain other countries including America. Homosexuality, which is a big sin, has become a value. They criticize certain politicians because they are opposed to homosexuality or homosexuals. Notice the extent of moral degeneration. This is western culture. Also, breakup of the family and widespread use of alcoholic drinks and addictive drugs are other issues in the west.
Many years ago – in the 1330s and 1340s – in the southern part of Khorasan, I met old luminaries and intellectuals who remembered how the English would use special techniques to promote the use of opium among people. After all, people did not know how to use opium. Such things did not exist. The people I met provided examples and explained how the English would promote the use of opium. It was through these techniques that addictive drugs were gradually promoted inside the country. This is what western culture is.
Western culture is not just airplanes and instruments that bring about welfare, speed and ease. These things are the surface of western culture and they do not play a determining role. The true nature of western culture is the materialistic, debauched and sinful lifestyle that destroys identities and is anti-spiritual. The primary requirement for building a new Islamic civilization is to avoid imitating the west. Unfortunately, we have become used to imitating certain things over the course of many years.
I do not support the idea that there should be an abrupt collective movement to avoid western norms in the case of clothes, houses and other things. No, such things should be done in a gradual way. And they cannot be rectified from above. They require cultural work. As I said, this is the responsibility of our outstanding personalities. It is the responsibility of those who are in charge of reforming cultural norms. And you dear youth should prepare yourselves for this responsibility. This is the main mission.
We promote science. We promote industry. We promote innovations. We treat all innovators with utmost respect and hold all innovators in high regard. All of these things are good, but as I said, the essential issue is something else. The essential issue is to rectify lifestyle, social behavior, moral codes of behavior in society and culture of life. We need to make efforts and make progress in this area. The new Islamic civilization that we are after, the new Islamic civilization that the Islamic Revolution wants to build is impossible in the absence of such things. Once this new Islamic civilization has been established, the Iranian nation will be at the peak of glory and dignity. There will also be wealth. There will be welfare. There will be security. There will be international glory and dignity. We will achieve spirituality as well as everything else.
One of the points that we should keep in mind in our confrontation with the western world is the artistic means which westerners have at their disposal. Westerners have made the best of art in order to promote their wrong and degenerate culture, which destroys identities. In particular, they have made the best of dramatic arts, especially cinema. As a project, they carefully study a particular people and identify their weaknesses. They enlist the services of psychologists, sociologists, historians, artists and other such people to find ways of dominating that people. Finally, they ask certain Hollywood film-makers or companies to produce the films they want. Many of the films that they make about our country and about countries like ours, fall under this category. I do not know about the films that are produced about the American society, but the films that they produce about other countries have aggressive aspects.
A few years ago, it was reported in the news that certain big countries in Europe had decided to confront American films. They are not Muslims, yet they felt they were exposed to danger. They felt they were exposed to aggression. In the case of Islamic countries – particularly our revolutionary country – they evaluate the situation and produce films and prepare news on the basis of their evaluation. It is necessary to pay attention to such things. They shape tastes and cultural norms. And once they have changed tastes and tendencies, they deploy their dollars, their military forces and their generals in case there is a need for bribery and coercion. This is the way westerns act. It is necessary to be careful. Everybody should feel that they are shouldering the responsibility for the new Islamic civilization. One of the requirements is to confront western civilization in order to avoid imitation.
I would like to add one last point. The points that I raised today are just the beginning of a discussion. We will continue our discussion in these areas. We expect the intellectuals who have the necessary qualifications to work on these areas. We expect them to think and study so that we can make progress. We should take care not to fall into trap of superficial and rigid thinking. This is one side of the issue. Another side of the issue is that we should take care not to fall into the trap of concealed secularism. Sometimes propaganda campaigns might look like religious propaganda and efforts to promote religion and religious slogans. But beneath the surface, there might be secularism, separation of religion from life. What is announced might have nothing to do with plans and activities. People might make certain claims, say certain things and shout certain slogans, but when it comes to action, slogans might be completely forgotten.
The Islamic Revolution is powerful. The power and capacities that the Islamic Revolution enjoys are enough to eliminate all of the obstacles that I discussed as well as many other obstacles which I did not mention in this meeting. It has the capacity to build an outstanding, noble and glorious civilization in the world. And this will happen in your lifetime. By Allah’s favor, you are the ones who will build this new Islamic civilization. As I have repeatedly stressed, you should try as much as you can to prepare yourselves to acquire knowledge, take action and achieve spiritual purification and physical strength so that you can shoulder this heavy responsibility.
Greetings be upon you and Allah’s mercy and blessings