Hugh Fitzgerald offers a polite recommendation to Iranian dissidents — Zoroastrianism:
One wonders how many intelligent people in Iran, or among the Iranians in intelligent exile, wish that Islam had never arrived, that “gift” from far more primitive people, the gift that for the Iranians keeps on giving — giving trouble, pain, anguish, mental desarroi. How many secretly would wish they could tow their own country out to sea somewhere, away from the Arabs and the other Muslims, adopt Zoroastrianism or Christianity or nothing at all but the cult of poesy (Sa’adi, Hafiz, Firdowsi, Omar Khayyam) and let Persians, as they see it, be Persians? How many secretly nurse an increasing distaste for the Iranian regime — which after all was founded by that thoroughly learned Shi’a theologian, the Ayatollah Khomeini?
If you have forgotten what the Ayatollah Khomeini was all about, or his hanging judge Khalkhali, consider that virtually his first act was to reduce the marriageable age of girls to nine (and by now you know why), and to start executing the leaders of the Bahai and Jewish communities. Later on his followers would polish off the naive leftists who had initially thought they could use him, though it turned out to be the other way round; Shahpour Bakhtiar was the most deplorable example. Over twenty-five years of terror, idiocy, and boredom have had one unintended benefit: Islamic rule, at least for those Iranians who think and feel, is beginning to be understood as the problem. There are still those “reformers” who pretend that the problem is not deeply rooted within Islam (i.e., Shirin Ebadi). There are others who allow themselves to believe the same thing, more out of ignorance than calculation: they have never studied what actually has been the treatment of Armenians, Jews, and Zoroastrians ever since the Arabs came to town, bearing as their little gift (in the shape of a Trojan Horse) the mental straitjacket of Islam.
And lest anyone forget the quality of Khomeini’s Muslim-drenched thought, the fons et origo of the Islamic Republic of Iran, reread just the words (indeed, print them out, put them under a magnet on your refrigerator, every time you feel your resolve beginning to weaken) quoted in Ibn Warraq’s Why I Am Not a Muslim (p. 11-12) and Robert Spencer’s Islam Unveiled (p. 35).
Here they are:
Islam makes it incumbent on all adult males, provided they are not disabled or incapacitated, to prepare themselves for the conquest of [other] countries so that the writ of Islam is obeyed in every country in the world. . . . But those who study Islamic Holy War will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world. . . . Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those [who say this] are witless. Islam says: Kill all the unbelievers just as they would kill you all! Does this mean that Muslims should sit back until they are devoured by [the unbelievers]? Islam says: Kill them [the non-Muslims], put them to the sword and scatter [their armies]. Does this mean sitting back until [non-Muslims] overcome us? Islam says: Kill in the service of Allah those who may want to kill you! Does this mean that we should surrender [to the enemy]? Islam says: Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be made obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to Paradise, which can be opened only for the Holy Warriors! There are hundreds of other [Qur’anic] psalms and Hadiths [sayings of the Prophet] urging Muslims to value war and to fight. Does all this mean that Islam is a religion that prevents men from waging war? I spit upon those foolish souls who make such a claim.
These are not the words of a “Wahhabi” extremist, but of a learned Shi’a theologian. He says nothing that does not have complete support in Islamic theology and ideology. No one has been able to show that Khomeini misuses the Qur’an, Hadith, or Sira — for he does not.
It is the “reformers” who will have to jettison the texts, or play fast and loose with them, or pretend they can do things with them that almost no one will accept — and that, in any case, Infidels cannot assume that enough Muslims will have really accepted. One does not bet one’s civilization, or one’s immigration or military policy, on the possibility of something for which there is no evidence that it could ever happen, that it has ever happened in 1350 years, or that somehow, all of a sudden, Muslims around the world will now start to learn an entirely new Islam. If Jihad is removed from Islam, if the relentless and aggressive desire to spread Islam and to create the conditions in all the lands of the Infidels so that Islam may rule and Muslims may dominate is removed from Islam, so many Muslims would say that the result was not Islam at all as to render the reform moot. If Islam were to be “reformed” so as to dissolve the strict boundary distinction between Believer and Infidel, which Muslims are urged to maintain in every way, it would no longer be Islam. If Islam were to be “reformed” so that its Total Explanation of the Universe became subject to modern science, if it became “reformed” so that its similar Total Regulation of Life were no longer merely ignored by many, but actually tossed out, it would no longer be Islam.
It was the real Islam, the Islam of Khomeini, which still prevails today in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Isn’t it time for dissident Iranians to give the religion of their ancestors — Zoroastrianism — a try? Whatever the precise doctrines of Zoroastrianism (and as Zarathustra has not spoken to me, I’m in no position to say) really are, they are irrelevant. Zoroastrianism is not Islam; it predates Islam; it was more or less suppressed and almost entirely destroyed by Islam; it could be taken as a symbol of a revived sense of Iran and Iranian nationalism, in the same spirit in which Firdowsi’s Shahnameh is seen not only as a great national epic, but as the literary defense that preserved Persian from the religiously-supported onslaught of Arabic.
Sounds crazy, does it? Well, is the Muslim world one that strikes you as defined by its rationality? Down with the ayatollahs and the money-mad mullahs. Up with Zoroaster. Meanwhile, Persians in exile, including those in Los Angeles who may be horrified to see their own children now speaking of Islam with too much interest and sympathy (in the same horrified way that refugees from the Soviet Union may find their own children, from the safety of the United States, now spouting left-wing platitudes), should look into Mary Boyce’s scholarship and her own reports about the Zoroastrians with whom she lived in Iran in the 1970s. They should also consult the reports of Napier Malcolm, from the 1890s, on the mistreatment of Zoroastrians, and the consult other reports, other scholarship, much of which has been completely ignored (Graduate students of Iranian descent: look into this — you have your dissertation topics ripe for the plucking).
Also sprach Zarathustra.