Is that not true?
No, it is not true. It is not stated in our constitution and it is not true.
The reason and evidence is that in our constitutional law, along with the
principles and laws related to the velayat-e faqih, we also have fundamental
laws and principles for the people's representatives and freedoms as well as
And therefore I think the concept of velayat-e faqih is in accordance with
democracy and what the majority want, in its real meaning and the meaning as I
and many legal experts understand it, and the perspective of the masses of the
people and Imam [Ayatollah Khomeini], the founder of the Islamic Republic, had
Imam Khomeini has been quoted as saying that "the will of the people must be
second to the will of God." Does that not mean the supremacy of a cleric over
the will of the people?
There is not such a meaning in velayat-e faqih at all. What Imam
[Ayatollah Khomeini] has said supports the idea that people elect the Faqih.
Imam recognized the people as the main foundation, and it is interesting to
note that Imam mentioned something about the jurisdiction and vote of the
people in his speech at the Behesht-e Zahra [Tehran's cemetery] in 1979, that
perhaps until then many of the supporters of the people's rights had not paid
attention to. He said that during the monarchy era and based on the old
constitution, those of the regime were not able to make decisions for us and
rule over the government. This is a very deep meaning that is set and
understood in all the world's constitutions, and that is the fact that whatever
people want and choose should be [universally accepted] in a way that all human
beings would be able to accept in the course of history. Otherwise if some of
the laws in the constitution are not acceptable by the people, they have the
right to change it. This means that no group or party has the right to rule
over the other. And there is no better way to define democracy in Islam. ...
The people who are demanding reform of the system say that velayat-e faqih
and the constitution are blocking reform, that they make reform very difficult.
What does the grand ayatollah think of that?
Those who mention this are normally concerned with ... the way things are
implemented, or they have a different and specific understanding or
interpretation of the constitution. But my interpretation, and other people
like me, is that the constitution is the only factor that guarantees reform.
Then may I ask the grand ayatollah, where do you see the principal need for
change in the Islamic Revolution?
Look, if there is a need for change, the constitution has foreseen. And those
who believe that the reform trend has been blocked or not consistent should
follow up and adopt the methods and ways that they think are helpful. But there
is no set path. When the implementation is blocked, when the executive power,
the legislative power or the judiciary power are facing problems, it must be
observed what the constitution states. And if it has been forecasted in the
constitution, and if things are not done in accordance with constitution, that
does not have anything to do with the constitutional law.
Young people are saying there should be a more secular, Western style of
society. Women are asking for increased marital and legal rights. What does the
grand ayatollah think about these sorts of demands?
I do not agree with you that the Iranian youth are searching for laws that are
just like Western laws, that are in contradiction with and against Islamic
laws. They are supporting laws that are taken form the heart of Islam and
protects their rights. In addition to this fact, these days if you go to the
universities, you would find that people like me enjoy great respect on the
part of the youth, even though we are clergy and guardians of religion.
About women, it is true, they also want their rights, and in my view all their
rights have been considered in Islam. I have repeatedly written and said this.
I think we can protect and consider all natural rights of individuals based on
the constitutional law and the laws that are passed in the Parliament. But why
they are not implementing it, this has nothing to do with me and nothing to do
with the [Islamic] law, if they do not consider people's rights.
And I believe that today the civil law in family rights need to be revised. We
need to modify them. To protect freedoms and principles of the constitution,
we should work hard and pay attention to the law. We see the type of problems
created for the people's representatives [in Parliament] in regards to
parliamentary immunity, although the Parliament members' immunity is one of
those highly important issues that have been generated from Islam's principles.
And I have mentioned it in my declaration and have pointed out that the
oppressed have the right to complain ever so loudly in Islam and are free to
talk freely wherever or whenever they want. But what can we do when such a
definite and crystal clear legal right has been subject of fights, arguments,
as well as tension in the society? We are hopeful that those who have the power
to resolve these kinds of problems and arguments within the framework of the
laws and regulations do their best and solve the problematic issues.
What do you think are the main problems, the main barriers, holding back the
reform of the women's rights and the additional rights of the young
There are some people who have wrong beliefs and they are also following their
path to implement those ideas. They do not have fair and correct interpretation
of Islam and the constitution. ... These perceptions are either out of
ignorance, which makes them not guilty for what they do, or due to enmity,
which makes them guilty.
I believe that the enemies of Islam are blocking implementation of the Islamic
principles with all their efforts. See how they created tension among us
[clerics] about the immunity of the Parliament representatives while such a
simple issue is accepted and implemented in the parliaments and constitutions
all over the world. Some people consider it [the immunity law] as violation of
the constitution and challenge it. And this reflects wrongly against Islam.
Everyone in our country, and specially the young generation of Iran, have the
right to question this fact, and to say, what kind of Islam is it that ignores
a fundamental right accepted by the people internationally? This is where I
believe that the enemies of Islam, through many middlemen, are trying to
distract the minds of the nation in the society. Of course, some of them do
these things out of ignorance, and some of them are creating these tensions on
purpose, and therefore are guilty, criminal [sinful].
Who decides then? When there is a disagreement between the masses of people
and the teaching of the clergy, who makes the final decision on how the society
I cannot answer that question because is not my job to explain that. You should
ask those who have this responsibility. By referring to the constitution, you
can understand who is the responsible authority and why they are ignorant or
why, God forbid, they are acting as enemies.
I would like to ask you for a comment on the current tension with the United
States over the charges that President Bush has made most recently. What is
your reaction to President Bush's reference to Iran as a source of terrorism,
as a source of instability in the world?
I do not have an opinion on this particular issue. But as the nature of the
powerful requires, their concerns and issues are mainly political, not based on
reality. What I mean by this is that they are either trying to use this issue
as an internal tool, to reach their purposes inside their own country, or they
are aiming at certain enemies in our country as pressure levers. ...
When a powerful political figure states such a thing about Iran, the result is
that in case the supporters of reform want to make a move or react upon this,
then the opposition of the reform movement would accuse them of supporting
American polices, Bush policies, and this is a very heavy accusation.
And our people do not have good memories and good experiences with the U.S.
policies, rather they have very bad experiences. The point is that if Bush and
other likeminded powerful politicians really believe in such a thing, they
could have resolved their issues through political channels and through
dialogue with the [Iranian] representatives. There was no need to broadcast it
on an official occasion and for the whole world.
Today, all those who are against Iran are the enemies of the whole nation. The
best way to serve Iran is to help those who are talking about reform, about
Islam, about dialogue, and are sincere about it. Those who are blocking
reform's movement should not be helped or supported. We have seen that the
powerful political figures of the world believe that they should support the
reform movement of Iran, whether they are on the right or on the left. The
summary of my thoughts and beliefs in this regard is that Bush's speech and his
reactions are because they want to take revenge and because they want to block
the reform movement in this country. ...
I think a great injustice has been done to the supporters of democracy and
freedom and true Islam due to Mr. Bush's speech. And what he said has put more
pressure on the best men and women in this country. ... In brief, if supporters
of democracy in Iran had been under pressure yesterday, they will be under more
stress and pressure tomorrow. And if they were not under pressure, they will
be, and Mr. Bush has caused this situation and is responsible for that, unless
he corrects his statements and resolves his issues with diplomacy and takes the
pressure off the freedom lovers' shoulders [in Iran].
In my opinion, Mr. Bush and people like him have never been and are not
interested to look after freedom loving Iranians or the Iranian Muslims. It has
been like this until today, we don't know how would it be tomorrow.
Mr. Bush and others will accuse Iran of having supported movements in other
countries where people have used violence, terror, to pursue their goals. What
do you think of that, and what is the teaching of Islam on the use of those
methods in support of national struggles?
Discussing the times and places that Islam should help in these issues is up to
the Islamic Republic's policy and the diplomacy of our government. The world of
today is the world of knowledge and awareness, and if Mr. Bush and others have
anything to say [in this regard], they should express their ideas publicly and
bring their witnesses and reasons to the people of the world and the public
opinion would definitely support them. How is it possible that the Iranian
government, whose official religion is the Shiite branch of Islam, commits acts
of terror and assassinates people? You will not find one Shiite in Al Qaeda or
Taliban and their affiliates all over the world.
I suppose Mr. Bush is referring mostly to Palestinian and Lebanese issues,
as opposed to the Taliban and Al Qaeda. I am curious about the teaching of
Islam and the intention of the Islamic scholars when funding goes to
organizations that then use terror. What is the attitude of Islam to that sort
of a development? The Islamic Republic supports Islamic groups in other
countries like Lebanon and Palestine. Those groups then take the support and
use it violently. What is the attitude of Islam toward that sort of action?
Look, sometimes we are discussing the Islamic beliefs of others. Well, they are
responsible for how they think. What we are discussing now is our
interpretation of Islam in our republic. We are never in favor of terror and
assassination. I repeat what I said before, if Mr. Bush wants to serve the
Iranian nation and bring security to the world, not political arguments and
power games, he should express his ideas clearly and logically for all the
people of the world. He should not take a defensive stance and use some
political rhetoric that is really offensive and unprofessional, which indicates
that the speaker does not have common sense and mere intellect.
As I told you, in Shiite religion terror is definitely condemned. Therefore you
are not able to find a Shiite Muslim in Taliban movement. We are Shiite
Muslims, and my interpretation as well as that of other religious leaders in
Islam, is that Islam does not accept terror. Terror in Islam, and especially
Shiite, is forbidden.
The theory of the constitution is clear. It is a democratic model. The
practice might be something different. Do you believe that the current
interpretation of the power of the Supreme Leader, the Jurist, is correct? And
is it working according to the desires of the great mass of the people?
I think you should ask those gentlemen. But I don't think it is that way. I
don't think they think that way, and if they do, you should ask them, but I
don't think it is that way.
To a Westerner, the institution of the Supreme Leader suggests a principle
of infallibility, as the pope.
[Smiling to the interpreter] Tell him his questions are becoming too political,
and I am too clever. [Laughter]
I can see that very clearly. The principle of infallibility, do you believe
Nobody believes in it, let alone me. Even Imam Khomeini was not infallible, let
alone anyone else.
There is an insinuation, there is some sort of suggestion in the role -- and
this is from the Western point of view -- in the role of Supreme Leader in the
constitutional structure of Iran, that there is an element of infallibility,
given all the power in the hands of the Supreme Leader. Is this a correct
This is a completely and definitely untrue perception. I don't believe anyone
thinks this way. In Islam and Shiite world, infallibility had been limited to a
very specific and small number of individuals. No one is infallible, especially
when it comes to people's affairs. The country is managed by the will of the
people. We cannot say that decision of one individual is right and the beliefs
of others are wrong. In an Islamic system everyone has one vote, from the
Supreme Leader, to the President and all other authorities. The Supreme Leader
has only one vote and he should not be able to impose his ideas on anyone else.
He is not infallible. He is capable of making mistakes just like everyone else.
To err is human.
I would like to thank the Grand Ayatollah for this opportunity to speak to
I would like to wish you success, and we are sure that anyone who is working in
journalism and media agencies are very precise individuals. They are
professional in their field. I am hopeful that what I said here today would not
bring harm to the nation of Iran, and I am hopeful that you and I would be able
to express the fact that the constitutional law in Iran is based on people's
will, and I am hopeful that if those who are outside Iran want to serve the
Iranian nation, [they will] take their steps based on dialogue and
understanding as well as supporting those who are pro-democracy in Iran and
boycotting the opponents of democracy inside Iran. Not like the unhealthy
stance of Mr. Bush, by unfavorable rhetoric, which was his mistake.
Dialogue is always useful, and one of the great problems in relations
between Iran and the West in the last decade has been an absence of dialogue.
And I agree that diplomatic contact is essential for peace, and I think it's
true that with direct conversation and contact we understand each other better.
God willing it will be changed and it will be reformed. God grants us the
success to serve humanity, despite borders, languages, and religion. Islam and
God are supporting humanity. God bless you.
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