Outside of the Islamic Republic, Toronto is perhaps the one city where the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran has been celebrated regularly. The attendance of people—Muslims as well as non-Muslims—is always very high, reflecting the deep influence the Islamic revolution has had on their thinking.
This year was no exception. Held on February 12, 2010, the anniversary celebrations were spearheaded by the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought (ICIT) and supported by peace and anti-war groups in Canada, Al-Haadi Musalla, CASMO as well as the Islamic Society of York Region. A novel feature of this year’s celebrations was a direct video link with Hamid Shahrabi, an Iranian activist in Tehran, who is part of a worldwide campaign to mobilize people against an attack or threat of an attack against the Islamic Republic.
The main attraction for this year’s event was Cynthia McKinney, former US Congress woman and Green Party Presidential candidate in the 2008 US Presidential elections. Joining Ms McKinney were Phil Wilayto, American Peace Activist and author, and Jorge Soberon, Consul General of Cuba in Toronto.
The Conference theme was “Global Peace in the Age of Imperialism”. In addition to celebrating the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran 32 years ago, the overthrow of the Mubarak regime in Egypt was also a major cause for celebrations. Speakers repeatedly drew attention to the changes that have occurred in Tunisia and Egypt and how these will have major repercussions in the region.
Zafar Bangash, Director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought, welcomed the guests and drew attention to the fact that this year’s anniversary celebrations coincided with the birthday of the noble Prophet (saws), as well as the martyrdom of El-Haj Malik Shabazz, better known as Malcolm X. He congratulated the speakers as well as participants on the momentous changes that have swept the Middle East.
He drew attention to the life-struggle of the noble Prophet (saws) against tyranny and oppression in Makkah and how through patience, perseverance and steadfastness, he overcame the forces of darkness. This example was followed, many centuries later, by Imam Khomeini (ra) when he brought down the US-backed Shah regime and established the first Islamic State in contemporary Islamic history.
Jorge Soberon, Cuba’s Consul General, paid tribute to the struggle of the people of Iran and said his country opposed any threats of military attack or sanctions against the Islamic Republic. He emphasized that Cuba stood with the people and government of Iran to maintain their independence and dignity.
Phil Wilayto, the American peace activist who has written a highly readable book, In Defence of Iran, addressed the issue of media myths about Iran. He debunked the many myths including the allegation that Iran was making nuclear weapons. He said no proof had ever been provided yet this lie was constantly peddled in order to demonize Islamic Iran. He also gave interesting details about his visit to the Islamic Republic and the great hospitality he enjoyed paying tribute to the culture and long history of Iran.
Cynthia McKinney’s much anticipated speech revolved around US foreign policy and how it undermined the legitimate aspirations of the people. She made repeated references to the struggle of the people in Palestine, Egypt, Lebanon and Tunisia and said it was their right to determine their own destiny free from the exploitative policies of the US and the west. She also highlighted the life struggle of Malcolm X saying that he displayed courage and commitment and was prepared to lay down his life for his principles.
She narrated a moving account of Malcolm’s last day in life. He had already received a threatening phone call on the morning of February 21, 1965, the day he was martyred, that there were people planning to kill him. “He could have opted not to go there; he could have left the country. But Malcolm chose not to do so. Instead, he told his wife to dress the children in their best clothes and take them to the Audobahn Auditorium where he was to address the people.” Malcolm X was gunned down as he stepped to the podium. “He preferred to lay down his life rather than run away fearing death.”
Cynthia McKinney linked this with the courage displayed by the Iranian, Palestinian, Lebanese and Egyptian peoples to confront the powers that want to subjugate them. Her moving account deeply affected and inspired those present.
A lively question and answer session followed before conclusion.
The program was remarkable for the fact that those attending it represented all schools of thought in Islam as well as members of other faith communities including Christians and non-zionist Jews.
Cynthia McKinney will be giving several interviews as well as addressing gatherings in universities in Canada before returning home.