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Unworthy of Honor: Khomeini's tribute is a disgrace

07:54 PM CST on Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Most Americans remember the Ayatollah Khomeini. He was one of the great villains of the 20th century, who bequeathed his patrimony of fanaticism and hatred to the 21st.

Khomeini led the 1979 Iranian revolution that overthrew the corrupt shah and replaced the government with a brutal Islamic theocracy that today is locked in battle with reformers seeking to end a quarter century of repression. Khomeini preached worldwide violent Islamic revolution, thundering that "those who study Islamic Holy War will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world."

"Why do you only read the Quranic verses of mercy and do not read the verses of killing?" Khomeini challenged fellow clerics in a 1981 speech. "Qu'ran says: kill, imprison! Why are you only clinging to the part that talks about mercy? Mercy is against God." The tyrant also exhorted his followers to "kill all the unbelievers just as they would kill you all."

That's some vision. Yet a Muslim group based in Irving hosted a seminar earlier this month paying "tribute to the great Islamic visionary." It's chilling to think that any local Muslim would be willing to honor such a man, especially with the United States under the threat of attack by Islamic terrorists.

Dismayingly, the list of speakers at the Irving event included some of North Texas' best-known mainstream Islamic figures, including Dr. Yusuf Kavakci of Dallas Central Mosque, widely considered a moderate. He and other leaders shared the roster with Mohammed Asi, a radical Washington imam whom, according to The Washington Post, U.S. officials suspect to be an Iranian agent.

Dr. Kavakci declined two invitations to tell us why he attended the conference. We tried to obtain a tape of the conference, but we're told none is available. Another attendee, Mohamed Elibiary, president and CEO of the Plano-based Freedom and Justice Foundation, shares his reasons for attending on the opposite page. Still, we are hard-pressed to understand what good could possibly come from attending – let alone hosting – such a forum.

Event organizer Imam Shamshad Haider told us that Khomeini has been unjustly portrayed in the Western media. He complained in a television interview last week that Khomeini had been unfairly judged on only one aspect of his personality.

Imam Haider insists that the theme of the conference was Muslim unity. Other area Muslim leaders who spoke at the event support this contention, saying they agreed to speak to foster cohesion between Sunni and Shia Muslims, not necessarily to endorse Khomeini.

That may be true on one level. But no amount of good Khomeini might have done can possibly balance his blood-soaked legacy. Unity is a poor excuse for legitimizing the views of Khomeini admirers by appearing at this event, even if it drew fewer than 100 attendees, as one participant told us.

If Muslim leaders want to be perceived by the broader community as men of good will and moderation, they need to make clear what they consider radical and extreme and treat it accordingly.

Pockets of Islamic radicalism exist in North Texas. We don't believe – and this is important to get straight – that they characterize most Muslims in the Dallas area. But these elements are here, and we cannot afford to ignore them. Neither can the Muslim community avoid the responsibility for policing itself.

As former FBI counterterrorism chief and Rowlett resident Oliver "Buck" Revell tells us, "If we continue to be deaf, dumb and blind to what's plainly in front of us, we have no one to blame but ourselves."

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