Majid Majidi’s Address to Istanbul World Forum
Thursday, October 18, 2012
The world-famous Iranian film director, who is currently making his new film, Muhammad (PBUH) on the life of Prophet of Islam (PBUH), addressed the Istanbul World Forum on Saturday October 13, asking why Israel can stockpile up to 300 nuclear warheads in its nuclear arsenal without allowing international bodies to inspect them.
The forum was held on October 13-14, 2012, at Istanbul Congress Center in Turkey.
The inaugural ceremony was attended by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and was held under supervision of Turkey’s Prime Minister Office. The event was focused on “justice” as its main theme during which Majid Majidi talked about justice in cinema and arts. What follows is the complete text of his speech:
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful;
As an artist and filmmaker, I express may delight at the holding of an international forum with justice and equality as its main terms, and also express my gratitude to its officials for organizing such an event. I hope discussions in this forum would help us to find useful and valuable solutions to problems of the contemporary world.
As an artist from Iran, a country with thousands of years of cultural and civilizational background, I feel that the world today still needs justice even more than it did during preceding centuries. Despite all slogans, addresses and various written materials, and in spite of the existence of different international organizations and institutions which have made promotion of justice in the world their main goal, the justice is still missing in our world. Speaking out of the depth of my heart, I must admit that justice in the modern world is receiving even less attention than the ancient world. In other words, the prevalence of oppression and tyranny in the world today is even more than before. If many centuries ago, injustice showed its heinous and ugly face in the form of massacre, destruction, and murder, and was symbolized by bloodthirsty tyrants like Nero, Genghis, and Attila; today, tyranny and injustice have taken on a beautiful and luring façade and are disguised within the wrap of attractive and enticing words; they are sometimes even presented under the guise of justice and goodness.
Our world today has done nothing to reduce the intensity of human massacre, poverty and destruction. Figures released by the United Nations last week showed that one out of every eight person is hungry; in other words, there are 870 million people suffering from hunger in our world.
Pogrom and genocide still exist in our world: not many years have passed since human catastrophes in Bosnia, Srebrenitsa, Halabja, Sabra and Shatila, and still similar crimes are repeated all across the world and in such areas as Parachinar in Pakistan, in Myanmar, and various parts of Africa. The regrettable point, however, is that the tyrants, murderers, and criminals have assumed a demagogic appearance in order to pass themselves as saviors, saints and even prophets.
By liberation, they mean occupation and aggression; by salvation and saving, they mean murder and assassination; and in the meantime, they call sanctions and pressures [against other countries] as freedom and justice. All this distortion has been made possible through the help of arts as well as the unparalleled power of the modern media.
It is the media which disguise ugliness as beauty and it is still the media which call crimes, justice.
Today, as a Muslim Iranian artist, I want to point out two painful features of the modern world of arts and media.
These two features have become indispensable components of media in the time of technology and modernism.
The modern media and artists have paved the way for subsequent crimes of politicians by their lies. These people [media crew] plant [the seed] today, and they [the politicians] harvest the crop tomorrow.
Here, I want to make a reference to a great master of media lies. Many years have passed since the downfall of the bloodthirsty regime of “[Adolf] Hitler” and “Nazi Germany” but methods used by the Nazi minister of propaganda, [Paul] Joseph Goebbels still hold water and principles of his propaganda style are followed all through the world in an almost uniform manner.
Allow me to give you a few sentences of what he believed, as evidence to what I am saying here. He said a lie should be so big that nobody would dare or even think about denying it.
He later admitted that some of the lies he had said were so big that they even scared him.
His fuehrer, Hitler, also believed that if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.
Elsewhere, Goebbels refers to an ugly, but very effective, trick; a trick which has many advocate among the media crew today. He said if a little truth is mixed with a big lie, people would accept it more readily.
Now I ask you: Isn’t this what exactly the modern media are doing today?
An example: You are well aware who forged the Taliban and al-Qaeda and supported them. [You know] which Western states and their regional allies showered them with money and other means and helped them to dominate the lives and property of millions of innocent Afghans; what massacres and crimes were carried out at the hands of the followers of Bin Laden and Molla Omar.
Here is a little truth: Taliban had a Muslim façade. The “big lie” however, is when they want to equate Islam with the Taliban and al-Qaeda and make films to promote Islamophobia across the world; then they raise the outcry of justice and make every effort to prepare the world public opinion for any kind of military attack, occupation or aggression.
This is exactly when oppression assumes the appearance of justice and freedom.
Such lie-mongering has not simply targeted Islam alone, but at times it has gone after ethnic groups and nationalities as well.
For example, as an Iranian, I have to mournfully make a reference to the movie 300 in which Iranians had been depicted as a barbarian, plundering and uncultured nation to the opposite of the Greeks who were shown as sacrificing and heroic people.
The second feature of media which has caused them to tarnish the concept of justice is discrimination and double standards. If tyranny and oppression is ugly, it should be considered so all across the world. If incarcerating the innocent should be condemned, it should be so for the entire world.
If the rights of minorities should be respected, they should be respected by all countries. It is not fair to notice such examples of injustice in one place and turn a blind eye on them in other places. Discrimination and double standards are frequently seen in the news and media reports as well as in cultural products and [generally speaking] in the world of artists.
If human rights and human freedoms are a focus of attention in Syria, how come other countries like Bahrain are forgotten in spite of the fact that their prisons are filled with dissidents?
If occupation and aggression against all territories, including invasion and occupation of Kuwait by [the defunct Iraqi dictator] Saddam Hussein, should be condemned and all the world people should rush to help Kuwait, why a similar step was not taken in the face of many years of the occupation of [parts of] Iran by the same Saddam?
If Iran should not have nuclear energy, why the Israeli regime can stockpile up to 300 nuclear warheads hidden in its arsenal without being forced to allow international organizations to inspect them?
If the destruction of ancient statues of Buddha in Bamyan, Afghanistan, should raise a loud cry through the world, why destruction of a historical and religious shrine in the Iraqi city of Samarra did not elicit a similar reaction?
If there is so much fuss over freedom of religion in Iran, why the same issue is easily forgotten in Saudi Arabia?
If heaps of news items and reports are prepared and published about the injustice done to the Christian minority in Darfur, Sudan, then we must also do something about crimes against the Shiite minority in Pakistan’s Parachinar region.
If respect for the convictions and beliefs of atheists and even homosexuals is necessary, how come that they remain so indifferent to grave insults by a spiteful pastor against a prophet, who is the leader of one billion and six hundred million Muslims?
In short, as long as the media crew and artists resort to these two features of lie and discrimination in a bid to guide the world public opinion in a single, predetermined direction, justice and fairness will not go beyond words and will be never put into action.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The God has frequently chided lying and liars in the Quran, our divine book. For example, in Sura Nahl, Verse 105, He says, “Only those people tell lies who have no faith in the signs of God and they are true liars.”
The Old Testament says in the Song of Solomon, Chapter 12, Verse 17 and subsequent verses that when truth is told, “justice” is realized, but lying treads upon justice.
If falsehood is ephemeral, truth remains for all eternity. Justice and righteousness set the path of life while evil and sin set the [human] course to death and destruction.
From the viewpoint of divine religions, justice cannot be realized as long as falsehood and lying is rife.
If we are really concerned about injustice in the world, it would be fair enough to first clarify our definition of justice.
Unfortunately, all the existing dictators in our world carry out all kinds of injustice under the false cover of justice.
I have been preoccupied with the making of a film about the Prophet of Islam Mohammad (PBUH) and, therefore, I had to seriously study the life of divine prophets, especially the Prophet of Islam (PBUH). That study further strengthened my firm belief that the realization of justice in the world will be only possible in the light of teachings of divine prophets, which are truly based on truth and righteousness.
The justice that I saw in the conduct of the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) I have never seen in the manners of any worldly ruler. When we look at his close followers, we see the poor and the rich, the Arab and non-Arab, and the black and white all in the same place and it is then that we realize the true meaning of justice.
Here, I seek help from his divine book, the Quran, and away from this world, which is infested with lies, I read as such: “O you who believe, be maintainers of justice, bearers of witness for Allah, even though it be against your own selves or (your) parents or near relatives — whether they be rich or poor, Allah has a better right over them both. So follow not (your) low desires, lest you deviate. And if you distort or turn away from (truth), surely Allah is always Aware of what you do.” [Chapter Nisa (Women): Verse 135]
Here, the word is again about the association between justice and truth.
I look at the words of Prophet Mohammad’s (PBUH) disciple, that is, Imam Ali (AS), and I see in his letter to Malik Ashtar (when appointing the latter as governor of Egypt), he says: “O Malik! People are two groups; either your brethren in faith, or the likes of you in creation. Therefore, you should be kind and show compassion to both groups.”
This is how justice flows in the words of the successor to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). It is a justice which is more compatible to human nature; a justice which is not tarnished by passage of time; a justice for which the head of the Prophet’s House is assassinated and martyred due to extreme care that he showed for observing that justice.
There are no more divine prophets in our time to invite people to good and justice.
We cineastes, artists and media crew, can convey the message of justice and good in the absence of prophets, provided that we avoid lying, discrimination and evil.
Before us, many big names in cinema did this, including [Vittorio] De Sica in Bicycle Thieves, [Federico] Fellini in The Road, [Akira] Kurosawa in Seven Samurai, and John Ford in The Grapes of Wrath; we can also follow in their footsteps.
I conclude my address with a message from a man who was tyrannically killed along with his companions in Karbala Desert some 1,400 years ago and whose heads were raised aloft on the enemies’ spears. The message he gave on that day, is a message to all of us today: “If you have no religion and do not fear the Resurrection Day, at least, act like free men in this world.”