[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:] Iran Wire

[Date:] 8 December 2014


The Imam Jom’a in Rafsanjan and our unforgiving silence

Mehrangiz Kar

The Imam Jom’a in Rafsanjan mimics Hitler, and we pass by him comfortably numb.  The Imam Jom’a in Rafsanjan has [encouraged], and even incited, the pure-hearted people of Rafsanjan to expel from the city the Baha’is who work in commerce and trade and who abide by all duties as citizens.  According to a report by Fars News Agency, he has stated, “In the past, a lot of sects appeared among the people, as the Quran had predicted … there are several of these groups and sects in Rafsanjan, and as a result of the utter obliviousness of the public, they live in neighbourhoods amongst the general population and are busy with their business and trade without anyone’s being able to recognize them….  These sects have carried out a number of plans in our city, and the wishes of the people who do not want them in the city should be realized.”

To justify the presence of Jews, who cannot be touched by the security organizations and who do not pay tributes (taxes) and who are called “agents of Global Zionism”, he has added, “A number of Jews are in business and trade in the Rafsanjan bazaar, but the cases of the Jews and the perverse sect of Bahaism are different.  According to the fatwa[1] of religious authorities, Bahaism is najis[2].”

What benefit will be reaped for the city, the province, and ultimately the nation, from repetition of these poisonous statements, which disrupt the commercial stability and peaceful coexistence of Iranians?  Governments that are the keepers of internal security always create programmes and plans to modify the conflicts between peoples, religions, and beliefs, as far as possible, so that people can arrive at a mutual understanding and tolerance of each other and the work of governance will be easy for the officials to implement.  Why is it that the government of the Islamic Republic, after thirty-six years of experience in governance, promotes division and instigates the people against each other?  What good has it done?  What benefit has it seen?

It seems that invocation of the Quran by the government officials in Iran, with the aim of dispersing the Baha’is, is tied to their factional and personal interests.  Otherwise, it is clear that the government’s long-term interests will not be served by this kind of dissension-sowing.  Bringing about chaos in the minds of the people who have remained in the Iranian markets—in spite of thirty-six years of deliberate dissension-sowing they still interact and trade goods with each other—is not logical.  If these gentlemen had a degree of wisdom and courage to consider the Quran in line with the needs of today, they would not need to search for the uncleanliness of Baha’is in it.

We reserve the right to criticize the cruel and ignorant behaviour of the likes of “Hojatoleslam Abbas Ramazanipour, Rafsanjan’s Imam Jom’a,” who invokes the Quran for the excuse to, more than ever, take away the security of a large Iranian minority.  Iran belongs to all those who, in the words of Ayatollah Motazeri, “have the right derived from belonging to a land.” Abbas Ramazanipour, in the face of this insight uttered by a pious and oppressed jurist who adheres to the Quran, is essentially a nothing.  It is hoped that the noble residents in Rafsanjan, for the sake of honouring both the Quran and the peaceful visions of those jurists who interpret and consider the Quran to protect the Baha’i citizens as having the “right that derives from belonging to a land”, will not be incited and will not sacrifice the healthy marketplace of trade and business to attitudes that are similar to those of Hitler and fascism.  They should remember that, even up to today, the German people, because of their blind obedience to Hitler, are blamed more than Hitler.  The shameful and reprehensible behaviour of those Iranians, who attack the lives and livelihood of Baha’is, violate their citizens’ rights to earn a living, deprive them of their right to access an educational institution, and enjoy judicial security, is no different from what Hitler did to the Jews.  All those who claim that the Quran should be read in appropriate relationship to the age must be responsive to this degree of injustice.  Expedient silence has endangered the interests of a nation.  No voice is heard from those who claim the contemporary interpretation of Islám.  Is it not time to end Taqiyyah[3]?

Perhaps this subject is too broad for inclusion in an article and requires a deep and formal critique of religion.  However, has the Imam Jom’a in Rafsanjan examined the subject deeply?  Has he delved at all into logic, or tried to study anything?  He has talked about the people’s demand to annihilate [the Baha’is].  Do people, in principle, have the right in today’s modern civilization, even with the existence of the supreme leader, to ask for the excommunication of a group of residents in a city and demand that their places of business be sealed off by the government?  Which one of the philosophies claims that the people have a right to demand such things?  Why is this behaviour, which is in violation of the laws of statecraft and results in the removal of the rights of citizenship, attributed to the Quran?  Why does the supreme leader, who has jurisdiction over all the Imams Jom’a, not object to the inflammatory behaviour of his employees?  Is the [supreme leader] actually expressing his own thoughts through the foolish sayings of an Imam Jom’a, or is it something else?  Is it possible that a group of businessmen who have connections with this Haj Agha has given him huge amounts as a bribe so that he would allow the bazaar to be monopolized by them and wipe out their rivals, using the excuse that they are Baha’is?  In either case, a group of citizens, who have not harmed even an ant, are to become homeless; and it is unclear how this gross injustice could be justified by verses of the Quran, and how the agents of the Public Places Supervision Office could be instructed to seal their places of business.

According to Scientific Knowledge and the Fear of Excommunication, those of the same ruling class in other Muslim-majority societies pose a great threat. Nasr Hamid Abou Zaid was one of those individuals. Mehdi Khalaji has translated this book and it is available in Persian.  In one section of the book the translator writes:

“According to his writings, his main concern was social justice.  Abou Zaid had experienced and lived through social inequality since childhood.  When he turned to the Muslim Brotherhood, it was because he was enchanted by the promise of social justice.  Under the influence of the opinions and thoughts of the leaders of the Brotherhood, he thought ‘Islam is the solution’ for social justice.  Later on when the charm of Islamic ideology was wiped out from his mind, he sought the hermeneutic method of understanding the Quran, to show that the ultimate benefit of the message of the Quran is social justice, not the laws that jurists, in the name of Sharia, represent as sacred.  For him, what was stated in the Quran was not Quranic, meaning that not every law in the Quran was sacred.  Many of the provisions in the Quran were reflections of Muhammad’s life and history and the need for God to speak with man in his language.  The Quran speaks of slavery, but no jurist today will consider slavery legitimate, or recommend it.  Similarly, polygamy, beating women and providing women with only half of the blood-money given to men, and many other laws, do not have sanctity.  Many of the provisions in the Quran are social rules to give order to the life that existed before Islám.  Even the fundamental provisions were for that time, and its form of social and political relationships, and not for all times and places.  He even considered the law of usury meaningless for today; prohibition of usury contributed to social justice because of the economic structure at the time of the Prophet; but today there is no connection between usury and social justice.”

In another place, it is said about Naṣr Hamid Abou Zaid, “Abou Zaid in his writings demonstrates that Islamic tradition has neglected to address social and human aspects in the formation of the Quran and interpretation in the traditions.  That is why the Quran has no relationship to today’s life.”  If we want to project the Quran as a source of inspiration in life, we must rely on its human aspect and take away the layer of sanctity from it, and show its essence of human dignity and social justice.  In other words, the only way to bring the Quran to life is to see it as a product of human history.  Opening the opportunity to review the overall system of Sharia, Abou Zaid wrote, “The Quran is not a book of laws.  Sharia is not sacred.  Sharia, and other religious theories, are manmade.  Jurisprudence is based on certain scientific principles that today do not retain much validity.  We have to understand the common values of the Quran and use it as the basis for the common law.”

In our country, similar discussions had started, but they were shut down.  Because the Special Court of Jurisprudence became impatient, some jurists lost their cloak and turban and some jurists came to the throne.  As a result, jurists who are associated with the government, despite their claims, have become more interested in maintaining the personal status and the wealth that they have accumulated with ease.

Is it not time that people realized that the errors of the last thirty-six years of religious government were being made in the guise of religion?  Is it not possible to look at the possibility of updating Islám and extracting social justice from it, and therefore, look at the rights of people in another light?  Is it not possible to have more respect for the Quran and not libel it, saying that it has said that followers of other religions and beliefs are najis?  Has the conversion of the Quran to the law of the land saved the Iranian community from many calamities, or has it made it highly vulnerable?  The statistics are in the hands of the likes of the Imam Jom’a in Rafsanjan.

The Imam Jom’a in Rafsanjan is either stirring up one group of people against another for his own personal self-interest, or he is reading the Quran like a parrot and pretending that he is interpreting it in today’s context and not for the time of its revelation.

In these bitter stories that occur during the presidency of Hassan Rouhani and while the Baha’is of Iran are banned from business in various cities of Iran, the government is truly absent, and it is not clear what was meant by justice and moderation and where one should look for them.  Maybe only in Geneva and Vienna?



[1] [A legal opinion or decree handed down by an Islamic religious leader.]

[2] [Najis:  Unclean.]

[3]  [Taqíyyah:  Concealing of faith.]