In an e-mail interview with a News Agency, Derek R. Ford talked about his views on Ayatollah Khamenei’s January letter to the youth in North America and Europe that called them to gain a direct and firsthand knowledge of the religion in reaction to the flood of prejudgments and disinformation campaigns.
Ford is an academic, teacher, and organizer living in New York. He is the author (with Curry Malott) of the book Marx, Capital, and Education: Towards a Critical Pedagogy of Becoming (forthcoming, Peter Lang), and currently teaches in the Social Justice Studies Program at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.
Here is what the American academic has said of his views on the letter:
reporter: Regarding the recent letter from Iran’s Supreme Leader to the youth of Europe and North America, how could it be (more) effective in attracting those youth to the real and authentic Islam?
Ford: First off, thank you so much for your time and efforts in this regard. Building bridges between Islam and the West is of the upmost importance in the current moment.
The questions raised in Ayatollah Khamenei’s recent letter can help combat the pervasive anti-Islam culture of the West, especially by locating Islamophobia as part of a longer history of “phobia” spreading. When we ask the question, as Khamenei asks us to, as to why it is that the policy of spreading phobia has targeted Islam we immediately begin to see that it has nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with politics and economics. In other words, Khamenei’s letter helps us to link anti-Islamism with the agenda of imperialism and capitalism.
reporter: How capable is the message in preventing or at least reducing the ongoing Islamophobia in the West?
Ford: The content of the letter can absolutely contribute to correcting the pervading anti-Islam sentiment in the West. The main question is: How can we effectively get this message out to young people?
reporter: Do you think America’s mainstream media are interested in publishing the Supreme Leader’s letter?
Ford: Where I am, in the US, the vast majority of media outlets are owned by a small handful of corporations, the same corporations that benefit from the construction of Muslim people as “other,” the same corporations that profit from the wars against Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Libya. These corporations would also like a war against the independent nation of Iran because the government and people of Iran do not bend to the will of US imperialism. As such, they have zero interest in publishing this letter.
reporter: How do you evaluate the content of the letter?
Ford: One of the most important parts of this letter comes at the very beginning, when the Ayatollah writes that Islam has been demonized since the overthrow of the Soviet Union. This is an absolutely crucial point, because it speaks to the need for the US to always have an “other,” an enemy that is potentially everything. This is what feeds hysteria in the US, and it’s what justifies US imperialism. The reality, of course, is that the real enemy is here in the US; the real enemy is on Wall Street and in the Pentagon.
reporter: In your opinion, could this letter be a new chapter in paying attention to Islam by Europeans?
Ford: There is a pressing need for people in North America and Europe to engage in a serious engagement with the thought and practices of the Islamic world. Of course, the Islamic world is also present on those continents. I hope that this letter contributes toward this engagement.
reporter: Can this letter show the differences between authentic Islam and the one that ISIL and other terrorist’s groups have made?
Ford: While this letter can absolutely serve this purpose, what is even more effective in demonstrating this difference are the actions taken by Iran. What could be more convincing in showing the differences between Islam and ISIS than the fact that Iran has consistently been one of the forces most opposed to ISIS, in word and in deed?
reporter: If the letter reached the hands of the youth of Europe and North America and then they study the authentic sources of Islam, will it change anything special?
Ford: The distorted picture of Islam that is portrayed not only by ISIS, but also by the US media, is one of the most debilitating forces acting on people in North America and Europe today. In reality, Islamophobia -and not Islam- is a terrorist belief. Islamophobia justifies the terrorism inflicted upon the people of the Middle East by the world’s most powerful and arrogant militaries. If people take a real look at the rich history of Islamic thought, even a close one, this dangerous doctrine of Islamophobia can begin to be countered.
reporter: In your opinion, what is the next step in order to enlighten the youth in the West on introducing real Islam?
Ford: I am not sure what else a country like Iran can do that it isn’t already doing. I think that the major responsibility lies on those in Europe and North America. We have to ask the important questions raised by the Ayatollah to each other, to our friends, our family members and loved ones, our coworkers. The mainstream media and the government will not do it, so it’s up to us.