Imam Seyed Ali Ghazvini, imam at the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno, founder and director of the Assadiq Foundation (a Muslim community center) in Southern California (1996-2004), and the founder of Development and Relief Foundation, an organization devoted to bring quality education to the children of Iraq.
Born in Iraq (1958) to a prominent religious family, Imam Ghazvini earned his BA in political science from Tehran University, Iran (1990), Certificate (equivalent to Master) of Islamic Theology from the Islamic Seminary in Qum, Iran (1994), and MBA from University of La Verne, California (2003).
He is a member of the board of trustees at the Ahlul Bait University in Karbala, Iraq - a private university established 2003.
has Participated in more than 25 national and international conferences about Islam
, and the Middle East.
Imam Ghazvini is a strong advocate of interfaith dialogue and co-operation for the protection of the family, the environment and for peace awareness.
spoke hopefully about the prospects for democracy in Iraq, and particularly lauded the Shi'ite rejection of violent means.
pointed out that over the last two years most victims of terrorism have been Shi'a.
believes that despite the severity of the attacks against them, the Shi'a have chosen the way of Mandela-that is to say, they have sought to work with their opponents and not to fight against them.
Why do the Shi'a continually choose in favor of democracy?
suggested three reasons.
First, democracy is not new to the Shi'a but was debated by scholars more than a century ago (in the late 18th and early 19th century) and so they are able to receive it as something immanent rather than an external imposition.
Second, Shi'a have a history of pluralism, of allowing that there are various authorities (mirja) to which an individual Shi'ite might attach himself.
This plurality of authority however, exists within a shared fraternity.
You may follow one mirja and I another, but we recognize each other as fellow Muslims.
As Imam Ghazvini
said, the litmus test for fundamentalism is precisely whether or not one can accept such pluralism.
Finally, the Shi'a have been oppressed for many years and have learned by necessity how to work with others.
In short, history has taught the Shi'a to share.
Another less structural reason for the Shi'a embrace of democracy, said Imam Ghazvini
, is certainly due to the wise counsel of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's leading Shi'a cleric.
While the picture of Iraq Imam Ghazvini painted was hopeful, he
had words of warning, as well.
In particular, he
cautioned that the kind of democracy one ought to expect from Iraq will not always be familiar to Western eyes.
Western style civil liberties will not emerge overnight and have to allow that cultures follow their own course.
We should also be realistic when considering what democracy will cost the United States.
We cannot have democracy in Saudi Arabia and cheap oil supplies at the same time.
Democracy will cost America, but it is a sacrifice worth making and, over the long run, it will pay us back.
presentation prompted a sometimes heated discussion, particularly around his
favorable portrayal of the Shi'a compared with his
more pessimistic views regarding Sunnis.
While Imam Ghazvini's
portrait of Iraq was hopeful, the headlines that confront us daily qualify this optimism and force us, as ever, to hold our hope always alongside a robust realism.