In an interview, Charles Taliaferro said that Ayatollah Khamenei’s second letter to western youth was crucial in that it clearly distantiates the mainstream of Muslims from terrorism which in the west had been systematically seen as inherent to and fed by the faith teachings. The professor also believes that there would be a need felt among the Muslims to establish a single voice which would unite them and announce the faith’s positions officially in global matters. This is why the world public sees Islam as a disparate collection of cacophonous voices which hold different and often clashing opinions about important matters:
In his second letter to western youth, Ayatollah Khamenei has talked about terrorism and its roots. What is the importance of this issue?
It is vital that the Ayatollah Khamenei is seen as finding the recent terrorist attacks as abhorrent and a complete disfiguration and perversion of true Islam. Any hint that Islam supports terrorism would be poisonous from the standpoint of the west, and against what the best, more enlightened leaders in the West believe, or, despite Islamophobia as it appears in some cultural avenues, there is a huge appreciation in the West today for the integrity of Islam, its greatness and its heritage. The Ayatollah’s firm repudiation of terrorism is important, welcome, and needs to be heard in clear terms by persons of all ages. The fact that the Islamic Republic of Iran condemns terrorism is of the utmost importance at this time, when there is a global sense of the horror of terrorism and its cost in the lives of persons of all ages. The Ayatollah’s addressing the young is forward-moving.
He has emphasized that Islam is the religion of friendship, why some try to introduce Islam as the religion of violence?
It is more important than ever to stress Islam as a capacious, welcoming faith that does not ferment or inflame its youth or persons of any age into violence. The link between Islam and violence is the result of dramatic, abhorrent acts of fringe groups. It is the hope of many in the west that there would be a demonstrable offense against ISIL. That would do a great deal to deepen the sense in the West that Islam is indeed a religion of peace that is profoundly opposed and enemies of those who resort to terrorism, as the Ayatollah eloquently stated at the very beginning of his letter.
Why some try to make connection between Islam and terrorism after any terrorist act happening around the world?
This may be because Islam is not seen by the world as united by a single person, like the Pope or the Dalai Lama, or a single, unified council, like a global parliament, that can speak for all Muslims everywhere with one unified voice condemning terrorism.
What is the importance of this letter at this juncture?
I think that the more stress that can be placed on Islamic leaders addressing persons of all ages that Islam is profoundly opposed to terrorism, both in its visible as well as in what the Ayatollah refers to as its invisible forms.
Charles Taliaferro is the author, co-author or editor of over twenty books and is the Editor-in Chief of the journal Open Theology, based in Berlin, Germany.