Mahsa Amini’s death and Western obduracy in accepting the truth
By Xavier Villar
The death of 22-year-old Iranian woman Mahsa Amini was a big tragedy and sparked angry protests across the country. Iranian authorities, from day one, have dismissed reports of mistreatment, asserting there was no physical contact between the deceased woman and the police officers, and that she suffered a heart attack following her detention.
To support the claim, authorities released CCTV footage of Amini inside a police station, which clearly shows the young lady fainting on the floor and being subsequently transferred to a hospital.
On the other side, unverified and unidentified “eyewitnesses” claimed Amini was "beaten" by officers inside a police van, which they said caused her cardiac arrest.
The Director General of Forensic Medicine in Tehran, however, maintained that there were “no signs of skull fracture, bleeding, or rupture of Amini's internal organs".
Despite all evidence pointing to Amini’s natural death, authorities in Iran have launched a series of probes to ascertain the cause of her death which happened in mysterious circumstances.
President Ebrahim Raeisi was the first to instruct the interior ministry to probe the incident. He also spoke with Amini’s family and expressed his condolences. Mohseni Ejei, Iran’s chief justice, asked the judicial bodies to "thoroughly investigate" the case. Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, the parliament speaker, announced that the legislative body will carry out its independent probe.
It's amply clear that the authorities didn't make any attempt to hide the death or try to cover it up. It's also clear that they understand the gravity of the matter and people’s right to know the truth.
The problem, from a political point of view, has to do with the fact that we're talking about the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has single-handedly challenged the hegemony of Western powers.
The Western powers project the Islamic Republic as a sort of hell on earth, a place where people, especially women, are deprived of their agency and freedoms. The idea is that agency can only be expressed in a Western language and with a secular accent.
The Islamic Republic, as the main “other” of Western ideology, cannot be trusted. The "impossibility" to trust the Islamic Republic is part of that idea that sees critical thinking and rationality as an exclusive Western domain. The Islamic Republic, within that western imaginary, stands as a place where the truth is what the so-called "mullahs" determine.
A political body deemed incapable of objectivity is therefore an alien body in the midst of the liberal consensus. A polity like this cannot be just contained but has to be eradicated in order to protect that same consensus. Of course, this is just an ideological bias but an effective one.
That's precisely why the Western media, in unison, has little regard for the "official narrative", because it comes from those they loathe. Those who dare to believe the so-called "official narrative" are seen as despicable figures under the spell of Iranians.
People with agency, proper human beings, cannot believe what the Islamic Republic says. The only possibility, even before knowing the results of the investigation, is to point fingers at the Islamic Republic and believe what the Western media and its local satellites relay.
The absurd idea that says Muslims don't have critical thinking is one of those myths upon which Western civilization was built. In fact, in the Quran, we can find critique - tanqid- as a powerful Islamic tool. The Quran urges Muslims to think critically.
Meanwhile, the proponents of the "non-official narrative" forbid themselves from following the news from local sources within Iran. Because they still think that critical thinking and truth can only be found outside, in the West in particular.
The problem here is not the tragic death of Masha Amini, which needs to be fully investigated, but a pervasive colonial mindset that blocks you from accepting other possibilities. Because, for the West and its backers, truth, justice, and agency cannot be expressed in an Islamic language.
In Western fantasy, Muslim resistance and rejection of liberal values are seen as a pathology that must be vanquished. If Muslims refuse to convert willingly to liberalism or at least to forms of Islam that liberalism finds tolerable, then they must be forced, using all sorts of means.
The idea, more or less, is that unless one is a barbarian, a despot, an irrational psychopath, a neurotic, a totalitarian, an intolerant brute, a misogynist, or a homophobe, you cannot believe in the facts presented by the Iranian authorities.
The truth apparently is only accessible to a secular being, one endowed with the qualities of rationality, critical thinking, and modernity. This is not something natural. It's the work of the Orientalist paradigm.
Orientalism contends that the Eurocentric episteme is universal and can unproblematically be deployed to understand non-Western phenomena. That's part of the explanation of why people can't believe in the Islamic Republic’s narratives. It's a political-epistemic bias.
Justice (adl in the Quran) is so vital in Islamic grammar that any polity that aspires to be seen as Islamic has to be just (a never-ending process).
That's why justice must and will prevail in Mahsa Amini's case. Because it's an Islamic duty. Because truth, justice, and critical thinking are essential features of an Islamicate polity. An Islamicate political body that no longer follows in the footsteps of Western ideology.
The West is no longer the normative center despite the attempts to denigrate those who dare to believe the non-hegemonic narrative.
Xavier Villar has a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies and researcher who divides his time between Spain and Iran.
(The views expressed in this article are author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of Hausa TV.)