Italian Cultural Anthropologist, President of the Ancis Anthropology Forum
What’s written in the letter is very true, we must learn from the real sources. I hope that this letter could help the youth in studying Islam as a religion, and lessen the bad propaganda against Islam. Ayatollah Khamenei said that there had been a flood of misinformation about Islam in the West. Unfortunately, in western countries people who declare themselves as ‘experts’ on Islam are sometimes confused in their understanding of the religion. Even the ones who try to tarnish the image of Islam, most of the time, don’t know what they are talking about. This is one of the reasons behind the increase in Islamophobia in the West. Iran’s Supreme Leader understands better than anyone the importance of the new generation. He is talking to them because he knows the elders are already spoiled. He knows that we must push our youth to learn and study, since they are the future. If we encourage our youth to understand Islam from the (real) sources, we can hope for a better future with less people afraid of Islam.
Islamophobia is just a fear of what we don’t know. In Italy, We have also had some cases of Islamophobia since people confuse Islam with terrorism. With our immigration policies, we have many Muslim people here in Italy who have escaped from war or difficulties in their countries to find a better life either in Italy or in Europe. Unfortunately these people may be stigmatized as people who may import terrorism to Italy. Especially, at this moment when we are living in fear of terrorist attacks, in a state of maximum alert.
When the letter first appeared in English on the website I told myself: this will be a historic letter. As far as I know, this is the first time that Iran’s Supreme Leader has talked to western youth in this personal way. The letter, it seems to me, is saying much more than the words written on it. I was surprised as well to see that the letter was not on the first page of Italian Newspapers. The reasons could be varied. Even though Italy and Iran have great cooperation in many fields and we also see the new Italian government ready to talk with and invest in Iran, still there are some elements within the media that are unenthusiastic about publishing a letter from the Leader of Islam Republic of Iran. We can think of it as a sign of respect: the important words from a religious leader could not be shared just on a piece of paper, but still this reflects my theory about the prejudice on Iran. If something bad (according to western eyes) happens in Iran, the news will be on the front pages, however, if it is good news it means no news. In this case, they have made a mistake. We will see in the future the power of the Supreme Leader’s words.
The best of this letter is the way the Leader emphasizes the new generation’s education. He, with all his experience and culture, knows that education is the way to succeed. Not only in school or university, education is the way to resist war and bring peace on Earth. It is very important that he didn’t force the youth to convert to Islam and be Muslim, but just urged them to understand Islam and study it from the real sources. Secondly, he did not refer to violence directly, but talked about the intellectual conditions that allow ideologies of violence to exist. Some Western countries are losing more values day by day and most of the youth do not have any hope for the future, not even dreams. I am not a Muslim, but I have not seen in any other religion the devotion I see in Islam. I think Islam can help all of us understand better the world we live in. The territory of Islam has given birth to the most famous scientists and intellectuals. How can we believe that the same territory has given birth to people who spread death? Whoever draws a parallel between Islam and terrorist groups certainly doesn’t know Islam. The Supreme Leader shuns terrorist acts. It is unthinkable that someone who really believes in a religion may commit these acts. How can a religion of peace order people to kill other people? Islam has nothing to do with this brutality. What people do not understand yet is that the primary victim of this cruelty is Islam itself. They operate in the name of Islam but the reasons are not religious, but just political. These attacks and terrorist groups are damaging the peaceful vision of Islam. We must ask ourselves who will benefit or get power by showing Islam as a hostile force.
We know that Islam is spreading in Europe. We have also seen an increase in the number of conversion to Islam in Italy. Islam is the second faith in Italy. I think the next steps must be taken by Western governments to let people understand Islam better. In Italy we have already schools with scholars from diverse nationalities and I hope in future we will be able to introduce lessons of ‘Religious Studies’ instead of studying one religion. Studying other religions does not mean converting to other religions, but learning more about something we don’t know. In his letter, Ayatollah Khamenei wrote about the ‘Others’. This term is exactly what we must understand. Knowing the ‘Other’ means knowing people who are different from us and we must consider diversities as great values order to improve our comprehension of our own nature.