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Grandson of Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini Calls for Separation of Mosque and State - 2003-09-26


The grandson of the architect of Iran's Islamic Revolution was in Washington on Friday to talk about the need for reform in his homeland. His call for separation of mosque and state contradicts the philosophy of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini whose revolution toppled Shah Reza Pahlevi in 1979.

Hossein Khomeini is related to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini by blood but not by the policy he espouses. The young religious cleric says he grew disenchanted with his grandfather's Islamic republic about two years after it was established. The Iranian cleric Hossein Khomeini, who has the same piercing look as his grandfather, told a Washington audience the goals the revolution strived for have not been achieved.

"The important goal for the Iranian people in the revolution was the creation of democracy and political freedom," he said. "But after the victory of the revolution, as we all know, the goals were not achieved and there were no more freedoms in Iran. And, a greater and more ruthless dictatorship became prevalent in Iran and still goes on."

Mr. Khomeini says he disagrees with the idea of an Islamic government, suggesting the concentration of authority in a supreme religious leader contradicts Islamic practise.

"There should be reliance of course on the wishes of the people, at the same time on the edicts of Islamic text," he said. "There is no way to rule present communities in the Middle East except [by] the government of reason and rationality. And these forms of government we call democratic regimes. Democracy is compatible with all basic values of Shiism and Islamic law. And faith is free and individuals can follow a partiular religion or not as they wish."

Mr. Khomeini says he focused much of the past 25 years on religious studies at holy Shiite learning centers in Iran and Iraq. He does not explain why he has decided to start speaking out now but says Iranians are tired of the restrictions that have been imposed on them for the past quarter of a century and need change.

He says he strongly supports calls for a referendum on the issue of separation of mosque and state. "If the Iranian people vote for continuation of the Islamic Republic so much the better for the regime, they can breathe a sigh of relief and continue their governance. And, if not, if the people vote against them, they can retire in honor and probably as heroes because they have allowed the referendum," he said.

Mr. Khomeini, who is now residing in Iraq, says the United States needs to focus more attention on Iranian reform movements but he stops short of advocating a repeat of the U.S. military intervention in Iraq for his country.