Sunday, November 18, 2007

More Iranian Anti-Sufism

I keep expecting Iran's ongoing crackdown on Sufi orders to turn into a bigger issue than it seemingly has been within Iran. RFE-RL reports on what's been happening:
"In broader terms, Lahiji sees the demonization of Sufi Muslims in Iran as a strategy by Ahmadinejad's regime aimed at discrediting individuals or groups that pose political challenges to the power of Iran's conservative Shi'a clerics.

"'It's not only about the other sections of Islam. It's all the sections of society. In the last two years, the civil society of Iran -- the journalists, the students, the women, the [labor unions], the teachers, the universities -- all are victims of these very, very aggressive politics,' he says. 'And the other Muslim groups are [treated] the same. It's the result of the political aggression of Ahmadinejad.'"

Lahiji is actually a Paris-based Iranian exile. I'm generally skeptical of Iranian exile groups, and suspect he may be exaggerating Ahmadinejad's role in things. While I have noted an increasing level of political repression in Iran, that dates back to the last days of Khatami, when it was driven by the clerical side of the government. That said, Ahmadinejad is theologically conservative, and neither his followers nor those of the more traditionalist hard-liners would have much love for mysticism. Here's a bit of background:
"In fact, just a week before the violence in Borujerd, Iranian Deputy Culture Minister Mohsen Parviz issued a statement saying there is no place for the promotion of Sufism in Shi'a-dominated Iran.

"Parviz's remarks followed complaints from Shi'a clerics about state television coverage of the Rumi International Congress, an event in Iran commemorating the 800th anniversary of the birth of the Persian poet and mystic Rumi.

"Parviz, who also served as executive director of the committee for the Rumi Congress, said the clerics' complaints focused on news broadcasts about performances of Sama, the Sufi practice of gathering to listen to religious poetry that is sung and often accompanied by ecstatic dance or other rituals.

"The U.S. State Department says Tehran's actions and rhetoric have created a threatening atmosphere for nearly all religious minorities in Iran.

"It also says Iran's government-controlled media has intensified negative campaigns against religious minorities since Ahmadinejad's election.

"It notes that in late 2005, a shari'a scholar in the holy city Qom, Ayatollah Hossein Nouri-Hamedani, called for a crackdown on Sufi groups after labeling them a "danger to Islam." Since then, articles attacking Sufis have proliferated in Iranian national newspapers.

"In February 2006, police closed a building in Qom that was being used as a house of worship by Sufis from the Nematollahi Gonabadi order. When Sufis responded by staging a protest in Qom, clashes broke out and Iranian authorities arrested more than 1,000 people."

Qom is Iran's most important center of Shi'ite religious learning. I don't know where the cleric mentioned would fit in Iran's political spectrum.



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