Hurstville City Council Civic Theatre, February 11th, 2017
It is a privilege to be with you once again to commemorate this, the 38th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, and I appreciate that we meet at a time of great concern regarding the relationship between the nation of Iran and the Western powers with which our country, Australia, is closely associated.
Many of us had hoped that the (surprising) election of Donald Trump might herald a new era in US foreign policy – less concerned with global domination and more focused on domestic affairs. Unfortunately, while there are still hopeful signs regarding US relations with Russia and Syria, such (possible) gains seem to be being counter-balanced by renewed aggression against both Iran and China!
This development is particularly depressing, coming at a time when the dreaded sanctions against Iran that the US has had in place for so many years were finally in the process of being diluted. I appreciate, of course, that the people of Iran have adapted and have survived and thrived despite these sanctions. Even so, every time I visit Iran I feel that I can’t get through a day without being reminded of these sanctions and of the hostility that lies behind them.
Whether it’s a friend telling me how he can’t get the cancer medication his father needs because of the sanctions, or because I’m speaking to a craftsman who struggles to find a market for his goods because of the sanctions, or even if it’s simply because I can’t access some of my favourite websites, you can’t get far through the day without being reminded of Western hostility, and now, just when we had hoped that a new day was dawning, that hostility seems to be on the increase!
The only explanation I’ve heard for this that makes any sense to me is that America has an economy built on war, and regardless of who is running the country, the fundamental business of the country can’t change.
We can imagine, for example, that Apple Inc. might get a new CEO, but that wouldn’t mean that Apple would stop selling iPhones. Their primary product would still be fundamental to their survival as a company. Likewise, with an economy built on warfare, the markets can change but the primary product does not change, and so if the US is making peace with some powers, it will likewise have to find new markets for military expansion, and Iran and China seem to have been chosen as new growth areas!
I pray that this is not true, of course. I just struggle to make sense of what is going on in any other way. And the problem, of course, is that this is not just an intellectual puzzle any more than it is solely an economic issue. The issue at stake here is the life and death of so many of our sisters and brothers in Iran and around the world!
I don’t know what to do about this, apart from praying and doing my best to correct people’s misperceptions regarding Iran.
I appreciate that the people of Iran are working really hard at trying to present a friendly human face to the Western world. When I was in Iran last year, I was asked in every media interview I did, “What’s it like being in the home of moderate Islam?” I had to respond “this is not how you are perceived in my country!”
There is, unfortunately, a vast gap between how Iranian people perceive themselves and how they are perceived in our country and around the Western world. The Iranian government has been working hard to bridge that gap and to correct misperceptions. I hope they will continue to do that, and I believe that there is more that they could do. Even so, there is much we can do at a grass-roots level too, and I pray that we are up to that challenge.
Each of us needs to commit ourselves to confronting all efforts to demonise Iran and the Iranian people. We need to do this in what we say and in what we write – in our mosques and churches and in conversations with ordinary people. This will not be easy, as we know that we will be up against a well-coordinated and well-financed media campaign. Even so, I do believe that people are wising up in this country and around the world, and I am very hopeful that the truth will triumph, and triumph in time to prevent further humanitarian catastrophes taking place around the globe.
There is much to pray about, and there is much to do. At the same time, on this, the occasion of the 38th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution, I must not forget that there is also much to celebrate, and so I join with you in celebrating the achievements of the Iranian people over the last 38 years and in praying for a glorious and peaceful future for Iran and for all the world.
Salawat Ala Muhammad Wa Ali Muhammad.