During one of those days in Tehran, when Iranians still had their civil liberties, I was walking with my friends, after school had finished, towards the bus terminals in 24 Esfand Square along the wide pavements of the Shahreza Avenue that later become the scene of major protests against the Shah and is now called Revolution Avenue. On that day, our daily fun filled fifteen minutes walk was suddenly interrupted by a loud noise of glass shattering and chants of Allah Akbar.
I saw some bearded young men hurriedly run into the side streets and some women wearing black chadors hurl some leaflets in the air before they too disappeared into the side streets. The bearded men had smashed the bank's front glass panel by throwing bricks at it, leaving the people inside the bank looking dazed and shocked.
The entire incident took a few seconds, like a temporary visual abberation. Once it was over, I asked my friends "what the hell was all that about?". One of my friends replied "They must have been Khomeini's supporters" and I asked again "who the hell is Khomeini?"
Until then, I had never heard of Khomeini. When my friend explained Khomeini to be this cleric who had been exiled and wanted to turn Iran into an Islamic Republic forcing women to wear the veil and rule the country according to the Islamic Sharia, I laughed and said "Well that would never happen here!", what a fool I was!
Every time I hear the phrase "it could never happen here", I am reminded of that childhood incidence, but whereas I could be forgiven for being no more than a naive school kid, the politicians, statesmen and those responsible for the security of their citizens should not be forgiven for burying their heads in the sand and neglecting their responsibilities to safeguard their citizens.
Such manifestations of naivety amongst officials who should have known better was best demonstrated during the Carter administration years.
Andrew Young, Carter's ambassador to UN at the time of Iranian revolution, described Khomeini as a “saint”.
Carter's national security adviser, Brezhinsky, thought “we can get along with Khomeini”.
Carter's ambassador in Iran, William Sullivan, referred to Khomeini as Iran's Mehatma Gandhi.
Those who had actually bothered to read Khomeini's books and had dared to tell the truth, were silenced and accused of being scaremongers. When three American newspapers published extensive accounts of Khomeini's writings, that revealed him to be as anti-Western and extremely reactionary, Henry Precht, the Head of US State Department's Iran Desk, said those newspaper accounts were severely misleading and likened the newspaper articles that revealed the true nature of Khomeini, as “at best a collection of school student notes and at worst a forgery”!
Throughout Western democracies and by using the loopholes in democracies, Mosques, Madressehs, book shops, charities, TV stations etc. are being set up by extremists as the breeding grounds they require to thrive. The existing laws often suffice in closing them down, but what is lacking however is the courage to apply the existing laws.