"The Nematollahi order is Iran's largest Sufi order, with reportedly over 2 million members across the country, including in major cities such as Tehran and Isfahan. Its members have come under increasing state pressure over the past four years; three of their houses of worship have been demolished. Officials accused the Sufis of not having building permits and of narcotics possession -- charges the Sufis reject.
"Dervishes say they're being targeted because of what they describe as the growing popularity of Sufism and also because they're considered a potential challenge to the power of Iran's clerical establishment.
"Some conservative clerics have called the Sufis a danger to Islam. Ayatollah Hossein Nuri Hamedani, a high-ranking cleric in Qom, said in 2006 that by not interfering in politics, Sufis weaken Islam. Hard-liners have also accused the dervishes of being used by foreign powers to create discord in Iranian society."
Experts quoted in the article portray this as the outgrowth of centuries of conflict between shari'a-based and mystical elements within Islam. The particulars of these current issues, however, are entirely shaped by conditions in post-Revolution Iran. People disaffected with the Shi'ite ulama establishment turn toward Sufism as something that seems less political and more spiritual. In doing so, they also reject the authority of the ulama, and thus can be portrayed as disloyal to the revolutionary state.