“Attacks on Sufis have intensified since Ahmadinejad took office”

 The following are highlights of a report first published on November 23, 2007 by the Inter Press Service News Agency.

By Kimia Sanati

TEHRAN, (IPS) – The destruction of a monastery belonging to the Gonabadi Sufi order in Boroujerd town of Luristan province, this month, has once again highlighted the hostile environment in which Iran’s many religious minorities and non-conformist sects exist.

According to Mohsen Yahyavi, the conservative representative for Boroujerd in parliament, the trouble began with the Sufis kidnapping several youths affiliated to a nearby mosque and beating them up. Yahyavi told the Aftab news agency that others who had rushed to their help were roughed up, forcing security men to intervene.

Sufi community at risk

The Sufis, however, have a different story to tell. Harassment of this sect has been going on in Boroujerd, where there they form a sizeable community, for some years now, a young female follower of the order in Tehran, who has her relatives in Boroujerd, told IPS.

 “Religious vigilantes had once before tried to bulldoze the hosseinieh (Gonabadi Sufis’ monastery or place of worship) and succeeded in destroying parts of its walls. This time on the night before the hosseinieh was completely destroyed (Nov. 10), the Basij militia and the vigilantes staged a bogus attack on a nearby mosque where there was a gathering to criticise Sufi beliefs. The attack was then blamed on the Sufis to justify the attack on the hosseinieh,” she said.

“The Sufis refused to evacuate the building, as demanded by the assailants, and called law enforcement for help. But after midnight the law enforcement forces abandoned the scene and there was a blackout. More clashes followed in and outside the hosseinieh. The Sufis trapped inside the hosseinieh were left at the mercy of the vigilantes who were armed with tear gas and colour sprays,” she added.

“They bulldozed the building which was already burning because fire from a neighbouring building torched by the vigilantes had spread to it. Then the law enforcement forces returned and arrested the Sufis. The next day, the remains of the building were razed to the ground by the authorities themselves and no trace left of the hosseinieh,” she said.

More than 180 followers of the order in Boroujerd were arrested by the police and 80 people were wounded during the incident that happened on Nov. 10, the Fars news agency reported the deputy governor of Luristan province as saying.

Shiite hostility towards Sufism

The Shiite religious establishment generally views Sufism with hostility and, in spite of their adherence to the rules of Shariah, considers them a danger to Islam because of their unorthodox traditions such as ‘sama’ which involves dance, music and ‘dhikr’ (recitation of Allah’s divine names).

The 1979 Islamic Revolution, which brought Iran’s conservative Shiite clerics to power, deemed that Shariah would be the basis for all laws in the country. They denied sects within Islam such as the Ismailis and the Sufis any rights in the new constitution.

Sufism is a mystic tradition within Islam in which adherents seek mystic or divine revelations through ‘whirling dervish’ dances and mystical poetry, especially that of 13th century Persian poet Jalalad-Din Rumi. The tradition extends from Turkey to India, but is viewed with suspicion by both Shiite and Sunni establishments…

“The attacks on the Sufis have intensified since Ahmadinejad took office. In December last year he ordered the Islamic guidance (culture) ministry’s Public Guidance Council to review policies to prevent the emergence of ‘deviant’ persons and societies working under the cover of mysticism and spiritualism in the society,” an analyst in Tehran speaking on condition of anonymity told IPS.

“In guidelines recently provided to their political instructors, the military arm of the clergy, i.e., the Revolutionary Guards, has grouped the Sufis with feminists, Bahais, advocates of religious pluralism and non-governmental organisations as threats to the state. All these groups are capable of providing leadership and organisation, political or religious, and hence of mobilising the people against the regime,” the analyst said.

This article can be viewed in its entirety at www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=40187


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