There is no compulsion in Islam (The Holy Qur’an, 2:256) and that in no way does Islam preach violence and extremism. Anyone who doesn’t see this is neither blind nor foolish, but probably complicit in global West’s new Islamophobia campaign.
As is, one of the fundamental truths established by the sacred texts is that no one can be compelled to accept Islam. No one should ever be threatened or harmed in any way if he does not wish to accept Islamic rule either. Ayatollah Khamenei’s letter is to be understood in these terms.
Islam attaches such great importance to learning that the Holy Qur’an has this to say: “It is the men of knowledge who can truly realize God.” (35:28)
By way of encouraging reflection on the universe, nature and peoples to explore the divine glory, Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) likewise has this to say: “An hour of reflection is better than a hundred years of worship without reflection.”
No doubt, it was this interrelatedness of knowledge and worship that made the early Muslims seek and impart knowledge wholeheartedly and religiously – not violence and extremism, as global West would like to suggest.
Likewise, it is based on such sacred texts that Ayatollah Khamenei calls on young people in Europe and North America to embrace intellectual discourse, to break out of the cycle of fear, hatred and violence, and to gain a better understanding of Islam through reflection and by reading the real source, i.e., the Holy Qur’an and the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
The Iranian Leader urges the youth to resist violence and embrace peace, to conduct independent research and adopt the conclusions arrived at, and to not judge Islam based on partial reports or fanatical interpretations.
Overall, since the historic epistle was written on January 21 in response to the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, it also uncovers the irrefutable fact that foreign-backed terrorist goons and ‘Jihadi Johns’ in Iraq and Syria, who coerce their subjects through intolerable violence to accept Islam against their will, cannot be called Muslims. They are only there to tarnish the image of Islam, because as per the holy texts, non-Muslims must be allowed to remain on their own faith and practice the rights of their faith as it can be readily seen in Iran.
Into the argument, Ayatollah Khamenei addresses the youth because Western governments deliberately refuse to introduce useful projects to let their children understand Islam better. They refuse to help them bring new ideas and energy to add to the pool of knowledge that currently exists about Islam.
This while the youth represent future and bring enthusiasm and vitality, which can lead to new understanding and dialogue that could benefit society and the world at large. The Iranian Leader sees the youth and places his hope in the youth, because Islam is spreading in Europe where they are the key drivers engendering change. He never underestimates this important development, particularly now that there is a growing need to understand the true Islam and rebuff false interpretations.
Even in Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei commonly addresses the youth in his forthright writings and encompassing speeches to shed light on the intellectual conditions that allow radical dogma to exist. He has never taught the Iranian youth that modernity and Islam are antithetical, or that they should never engage in inter-faith dialogue with counterparts in the West.
In stark contrast, he always teaches that a balance between Western culture and Islamic culture is achievable, and that this balance can be learned through spiritual and intellectual inquiry alike – where far right Western dogma and radical Islam are no longer foils for one another, and Western youth are no longer taught the dogma that freedom, equality and brotherhood are uniquely Western values.
This is the ultimate message. It might be short, but it says much more than the words written on it. Studying other religions does not mean converting to other religions, but learning more about ‘others’ who are different from us and can bring diversity and great values to improve comprehending our own nature.
In its embrace of an intellectual discourse, the Iranian Leader’s historic letter to the youth in the West is encompassing, truly intimate and exceptionally sincere, whose impact will be revealed in future.