“We have enemies who are trying to say that Iran is a divisive entity, but the facts speak way beyond that and what Iran is doing,” she told the Tehran Times on the sidelines of the International Islamic Unity Conference in Tehran on Thursday.
Ms. Hashemi, who converted to Islam in the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution, also said the most important way to overcome Islamophobia in Western countries is through person-to-person contact between Muslims and non-Muslims.
The transcript of the interview is presented below:
Q: What’s the significance of the International Islamic Unity Conference and how can this event promote unity between Sunni and Shia Muslims?
A: I think the International Islamic Unity Conference is very important and of course we’ve been seeing it take place for years now. It is important that we continue to stress that sense of commonness between the Sunnis and the Shias and that Islam is what’s important. We have to make sure that we’re strong and that we’re united and that we stand together, especially during these times that the enemies are trying to divide us. If we stand together, with the population that we have in our Islamic Ummah, victory is promised to us and there’s no way that we can be defeated. The defeat will only come if we allow others to divide us. Whether it’s dealing with ethnicities or nationalities, we know that as Muslims we must be above that and that Islam is our priority. Inshallah we will be able to be even more united and Inshallah we will have the ultimate victory.
Q: Some countries say Iran is a divisive entity that divides Muslims by following sectarian policies. What’s your thought?
A: What we have seen in the forty-year history of the Islamic Republic, from the Islamic Revolution on, is the opposite of that. We have seen policies coming out of Iran that definitely encourage unity. If we go back to the time of Imam Khomeini at the beginning of the Revolution and what happened right after that, we see that actually the Israeli embassy under the time of the Shah was given to the Palestinians after the Revolution. We know that the Palestinians are not Shia, so it is not about Shia or Sunni, it is about what is right as well as fighting against oppression. And I think the Islamic Republic has proven itself time and time again that it is definitely not trying to divide the Ummah, but it is bringing it together. We have enemies who are trying to say that Iran is a divisive entity, but the facts speak way beyond that and what Iran is doing, for example this conference right now. If Iran was promoting division, then why would it continue to encourage unity? And I believe this is the 33rd conference, so it’s not new. This demonstrates that from the very beginning, Iran has been stressing the importance of unity. Again, it’s with unity that we will have the ultimate victory.
Q: Isalmophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry are currently very prevalent in Western societies. How can such conferences help resolve those issues and promote more nuanced views of Islam and Muslims?
A: I think by bringing Muslims together from all over the world, we realize we’re not alone and we are a very very large community. When we’re dealing with these countries – these Western countries – it is important to note how we carry ourselves as Muslims. We have to have that Akhlagh (ethics), that personality that we learned from Rasoul Allah Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH), and I think that attracts people. With people in the West, of course, the goal of the hegemonic powers is to try to portray Islam in a negative way. But interestingly, what’s happening in so many places is that people who have relationships with Muslims – whether as neighbors or colleagues – see that the reality is something else. They see that Muslims are not what they’re portrayed to be. So, I think it’s this person-to-person contact that is actually changing that perception, and we as Muslims are changing it. For example, in the United States and in other places, at the end of the day we’ve had more and more people convert to Islam, in spite of the peak of Islamophobia that followed 9/11.