The legacy of Imam Khomeini is, on the eve of the thirtieth anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, still very relevant to contemporary global issues. Imam died on this day 19 years ago after leading the Revolution for several decades and establishing the first modern Islamic Republic as an independent and viable system of governance. The personality and character of Imam as a progressive thinker and inspiring political leader, who led his nation through a peaceful revolution, facing a major global power with empty hands and only hearts filled with faith and resolve is worth studying. Imam set an example of integrity and high ethical standards for political leadership. He revived a modern and forward -looking interpretation of Islam that resonated with the concerns and aspirations of the young generations.
Imam relieved the followers of the religion from both backwardness and westernized alienation at the same time. During his leadership he provided a practical and viable model of governance and moral, spiritual as well as political leadership. Contemporary Islamic scholars and leaders could not match Imam's progressive insight into modern challenges such as economic policy, music, and women's rights. Imam believed and fought for the democratic values of the Republic at the same time as he stood for the Islamic quality and values.
His perspectives were not limited to the realm of the Islamic world alone but he addressed humanity in many of his statements ;as he felt that they faced common challenges and sufferings . His legacy provided inspiration for the downtrodden and oppressed, he identified with them as a religious leader and questioned the unjust world order that had undermined their existence for the benefit of a few.
I can never forget the numerous instances where in different parts of the world I have witnessed how Imam Khomeini had conquered the hearts and minds of millions.
In 1985, I was in Kenya for an international event and we had some time to visit Mombasa in outskirts of Nairobi. When the local people realized we had come from Iran they gathered to welcome us and while one of them took me to her small hut to show me how she had a picture of Imam on the wall of her room another young boy ran back home only to bring back a black and white copy of his picture carefully pasted in a wooden frame.
Imam was rarely depicted realistically by the major world media which were mostly American and a few European. He was designated by Time Magazine as Man of the Year in 1979, yet in a clearly biased and distorted manner. His message however, had spread and his vision of a rational and progressive Islam which was revolutionary and motivating but not reactionary and violent was welcomed by people who identified themselves with those values.
Influenced by maligned propaganda against the Revolution, scholars and academia in the West have rarely been able to objectively address the issue and to study and assess his personality and lifetime achievements. Only after the advent of Talebanism and Al Qaeda did they realize how inherently rational and reasonable the campaign and Revolution of Imam Khomeini stands today.