Sunday Afternoon With Sohrab

Sohrab is not a fan of Salmon Rushdie. He is of the opinion that you can’t get people to listen to what you have to say if you start the conversation by ridiculing their beliefs. He said this on Sunday afternoon as we sipped hot tea and shelled and popped pistachios.

When I got to his house he showed me a picture he had discovered on the internet of Adelabad. He pointed to a wall next to a guard tower and in a mournful voice said “on the other side of that wall is where they shot all the people.”

Adelabad housed both men and women. On the website were posted pictures of many of the young people murdered there, most were pictures of young women.

I asked him if he wanted to talk about it. He said yes.

Sohrab spent more than a year at Adelabad (one of four prisons in which he would be a guest of the Ayatollah Khomeini, the others being Bosher, Ahwaz and Kerman). It was while trying to help a young woman who was about to be arrested by Islamic Revolutionary Guards, (Hezbollah) at a bus station that he was hustled off to Shiraz’s infamous prison.

It was at Adelabad that he said he met one of two of the cruelest men it would be his misfortune to cross paths. One of them was the brutal compassionless boss of the prison. A few months after his incarceration, the boss left to fight in the Iranian/Iraq war only to return three months later in a wheelchair having lost both legs. The prisoners of Adelabad would be made to pay for the lost of his limbs.

Our discussion turned to the situation in Iran.

He did not hold up much hope. He said that a popular uprising could only lead to a countrywide massacre. The Ayatollahs, he said, murdered to get the power and are ready to commit mass murder to keep it, and have the means to carry it out with, at their disposal, more than a million Islamic Revolutionary Guards and young people who have only known an Islamic regime.

Khamenei has set the stage by claiming that opposing the rule of the Ayatollahs is like opposing Allah and His Messenger. In Islam, to oppose Allah and the Prophet means death.

Allah in the Koran is quick to exterminate those who would deny His Rule or His Existence after receiving what He calls "the clear proofs" , i.e., the Koran.

Popular dissent or "sedition" in the Koran is also justification for mass murder: "Kill them wherever you find them and drive them out wherever they drove you out. Sedition is worse than slaughter… [2:191]"

With Allah as a role model for the Ayatollahs, I share Sohrab’s uneasiness.

The issue, as Sohrab framed it, is not the Prophet but the Koran (I do not differentiate between the two, as he does).

A prominent Muslim whom I asked to review Pain, Pleasure and Prejudice warned me that, for a Muslim to express even a mild criticism of the Koran is a very dangerous thing.

At the risk of putting words in Sohrab's mouth he said: "the Koran is not about peace and love, it's about submission and domination. Whether you think this is a good or a bad thing, you should at least be honest about it."

Sohrab actually thinks my layman's guide to the Koran is a good place to start being honest about it; not that he agrees with everything I wrote, of course, and that is the way it should be.

Bernard Payeur, March 16, 2010