“Radicalism is the product of the alliance between tyrants and ignorant followers”, according to Ali Abtahi Sayyed Mohammad, Iranian exponent at the International Peace Conference, Peace is the Future, Religion and Cultures in Dialogue 100 Years after World War I organized in Antwerp from September 7 to 9 by the Community of Sant’Egidio.
Speaking at a panel discussion devoted to the search for peace, Ali Abtahi added: “All ‘wars of religion’ show that politicians use them to inculcate in the faithful the notion that they constitute the only authentic religious group in the world, that other faiths are deviant and false; they are therefore expected to go to war against the followers of bogus religions. In this manner, religion, which should build peace and friendship, gets transformed and subdued to the cause of war and hostility. All this just goes to show that religion is precious”.
Ali Abtahi Sayyed Mohammad, president of the Iranian Institute for Interfaith Dialogue – the organization in his country responsible for promoting dialogue between religions and cultures – affirmed that “authentic religious people are those who understand the essence of their religion. Authentic followers have always been against the war and hostilities propagated throughout the world by religious fanatics. In my opinion, radicalism is the result of an alliance between tyrants and ignorant subjects”.
“Putting the accent on my religion – ha continued – I declare that Islam is a religion of peace and friendship, to the point where our holy scripture, the Koran, says that killing a person is tantamount to killing all of mankind and giving life to someone means giving life to all of humanity. A religion based on such a universal rationality can play a supportive role in the construction of peace”.
The Iranian representative then said that in his opinion some Western countries are responsible for the development of terrorism: “These radical groups, both Al Qaeda and ISIS, were initially generated by the West to promote its own interests: especially by the United States for the purpose of defeating the Soviet Union and the current state of Syria. They stimulated and supported radicalism in order to achieve their objectives and at the end they could no longer suppress it”.
“History teaches the rule – he concluded – that it’s possible to build such dangerous religious groups but it will be very hard to eradicate them. The people who blew up the Twin Towers were the same people America armed in order to fight communism in the name of the holy Jihad and those who are killing Muslims and Yazidis in Iraq are the same as those who received support and financing in Syria. Thus, it therefore evident that the name of God and religion itself are sacrificed in the eyes of public opinion”.
From 1997 to 2001 Ali Abtahi was President Khatami’s chief of staff and from 2001 to 2004 he was vice president for juridical and parliamentary affairs. Before that he was bureau chief of the Lebanese office of the the Iranian state-run television. While in Lebanon he became familiar with the different religious communities of that country.