Sakset/Fra hofta

Nederland-bosatte Afshin Ellian har en historie fra Iran som er en parallell til drapet på Theo van Gogh.

In most Islamic countries and cultures freedom of expression is unknown. And that is nothing new. Chauvinism, ethnic nationalism and religious fanaticism often generate an aggressive attitude to dissidents.

Recently, like other countries, the Netherlands has been confronted with these phenomena. It may not yet have impinged on everyone, but it is true. Before I deal with it more fully, I would first like to discuss a manifestation of it in the Islamic world: the murder of the intellectual Kasrawi.

Whenever intellectuals in an Islamic country wish to engage in critical debates, they will face serious problems. A notorious example is what happened to Ahmad Kasrawi (1891-1946). This jurist, historian and journalist is unknown in the Western world, but had a great reputation in Iran as a champion of human rights and liberal constitutional principles. Kasrawi had also researched the political theology of Islam, and in his work had criticised the Shiite concept of the imam. A number of ayatollahs accused him of kuffer (disbelief), and his books were publicly burnt. While the Allied troops in Iran (the Americans based in Teheran), excitedly watched the collapse of Nazism in Europe, a strange event took place in Teheran. A talib (the singular form of taliban = religious pupil) called Nawab Safawie had set up a secret organisation to fight «the enemies of Islam» by force, the Islamic Fedayin. Safawie went to an ayatollah and asked for a fatwa against Kasrawi. His request was granted, that is, a fatwa requiring the death penalty. On 28 April 1945 Safawie carried out an assassination attempt on Kasrawi in broad daylight. Kasrawi survived the attack. The culprit was arrested, but subsequently managed to escape to Najaf (Iraq), where he headed a terrorist group for a while.

March 1946. The continent of Europe was free once more. But in Teheran the struggle over freedom of expression erupted again. On the basis of charges by a number of Taliban, Kasrawi was summonsed to appear before the public prosecutor in Teheran on a charge of sacrilegious blasphemy. Initially the Iranian legal system was reluctant to prosecute him. At first they hoped to be able to refer the case to the Allied forces, appealing to the Allied treaty guaranteeing freedom of expression to all Iranians. However, the Allies considered the case an internal matter. It has since emerged that the Americans persuaded the Iranian police to guard Kasrawi’s house. The High Court, Teheran, 11 March 1946, the day on which Kasrawi was to be tried. Through the press eight members of the Fedayin of Islam knew the time and place of the hearing. They stormed the court, killing Kasrawi and his secretary. The perpetrators used both firearms to kill the writer and a knife to mutilate his body.