Ayatollah Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran, has published his own response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks in an open letter in English addressed “To the Youth in Europe and North America”.
The letter claims the West is subject to a disinformation campaign from its politicians and criticizes Islamophobia in Western media.
The Ayatollah urges young people to seek out their own, independent understandings of Islam, which he believes is necessary after “many attempts” in the last twenty years “to place this great religion in the seat of a horrifying enemy”.
His letter makes two requests, the first asking western youth to: “Study and research the incentives behind this widespread tarnishing of the image of Islam.”
My second request is that in reaction to the flood of prejudgments and disinformation campaign, try to gain a direct and firsthand knowledge of this religion. The right logic requires that you understand the nature and essence of what they are frightening you about and want you to keep away from.
Receive knowledge of Islam from its primary and original sources. Gain information about Islam through the Qur’an and the life of its great Prophet. I would like to ask you whether you have directly read the Qur’an of the Muslims. Have you studied the teachings of the Prophet of Islam and his humane, ethical doctrines? Have you ever received the message of Islam from any sources other than the media?
- Ayatollah Khamenei
However, despite the open tone of his letter, commentators have been quick to identify some crucial flaws and missing information.
Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, a founding partner of the Europe-Iran Forum, writes in Quartz that the letter contains no direct condemnation of terrorism or religiously-motivated violence, instead taking an indirect, philosophical approach to the problem by asking youth to “write history”.
For those seeking to understand Iran and this letter, this is the ultimate message. In its embrace of an intellectual discourse, the letter can be insincere and genuine, hypocritical and forthright, incomplete and all encompassing.
- Esfandyar Batmanghelidj
You can read Ayatollah Khamenei's full letter here.