The Charter of Freedom

The address made by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution at the graduation ceremony of
the students of Tarbiat Modarres University.
Tehran, Sept 3, I998

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

This is, for me, a pleasant day. Of course, I had visited your university frequently during
the terms of my presidency. But the present occasion has certain aspects which in my
mind will turn it into a sweet, lasting memory: A few months ago, when I was informed of
this student gathering, it was perhaps expected, by the honored chancellor that I would
send a message about this occasion, or the students would come to have a meeting with
me, but I had made up my mind, from the very first moment, to attend this graduation
ceremony and to personally witness the valuable output of this young university's activities
for the past several years.

This university was founded on great expectations and aspirations. Obviously our
Revolution, our system, and the progress we have made, are all indebted to our
universities for the services they have rendered to science and culture. Yet this university
was a product of the Revolution, that was to grow and provide the academic brains and
competent university teachers trained after the victory of our Islamic Revolution.

Perhaps today when, thanks to God, our universities have produced numerous faithful and
revolutionary graduates, the importance of what I say, will not be fully appreciated by
many, but it was most meaningful in the first decade of the Revolution. The days when
some university lecturers did not like to come and teach, some were not eager to
cooperate with the Revolutionary movement, some had traveled abroad, and there were
others who were not welcome by the students who often came to us and complained
about their professor's lack of sympathy and devotion, and surely there were others who
did continue their work faithfully and devotedly. All this meant that, for the improvement
and expansion of our universities, we had to come up with some fundamental initiative,
one such idea, was the foundation of this new university. And today, when I look around
and see several thousand students, young women and young men, graduated from this
university, attending this ceremony, I am sure that this will be for me a lasting and most
pleasant memory.

Dear sisters and brothers! There is one thing I should emphasize to you in this regard:
The university generation today bears a special, weighty responsibility. Today your
country, your revolution and your honorable Islamic order are going through a phase
which needs the cooperation of all responsible, administrative and able hands to enrich
our system and our ideas; we have already left behind us some tough times, like the war
period. Those were times of great hardships.

Today it is time to do away with every backwardness imposed on us during the long
period of despotic rule in our country, through knowledge, science and scientific efforts,
and to make up for those periods in our history when talents were not allowed to
blossom, when the true and genuine identity of this nation could not be demonstrated,
when, as a result of the importation of industrial commodities, themselves products of
scientific and industrial progress in the West, we came to be dependent on the West in
every field, when they also exported to us their intellectual and cultural goods. Their first
and foremost attempt was to alienate our educated sections from their own selves, from
their own culture, from their own customs and traditions, from their own knowledge and
science, and from confidence in the abilities and talents inherent in the Iranian nation, and,
of course, this lack of belief and confidence in ourselves did have its own adverse effects.

Clearly it was a long time from the moment that this idea of humiliating the Iranian
people, entered our country until it took roots in the thoughts and minds of the elite strata
in this country and for the West to reap its fruits. But, in the long run, they were
successful, and the final consequences of this alienation and humiliation are the concrete
examples of backwardness that we witness today in this country despite our human
resources, despite our great material wealth, despite our singular geographical position,
despite all the glittering backgrounds of scientific and cultural greatness, and our great
heritage of scientific treasures! Yes, despite all those brilliant factors, our present status in
the fields of science, industry and various academic achievements, is not at all what it
ought to be.

Even in the areas of our history, literature and geography, much more research has been
done by foreigners than by our own researchers, the genius of the Iranian people has not
yet succeeded in removing the existing backwardness. Certainly since the inception of the
Revolution, we have witnessed a miracle: that feeling of helplessness has been replaced by
an unshakable belief in ourselves, but, we must still work on it.

In the early years of the revolution, and especially during the eight years of the war
imposed on us, we were indeed facing numerous problems. But today, it is your
undoubted duty to do your best, to struggle hard, and the aim of this struggle should be:
To elevate and glorify Islam and to make your Islamic Iran really independent in every
respect. Obviously by this, we do not mean that we should close our borders and block
the entrance of beneficial goods, this is surely not wise, and nobody is inviting you to do
that: In the course of history, every human being has benefited from the achievements of
others, but there is a clear distinction, for the exchange of ideas and material things,
between two equals and the humiliated begging of one from an arrogant donor, and this
is how things were, more or less, before the Revolution.

You must take your country to the necessary, elevated status. This is the great mission of
the enlightened, educated, young generation of this country, and you, brothers and
sisters, who have studied at this university have, in my opinion, a heavier task to fulfill
than the others, and, God willing, you shall meet with greater success.

Today I only meant to be among you, I did not intend to necessarily raise any issues for
discussion. I was thinking of spending an hour or so with you, speaking with you and
answering your questions, that would be most enjoyable and pleasant to me. Yet, there is
an issue that is being currently debated, it is a useful discussion under the present
circumstances in our country, and for this reason, I shall briefly speak about a few points I
have noted down:

It is the question of freedom, which, as I said, is being enthusiastically discussed today in
the press and among the thinking people in our country. This is a blessed phenomenon.
For the principle and basic topics of the Revolution to be the objects of an exchange of
ideas, and many people to be persuaded to think about such matters, is something we,
always waited for and, of course, many other related issues are being debated too.

Anyway, freedom is the point in question today, and I have personally read and studied
most of what is discussed or printed, and some of it I have found to be quite useful.
Various and opposing ideas are being expressed by which I mean they are not following a
certain line, they often oppose one another, and on both sides of the opposing views, you
find many correct and truthful conceptions, and it is good to continue such trends, and I
do hope that our scholars and specialists will be urged to engage in the provision of more
instructive and thought provoking discussions for the benefit of the public. I have often
encouraged you to further deepen the culture of the Revolution: attaining to those depths
will require such debates.

There are two points, however, to which special attention should be paid. The first is this:
In any discussion of the question of freedom, the concept of independence, which has
been one of the three mottoes of the Revolution, must not be overlooked. Not only that,
but it must be seriously taken into account. This means we must think independently, we
must not follow a submissive and imitative mode of thinking. If we were to imitate others
in this it they do write under the patronage of American institutions, especially on the
subject of liberalism, Books may be written in Germany, France or Australia and published
in New York, and in other forms and places, but they are commercial orders by
Americans, and that is another story. Despite all those different interpretations, I would
like to briefly explain to you that the idea of freedom in Islam is superior to them all.

The Western thinkers are always facing big problems in putting forth some philosophy for
freedom. What is the philosophy of freedom? Why should man be free? You must put
forward some sort of logic, reason or philosophical principle for it . To solve this problem,
they resort to all sorts of things: Utility, the common good, collective joy, individual
pleasure and the like, or at its best, an item of civil rights. Well, all these claims may be
refuted, and they are often engaged in these discussions in the West.

If you were to look at what has been said and printed in our own country in recent years,
on the subject of freedom or liberalism, you will also come across a good deal of time-
consuming useless arguments, very similar to those pronounced on the topic of freedom
in the Middle Ages! One person claims something, another one refutes him, and the first
defends his position, so on and so forth. It is really not a bad entertainment for the
intellectuals in the Third World! One intellectual becomes the proponent of one theory,
another one defends another theory, the third approves of the theory of the first, the
fourth writes an explanation for the theory of the second, and the fifth publishes one of
the theories in his own name.

As I was saying, the maximum theory of the West on the origin or the philosophy of
freedom is that it is a human right. Well, what Islam has said is far superior to this. As you
noticed in the tradition quoted, it is innate in the human existence, and clearly it is a right,
but a sublime, superior right as the right to life and the right to live. I may not include the
right to live in the same category as the right of voting or the right of having a decent
housing, therefore, freedom is superior to other rights, and that is what Islam says about

Surely there are exceptions, this right may be suspended in certain cases. An example is
the people's right to be alive, if a man kills another man, then there is the law of retaliation
for him, when a person spreads corruption, he must be punished, the same is true in the
case of freedom, yet these are the exceptions according to the Islamic outlook. Thus it
would be absolutely wrong to imagine that the idea of social freedom was something
bestowed upon us by the West, so much so that whenever some people mean to speak
something nice and interesting on this subject, they would at once cite the name of a book
written by somebody who sat down and wrote something in the atmosphere of the West.
No, we must be independent thinkers, we must consult our own sources and authorities,
our own Islamic references; a thinking man will obviously consult other people's thoughts
for the purposes of explanation and clarification and for enlightening his mind, not for a
parrot-like imitation. Were we to imitate, we would certainly incur a great loss.

What I notice in this conflict relating to ideas and the press - which is an auspicious
phenomenon, as I said - is that many do not pay attention to this principle. Here I will
mention two or three main points of difference between the Islamic and Western
approaches to freedom. As I said, liberalism is the main source of all the viewpoints and
tendencies relating to this approach. There might be some difference between some of
these viewpoints and tendencies in some regards, but together they make up liberalism.

In Western liberal thought, human freedom is a concept devoid of any such entity as
religion or God. Hence they do not consider freedom to be something God-given. None of
them says that freedom is something bestowed by God on man. They seek to find some
other philosophical grounds and roots of freedom.They have suggested some
philosophical foundations and sources and have offered various interpretations.

In Islam freedom has a divine source and this is by itself a fundamental difference which is
the source of other differences. Therefore, from the Islamic viewpoint any action injurious
to freedom is one which is hostile to a divine value. That is, it gives rise to a religious
obligation in the opposing party. Such is not the case with the Western notion of freedom.
Some social struggles that are waged for the sake of freedom do not have any logical
justification on the basis of Western liberalism. For instance, one of the justifications which
is offered is 'the common good' or 'good of the majority.' This is considered the origin of
social freedom. But why should I risk my life for the sake of the good of the majority?
There is no logical justification for this. Of course, seasonal and short-lived passions drive
many to the battlefield. But whenever any of those who have struggled under the banner
of such notions - if, in fact, any struggle has ever taken place under their banner - emerge
from the passing passions of the arena of struggle, they would have doubts about their
avowed goal: Why should I get killed for its sake?

Such is not the case in Islamic thought. The struggle for freedom is a duty, for it is for the
sake of a Divine goal. If you see someone's life being threatened, it is your duty to help
him. It is a religious duty, something which if you fail to carry out you will be guilty of a
sin. The same is true of freedom. It is a duty to struggle for its sake.

Other differences originate from this basic difference. As truth and moral values are
relative from the viewpoint of Western liberalism, freedom is unrestricted. Why? Because
someone who believes in certain moral values has no right to blame anyone who violates
those values because it is possible that he does not believe in those values. Accordingly,
there is no limit to freedom from a moral and spiritual viewpoint. As a result freedom is
unrestricted. Why? Because there are no immutable truths. Because, in their opinion, truth
and ethical values are relative.

In Islam freedom is not such. In Islam there are incontrovertible and immutable values
and an unchanging truth. Man's movement is towards that truth which consists of values
and is value-generating and conductive to perfection. Accordingly, freedom is limited by
those values. As to how these values are to be understood and attained is another matter.
Some people may possibly make errors in understanding these values and some may have
the right approach. That is outside the scope of our discussion. In any case, freedom is
limited by values and truth.

Social freedom is a great value in Islam. But if this social freedom is used for purposes
detrimental to the invaluable spiritual or material interests of a nation, it is harmful-exactly
like human life. The Qur'an states: Whoever slays anyone, barring retaliation for homicide
or the guilt of spreading corruption on earth, it is as if he had slain all mankind. In the
logic of the Qur'an killing one human being unjustly is like killing all mankind. This is an
amazing conception. Someone who murders a person is like someone who murders all
humanity. That is, because his act is a violation of the sanctity of human life. But there are
exceptions which consist of the penalty for murder or for spreading corruption on earth.
That is, someone who has violated another person's right to life or has spread corruption
forfeits his own right to life. Immutable and definite values and truths limit one's social
freedom in the same way as they limit his right to life.

Another difference is that in the West the limits of freedom consist of materialistic
interests. Primarily they have set certain limits on social and individual freedoms, and this
is one of them. When material interests are endangered, they limit freedom - material
interests like the power and prestige of these countries and their scientific hegemony.
Education and dissemination of knowledge is one of the areas in which freedom is one of
the most indubitable of human rights. Human beings have a right to learn, yet this
freedom is limited in the major universities of the Western world. Science and high
technology to certain countries is prohibited on the grounds that if this know-how is
transferred it will go out of the monopoly of these powers and their material power and
domination will not remain as they are. Hence frontiers are imposed on freedom. That is,
the teacher has no right to communicate certain scientific secrets, for instance, to a Third-
World student or research scholar from Iran or China.

The same is true of information and news. Today there is world-wide clamor for
information and news, so that people become better informed. It constitutes one of the
major points nf the agenda nf propagation of freedom in the West. However, in the course
of the U.S. attack against Iraq, during the days of the presidency of George Bush, for a
period of one week or more all information was officially censored. They declared proudly
that no reporter has any right to broadcast or publish any news or photographs about the
U.S. offensive against Iraq. Everyone knew that the offensive had begun, and the
Americans had also sent out the news. But no one knew the details, because it was
claimed that this matter compromised military security. Military security limited the right to
freedom. This was another material limit and restriction on freedom.

Consolidation of the foundations of the State imposes another limit. Four or five years ago
a group emerged in the United States and the episode [of the Branch Davidians] is known
to all newspaper readers. I came to know about some more details at that time and the
news of the episode was published by our newspapers. It was a group following a certain
cult that set itself against the present U.S. government during Mr. Clinton's time. Certain
security and military measures were taken against them which did not prove fruitful.
Finally, they set fire to the building in which they were gathered. In this incident about
eighty persons were burnt alive. Photographs of the event were published and the whole
world has seen them. Among the eighty victims there were also women and children.
Perhaps not one of them was a militia man. See to what extent the right of life, the right
to belief, and the right to political struggle is curtailed. Hence freedom in the materialistic
Western world has also limits, with the difference that they are of a materialistic character.

There moral values do not pose any limitation for freedom. For instance, the homosexual
movement in the U.S. is one of their popular movements. They are even proud of it and
hold rallies in the streets and publish their photographs in magazines. They mention with
pride that such and such a businessman or statesman is a member of this group. No one
is ashamed of it and no one denies it. Rather, some people who are opposed to
homosexuality are severely attacked by some of these newspapers and periodicals and
condemned as opponents of homosexuality.This means that ethical values pose absolutely
no barrier to freedom.

Another example pertains to the European countries. For instance, they impose restrictions
on freedom of expression and press on any propaganda in favor of fascism, which is again
a matter of materialistic character relating to government. However, pornography, which is
also one of their movements, is not restricted. That is, in Western liberalism, on the basis
of its philosophy and philosophical grounds, the limits on freedom are materialistic not
moral. However, in Islam there exist moral limits on freedom. In Islam there exist moral
and spiritual limits beside material limits.

If someone holds heretical beliefs it is not objectionable. When we say that it is not
objectionable what is meant is that it is objectionable before God and before faithful
human beings, but the government has no responsibility in regard to it. In a Muslim
society there are Jews, Christians and persons belong to various religious creeds. They
exist at present in our country also, as they existed during the early Islamic era. This does
not pose any problem. But if someone holding corrupt beliefs should make encroachments
on the minds of other individuals who do not possess the power to defend themselves and
try to mislead them, such efforts are prohibited.

Here freedom is limited. Such is the case from the viewpoint of Islam. Or if anyone tries to
propagate corruption in political, sexual, or intellectual matters, such as the pseudo-
philosophers who write articles suggesting that higher education is not beneficial for the
youth and enumerate the inadequacies of higher education-of course, most probably, it
would not have any effect on ninety percent, but it may possibly affect a ten percent of
lethargic youths-they cannot be permitted to discourage people from higher studies by the
means of insinuations and lies.

There is no freedom to lie in Islam and no freedom to spread rumors and create alarm. I
have a complaint that no reference is made to Islamic sources and fundamental in
discussions relating to freedom. In the Quran, in the Sura Al-Ahzab, ayah 60, it is stated
that if the hypocrites and those in whose hearts is sickness and the alarmists do not desist,
we will arouse you to take action against them. The alarmists are mentioned in this verse
side by side with the hypocrites and those in whose hearts is a sickness. The hypocrites
are one group, those with sick hearts are a second group, and the alarmists are mentioned
along with them. The alarmists are hose who continuously intimidate the people. In a
newly established Islamic society with so many enemies and the general mobilization
brought about by the Quran and the Prophet everyone should be mentally prepared for
the defense of the Islamic country and its great human and popular system. But a group of
rumor-mongers, like a plague, assault the people and they are the alarmists. The Quran
says that if the alarmists, who constantly create general anxiety and stop the people from
mobilization, do not desist, God will arouse the Prophet to take measures against them.
Here is a limit on freedom.  Hence from the Islamic viewpoint, there is another difference,
which is that freedom has moral and spiritual limits.

There is yet another difference, which is that freedom in Western liberal thought is not
consistent with duty and responsibility. Freedom means freedom from all duty. In Islam
freedom is the counterpart of duty. Basically, human beings are free because they have
responsibilities, and if they were not responsible there would have been no need for
freedom. They would have been like angels, in the words of Rumi:

A Tradition says that the Glorious Creator

Made the creatures of three sorts:

A group was blessed with intellect, knowledge and generosity,

Another, of angels, knew nothing except adoration...

It is characteristic of man that he is a collection of conflicting urges and motives. His duty
is to traverse the path of perfection despite these various motives. He has been granted
freedom to traverse the path of perfection. This freedom with its great value is for the sake
of movement towards perfection, in the same way that human life itself is meant for
perfection: We did not create mankind and the jinn except for Our service. God created
mankind and the jinn for the sake or reaching the rank of servitude, which is an exalted
station. Freedom, like the right to life, is a prerequisite for God's service.

In the West they have gone to such lengths in negating duty and responsibility that they
rule out all religious and non-religious ideas and ideologies which involve do's and don'ts,
duties and prohibitions. In the works of liberal American and quasi-American writers and
their disciples and followers in other countries, including unfortunately our own, it is
observed that they say that free Western thought is opposed to the ideas of do's and
don'ts. Islam is diametrically opposed to this position. The position of Islam is that it
considers freedom to be necessary by the side of duty so that man can fulfill his
responsibilities with the means of his freedom, make great achievements, and make great
choices so as to attain perfection.

Accordingly my first suggestion to those who write and discuss issues is that, let us be
independent in our understanding of freedom. Let us think independently, without aping
others. My second suggestion is that freedom should not be misused. Nowadays some
people consistently repeat the phrase 'newly acquired press freedom.' In my view it does
not refer to any fact. It is something whose sources are hostile foreign radios. Of course,
nowadays they write certain things in newspapers and periodicals and express hostile
views. Some of these persons did not do this in the past. But some others did so in the
past as well. In the past we have witnessed many instances of harsh criticism of the then
president and various officials and even dissent with the principles of the Revolution itself.
But nobody bothered them.

Yes, there were some persons whose background was dubious and their hands were
tainted. They did not dare to express their views. Even if they had done it nobody would
have bothered them. They could have said the same things that they say today. Nobody
would have stopped them. But they themselves were afraid because they had bad records.
Their enmity towards the Revolution, of the Imam and the Imam's Islamic thought were
known since long and they themselves lacked the courage to enter the field. However,
after the last presidential elections they suddenly found the courage on the basis of a
wrong analysis of those elections.

That wrong analysis was that they thought that 30 million people had voted against the
system and this made them glad, whereas those 30 million had cast their vote for the sake
of the consolidation of the system. One of the things that constitutes a matter of pride for
the Islamic system in that 18 years after the victory of the Revolution, 30 million out of 32
million eligible voters - that is, about 90 percent - participated in that election. However,
they considered this strong point of the system as a weak point.

Of course, from the very first days of the elections, the foreign radios had raised a clamor
in order to give a direction to those who were prone to this error, by insinuating that thirty
million people has expressed discontent against the system. They wanted to project the
system's strong point as a weak point and these poor guys believed it, and fooled
themselves. They thought that a country where 30 million people were opposed to the
system they too could also come and express their views. Now they have found courage
and express their opinions whereas nothing in fact has changed. Had they committed any
offense in the past and violated the logical limits they would have been prosecuted. The
same is the case today and nothing has changed. Today also the same measures will be
taken against those who spread corruption and cause alarm. There has been no change.
Accordingly, one should not say 'newly acquired press freedom.' We see that some officials
repeatedly advise the press not to overuse their freedom because that would endanger
freedom itself. What kind to logic is that? As much use as they make of freedom it is
better. But they should not violate the limits. The more individuals make use of this God-
given right, the nearer will it bring the Islamic system to its goals. Our complaint against
the writers has always been as to why they did not write, investigate, and analyze as much
as they should. The correct limits must however be observed. Of course, these limits are
not something which a government or system determines in its own interest.

Even if there should be governments in the world - and there certainly are - which lay
down such limits, the Islamic system is not such. The system of the Islamic republic is
based on justice. Should the leader violate the criteria of justice he is automatically
dismissed from leadership without the interference of any other agent. In such a system
there is no meaning in setting limits in the interests of any group on clique or for imposing
the views of a particular kind. The limits are Islamic limits, the same things which are
stated in the Qur'an and hadith and recognized as such by a correct understanding of
Islam. These are valid, and they should be observed. If they are not observed, it is the
duty of the authorities, judicial and executive, as well as Ministry of Guidance and others to
monitor their observance. Should they fail to carry out this responsibility they will have
committed an offense and a sin. They are responsible to see that these limits are
observed. Within these limits, it is the luminous principle of freedom which must be made
use of. I do not like these irresponsible statements to be repeated.

To sum up, that which I wish to say today is that the concept of freedom is an Islamic
conception and we should think about it in Islamic terms and have faith in its fruits as an
Islamic movement and responsibility. We should consider as an opportunity that which
exists today on the plane of society, and make maximum use of this opportunity. Thinkers
and scholars should increase their efforts. Of course, there are some topics which are for
specialized journals and forums. But there are other topics which are of a general interest
and all can benefit from such discussions.

I hope that God the Exalted will provide us with the opportunity to witness the blossoming
of this system and the ever greater success of this great and dear nation, and it is hoped
that you, university community, especially the youth, on whom the country's hopes and
future depend, will play a great role in its blossoming.
Greetings be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings
اللهم صلي علي محمد و آل محمد و عجل فرجهم و العن اعدائهم
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