[PROVISIONAL TRANSLATION FROM PERSIAN]

 

[Translator’s notes appear in square brackets.]

[Personal information has been redacted.]

[The excerpt below is from the section of the article that pertains to the Baha’i Faith]

 

[Adapted from website:] BBC Persian

[Date:] 4 Khordad 1387 [24 May 2008]

 

Ayatollah Montazeri and Baha’is: Strong Opposition and Citizens’ Rights

According to the recent statements of Ayatollah Montazeri, the most senior cleric who is critical of the Iranian government, which quickly made headlines on the Internet, the need to respect “Baha'i citizenship rights” in Iran has been emphasized.

In response to an istifta [seeking religious advice] about the Baha’is, Ayatollah Montazeri stated, “Baha’is have citizenship rights”.

Ayatollah Montazeri’s remarks on “Baha’i citizens’ rights” have become doubly sensitive, since there have been cases in recent months of arrests of Baha’i leaders in Iran, and many reactions to this move have been expressed by various centres; however, according to Mojtaba Lotfi, the head of public relations affairs at Ayatollah Montazeri’s office in Qom, Ayatollah Montazeri’s views were not fully and correctly reflected, and the circumstances under which these remarks were made were neglected.

The head of public relations of Ayatollah Montazeri’s office says that many questions have reached the office of Ayatollah Montazeri about the activities of the Baha’is, and that what Ayatollah Montazeri has stated is, in fact, a response to these questions. Relying on Ayatollah Montazeri’s views, Mr. Lotfi said that Ayatollah Montazeri does not consider the Baha’is as belonging to a religion and does not call their followers a religious minority.

According to Mr. Lotfi, Ayatollah Montazeri has stated his opinion regarding Baha’is in this way:

“This sect is considered [to be] among the infidels. But they are not kafar-e-harbi[1] and neither are they kafar-e-zammi[2], because their heavenly book is neither the Torah, the Bible, nor the Psalms, but (the Baha’is) are kafar-e moahed[3] or mostaman[4]. This means that they are safe and under the rule of the Islamic government, and as long as they do not take any action against Islamic rule, they have the right to citizenship because they have the native right and the right to pay taxes, etc.”

Mr. Lotfi considers the way in which Ayatollah Montazeri’s view is reflected to be like “enlarging the three lines of his fatwa and ignoring the rest of the story”. He said that there has been no change in the original view of Ayatollah Montazeri about Baha’is. According to the head of public relations of Ayatollah Montazeri’s office in Qom, “Unfortunately, some of his (Ayatollah Montazeri) friends or enemies have taken only these three lines and have forgotten the background of his opposition to this sect (Baha’is), and they have only focused on this part.”

Mojtaba Lotfi said, “Ayatollah Montazeri is still in the same position; he considers them as infidels and he is one of the fierce opponents of the Baha’is”.

Ayatollah Montazeri’s views on the Baha’is have been welcomed by the Baha’i authorities, given the current situation.

Bani Dugal, the Baha’i senior representative to the United Nations, who called Ayatollah Montazeri’s remarks a positive development, told the BBC, “We are pleased that a high-ranking cleric such as Ayatollah Montazeri has spoken out in respect of the Baha’i citizenship rights in Iran. The Baha’is have never violated any law or acted against Iranian interests. Our founder was Iranian, and our religion is based in Iran; therefore, all Baha’is love Iran and have the best wishes for Iran.”

According to Ahmad Ghabel, a researcher on religious affairs in Iran, the fact that Ayatollah Montazeri believed in the need to respect the citizenship rights of Baha’is is also confirmed by many clerics of the Islamic seminaries and other jurisprudence authorities. Mr. Ghabel, who has worked closely with religious leaders for many years in seminaries, believes that observance of citizenship rights for Baha’is is a defensible point of view, based on the rules of jurisprudence and the history of Islam; however, Mr. Ghabel emphasized that some issues may not be raised often, due to the sensitivities of the norms of the society, one of which relates to Baha’ism and Baha’is.

Mr. Ghabel said, “The clergy are silent about these sensitive issues, but this silence does not mean that they do not accept Ayatollah Montazeri’s views. I can say with confidence that some jurists and the authors of the current treatise also agree with Ayatollah Montazeri; however, their agreement may not be very public.”

Ahmad Ghabel emphasized that the current view of Baha’ism and the Baha’is in Iranian society is such that the political aspects and the presence of the foreign factor in this society, have made many prefer not to get involved in this issue.

This religious researcher said, “In Iranian society, Baha’is are viewed negatively. This negative view has different religious and historical roots, and there is a strong view in Iranian society that Baha’ism was created by the colonialists to disrupt Islam.”

The question is, what have been the other important fatwas on the Baha’is in Iran? Looking at these fatwas can help to understand the current situation.

Mojtaba Lotfi, an official in Ayatollah Montazeri’s office in Qom, points to two existing fatwas. According to Mr. Lotfi, one fatwa belongs to Ayatollah Borujerdi, the greatest Shiite jurist in the 1950s, and the teacher of Ayatollah Montazeri, who stated, “ It is necessary for Muslims to leave the association, discussion and dealings with this sect, and I just ask Muslims not to lose peace and the social order.”

Mr. Lotfi says that Ayatollah Borujerdi meant a kind of negative struggle against the Baha’is, and his emphasis was on keeping calm so that the Baha’is would not be physically attacked.

Another fatwa referred to by the head of public relations of Ayatollah Montazeri’s office belongs to Ayatollah Golpaygani, who stated in his fatwa that, “Association with this perverse and misguided tribe is forbidden.”

Given the ups and downs of the regime in dealing with Ayatollah Montazeri, the ruling Iranian regime does not consider itself obliged to respect the views of this marja’-i-taqlid [religious jurisprudence authority]. On the other hand, the media and political circles have not yet reacted to Ayatollah Montazeri’s views on the Baha’is.

Some may argue that Ayatollah Montazeri’s view is not new because Baha’is live in Iran and have some citizenship rights, while others may see Ayatollah Montazeri’s view as an opportunity to be cherished.

 

 

[1] [Kafar-i-Ḥarbi:  Non-Muslim who is at war against Muslims]

[2] [Kafar-i-Zammi:  infidel living in an Islamic country and paying tribute]

[3] [Kafar-i-Moahed:  An infidel who has made a covenant of peace with the Islamic government and is in temporary safety]

[4] [Mostaman:  protected infidels]