Wednesday, 26 December 2007

A Letter

A Letter
Dear Udaba,

In February 2006, I wrote a detailed report to scholars who subscribe to this list about destruction of the Ni‘matullahi-Gunabadi Hosseiniyya ( Sufi Center or Khanaqah) in Qom , Iran . I described how on Feb. 13, 2006, a vigilante mob, abetted by the baton-wielding police of the Islamic Republic of Iran, seized, burned down and then bulldozed this Sufi prayer and meditation center, arresting hundreds of dervishes and wounding many demonstrators in the process. Unfortunately, that attack has proven to be but one in a series of ongoing attempted pogroms of Sufis in the Land of the Ayatollahs. The most recent attack took place a month ago in Borujerd, a city in the province of Loristan in the west of Iran, where some 1000 followers of the Gunabadi branch of the Ni‘matullahi Order currently live.

On November 4, 2007, an irregular armed, vigilante gang of thugs sponsored and funded by the fundamentalist, Islamicist regime, known as the Basij-i Mostaza‘fin (nicknamed ‘Basiji’), along with the state security services, attacked the center of this same group of Sufis in Borujerd. After pillaging all its possessions and furnishings, they burned it down. Some 70 people were injured and more than 150 dervishes or dervish sympathizers were imprisoned.

It may be useful to know something of the historical background to this event. Since 2005, several prominent exoteric clerics (‘ulama) in the city had been delivering sermons against Sufism, haranguing the populace about the evils of the Sufis, branding the Sufi mystical tradition in Islam as a dangerous heresy and aberration of faith. They incited their followers to destroy the Sufi Hosseiniyya (Khanaqah) there. In late October 2007, a conference on the greatest Muslim Sufi poet Jalal al-Din Rumi (d. 1273) of Iran , sponsored by the Institute of Philosophy in Tehran , was held in Tehran and Tabriz . A week after the conference the influential fundamentalist ideologue Ayatollah Safi Golpayegani issued a statement describing Rumi’s poetry as being full of “perverted and misleading ideas and against our principles [i.e. of the fundamentalist brand of Shi‘ite Islam propounded by the religious ideologues of the Islamic Republic of Iran].” The Hamshahri newspaper in Tehran furthermore reported him as saying, “I condemn this conference and its organizers… Its content comprised much dangerous innovation (bid‘at), including things such as listening to music (sama‘) and dance… Everyone should feel shame before the Imam of the Age that such a conference has been convened [in Iran ].” Unfortunately, Ayatollah Safi belongs to that select group of mafioso clerics known as ‘Sources of Religious Emulation’, the pronouncements of whom, however outrageous, theologically biased and theosophically misinformed they may be, no one dares criticize, for to do so is to risk losing one’s job, or being blacklisted as an anti-revolutionary, or face imprisonment, or worse. I was in Tehran during the same week that Sign-of-God Safi’s comments were published so am a witness that none of the distraught organizers of the conference (friends of mine) dared raise their voice in the media to try to directly refute this mullah in order to expose the rank barrenness of literary and intellectual culture beneath his large turban. Safi ’s characterization of Rumi’s Sufi poetry as being “dangerous innovation,” of course, provided just the right ammunition that the ideological enemies of the Ni‘matullahi Sufis needed. A few days later after Safi attacked Rumi, the Ni‘matullahi-Gunabadi Sufi center in Borujerd was appropriately razed to the ground—without, of course, hardly a word of protest at this religious vigilantism being voiced in the media. The psychology of this behaviour Rumi had described quite well incidentally: "The passional soul carries a rosary and the Holy Scripture in its right hand, but has a dagger and a sword up its sleeve." (Nafs ra tasbih u mushaf dar yamin/ khanjar u shamshir andar asetin). (Mathnawi, III: 2554)

It should be emphasized that the Ni‘matullahi Order is the largest Sufi Order in Iran, with the members of all its various branches currently suffering persecution at the hands of the fundamentalist regime. The background, history and various details underlying this fresh assault on the Persian Sufi tradition, which are discussed and analysed by news-sites and other links in English and Persian, are provided below:

Dr. Leonard Lewisohn
Lecturer in Persian,

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Cry for freedom

Cry for freedom

Opposition in Iran unites behind the value of freedom

Progressive Sufi Muslim Movement:
„The people of Iran are entitled to freedom, democracy and human rights. We Iranians hope that the United Nations and all the forums that defend democracy and human rights will be unflinching in their support for Iran’s quest for freedom and democracy.” The cry for freedom comes from Akbar Ganji and it goes towards Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary-General.

Freedom is a rare good in this region. The government of Mr Ahmadinedschad started in 2005 by promising more possibilities and more wealth to the poor. Especially members of the Bassiji-militia supported the movement of the hardliners, hoping for a more strict realization of Islamic rules, as they interpret Islam, and for more money.

Concerning their last hope, we learn that Pasdaran and Bassiji organizations have been granted huge amounts of money. Pasdaran control petrol, construction and communication industries.,MKT200710298000,Google.html But many of those who had given their voice to M. Ahmadinedschad are gutted by the hard economic conditions, which they attribute to the politics of their president.

Whereas strictness in observing Islamic rules and reduction of personal rights, the supporter of the hardliners find more often fulfilled. Women fighting for women’s rights, find themselves in jail or being flogged. Jail and violence awaits as well students, representatives of labor unions, religious minorities or journalists who dare to criticize the system or the government.

“Iran’s dangerous international situation and the consequences of Iran’s dispute with the West have totally deflected the world’s attention and especially the attention of the United Nations from the intolerable conditions that the Iranian regime has created for the Iranian people.”
It was in September 2007 when Akbar Ganji addressed his letter to Ban Ki-Moon. Meanwhile the world knows that there seems to be no nuclear weapons program in Iran and thus no threat of war. Can we then consecrate some attention to the conditions of the Iranian people and especially to those who go for freedom in Iran?

Looking forward towards next election

When Mr Ahmadinedschad won elections in 2005, many followers of the reformist movement of preceding president Mohammad Khatami, refused to vote, because they were disappointed of the results of Khatami’s time of presidency. Mehdi Karroubi, Speaker of Majles until 2004 and an advisor to the Supreme Leader, was the candidate of the reformist movement in 2005. He finished third in the vote count. After the announcement of the election results, Karroubi alleged that a network of mosques, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and Basiji militia forces, had been illegally used to generate and mobilize support for Ahmadinedschad. He alleged a son of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei among the conspirators. But in the end he resigned from all his political posts, after the Supreme Leader repelled his accusations brusque. In fact the reformist had a poor result compared to the hardliners and the conservatives.
Later elections to the Iranian Assembly of Experts in 2006 brought conservative forces in front, hardliner represented by Ayatollah Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi failed to live up to their expectations. Local elections were another sign of discontent with the performance of Ahmadinedschad’s government. Conservatives won a majority of seats, followed by reformists and poor performance for the hardliners.
In March 2008 will be the next election for the Majles in Iran. Reformists want to make it this time. They want to go for freedom in Iran in the frame of the Islamic Revolutionary System. Behind the freedom movement 21 political parties are uniting to a coalition. Nehzat-e-Azadi, which is the religious moderate nationalist stream, Mosharekat, which is the organization of the Mujahidin of the Islamic Revolution and various other organizations try to find a common crystallization point. Freedom might be a successful lodestar.

The apocalyptic vision

The hardliner government is backed by certain Ayatollahs, who have an apocalyptic interpretation of Schia-Islam. They claim that it is the duty of the government to prepare the nation for the expected Messiah, the Hidden 12th Imam, named Muhammad al-Mahdi. Part of this preparation is the cleaning of society of “impure elements” and the other part is the causing of the conditions for his reappearance which is chaos, turmoil and clamor. They release Fatwas to enable the government to put away with adversaries.

One dangerous adversary is the Nematollahi Gonabadi Sufi Order. This mystical order gains more and more supporters from young Iranians who are fed up with intolerant and suppressive interpretations of Islam. So they participate in the ceremonies of the order, listen to a tolerant and peace loving interpretation of Islam, experience the inner meaning of freedom and bring their Zakat to the Sufi.

To get rid of this threefold danger to the hardliner government, Bassiji-militia has been first prepared ideologically to regard Sufis as Non-Muslims, as impure and as the third power behind Israel and the US in being agents of the West. In a second step Sufi houses of worship have been demolished violently by the Bassiji-militia.$180801 In February 2006 more than 1000 Sufis had been beaten and severely injured, when they tried to resist the demolition of their prayer-house. In November 2007 around 500 Sufis were treated in the same way in Boroujerd. Their prayer-house was burned and knocked down with bull-dozers.$207944

Resistance for freedom

The hope of the radical Ayatollahs to finish in silence with this danger and mobilize in every city the Bassiji to attack the Sufis has not been accomplished. In Iran Mr Karroubi first protested against the violence in Boroujerd in an open letter to the Minister of Interior Mostafa Pourmohammadi. The well known philosopher Javad Amoli protested and Ayatollah Fazel Meybody spoke in favor of the Sufis.

A petition to stop the radical Ayatollahs from agitating against the Sufis in Iran was written and gathered more than one thousand signatures of important intellectual and religious leaders in Iran.

Those who signed are not at all interested in being Dervishes. Their interest is freedom. Their interest is to put an end to the government of Mr Ahmadinedschad. Dr Sadr Haj Seyed Javadi and Hashem Sabbaghian from Nehzat-e-Azadi put their signature under the petition. Former advisor to Mohammad Khatami and member of Tehran’s city council Saeed Hajjarian, who helped to uncover the responsible persons of the Chain massacres in the time of Rafsandschani’s presidency, put his signature. Yousefi Eshkevari, Mohsen Kadivar, Fazel Meybody, Ahmad Ghabel, who are reformist clerics and writers signed, and many others respected persons, who cry for freedom in Iran.

A group of delegates of the European Parliament went to Iran to investigate on the human rights situation. They informed themselves about Boroujerd attacks. This increased pressure on the government. Some representatives don’t like the negative publicity in the West. Subsequently the demission of Mohammad Bagher Zolghadr, Deputy Minister of the Intelligence Department was announced. Experts think his demission is an act of reconciliation in order not to attract too many questions from outside and more important to calm the Sufi, who try to make the entire world aware of the conduct of the responsible persons for the Islamic Revolution against their own population.
Most of the delegates who went to Iran, plea for fewer sanctions on the mullah-regime, because they fear pressure will be heightened for the religious and ethnic minorities.

The suspected enemies

In Iran the hardliner observe the activities of the opposition meticulously and try to discredit every criticism as treacherous to the Islamic Revolution. Every link to persons living in foreign countries is being interpreted as an activity as a foreign agent. Now, before the elections to the Majles, the hardliners want to intimidate their adversaries or instigate them to make a mistake.
In Keyhan, Mr. Shariatmadari’s hard line newspaper, which is said to be linked to the Intelligence Services, published a very long and important article about the dangers to the Islamic Republic of Iran. It claims to be the sum of 2 years intelligence research.

The strongest thesis held in this article is that the Dutch government is the leading European performer in activities against Islam and against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Aim of the activities of the Dutch government is alleged to lead a cultural stream for breaking the values of the Islamic Republic and introduce the cheap and meaningless values of Western countries.

The main instrument of the Dutch government to destroy Islamic values and westernize Iranian youths is Radio Zamaaneh.;
Farahnaz Karimi who was connected to the Mujahidin-e-Kalkh organization in Iran turned towards the Dutch green party, when she went to live in The Nederlands. She is member of the Dutch parliament since 1998. She is meant to be the person engaged by the Dutch government to build up Radio Zamaaneh (new times), which is broadcasting from Amsterdam on short waves to Iran from the 11th of September 2006. The Keyhan article names all journalists working for Radio Zamaaneh, its address and every detail concerning financing it.

Director of Radio Zamaaneh is the notable Mehdi Jami, a journalist and photographer. The Keyhan article considers him a puppet of the Dutch government. Exiled Iranians think Radio Zamaaneh is not complying with its targets to foster free journalism, they say it only keeps the line of the reformist movement in Iran and stays in the fringe of the system. They wish to have more critique with the regime and their violation of freedom in Iran. But Keyhan’s article gives more importance to this Radio. The difference to Radio Farda, BBC or Deutsche Welle is seen in the attempt not to persuade listeners in Iran by criticizing, but by introducing western culture into Iran. Several points are mentioned. A certain style of music and the open talk about sex are bothering the hardliners. Young Iranians are invited to contribute to Radio Zamaaneh from inside of Iran;
this is commented as an act of spying and giving dissidents the possibility to establish their contacts to western Intelligence. Radio Zamaaneh broadcasted an interview with Dr Nour Ali Tabandeh the head of the Gonabadi Sufi order, concerning the demonization and violation of his order. According to Keyhan Dr Tabandeh proclaims himself the representative of the Hidden Imam and only wanted to gain room for his Sufi sect, which is the worst Sufi sect claiming to be a branch of Shiism and being in contact with representatives of several political parties in Iran. Supporting this sect seems to be an act of treachery.

Theo van Gogh was a Dutch filmmaker, who produced the controversial film “Submission” together with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a liberal Dutch politician who fled Somalia and has renounced the Islamic faith, was brutally killed in public three years ago. This film portrayed violence against women in Islamic societies. Many Muslims living in The Nederlands felt insulted by the picture of a woman whose skin was painted with Koran verses next to whip marks. The fact that this film was publicly shown, and a second film called “Submission2” is on its way has been assessed by the article in Keyhan as an Anti-Islamic activity of the Dutch government.

In Den Haag they have a Museum, whose director is Wim van Krimpen. He wanted to exhibit photos of the Exiled Iranian artist Sooreh Hera, because he found them “special”. The photos show gay men - refugees from Iran – who for reasons of anonymity wear masks. Shortly before the exhibition van Krimpen decided to let some of the photos aside. He had discovered that the persons are wearing masks of Mohammed and Ali. He didn’t want to hurt the feelings of Muslims. Sooreh Hera received calls from persons threatening her life. Keyhan article regards the existence of these photos as an activity of the Dutch government to challenge the Islamic world. So The Nederlands are demonized and every person being in contact with this country will be regarded as bad.

Ardeshir Zandi, a refugee intellectual from Iran who lives in The Nederlands since 30 years, has a bad reminiscence of some methods of Iranian Intelligence. It is the principle of the agitating agents. At the Heinrich-Boell-Stiftung conference in April 2000 several reformers appeared and held speeches in preparation of Mohammad Khatami’s visit to Germany. Vevak agents had been recognized between leftwing disturbers, who tried to discredit the participants by shouting slogans against the Islam and the system in Iran and dance half-naked. All this had been recorded by Iranian Television and cut to a film that roused the impression that the Iranian participants agreed to the provocations. When the participants returned to their country, they were immediately seized by the authorities and put before court. Akbar Ganji, who later received various Freedom Awards from western countries, was one of the participants of the conference and he was sentenced to jail. “This is an example how radical forces in Iran often discredit their adversaries. They provoke some incidents, attribute them to their adversaries and put them out of the way, so they can keep their power,” says Zandi and he concludes: “one never knows were these agent-provocateurs will appear all of a sudden.”

This conclusion will not make it easy to look at things going on in Iran. But it can keep alert. The friends of personal rights, the ones who go for freedom, have to face strong challenges. The hardliners will not give power easily out of their hands. If the cry for freedom will cause dedication and determination under the freedom loving Iranian population, the case for freedom in Iran will improve.

©Helmut N. Gabel, Radio Flora, Hannover, Germany - December 2007

Monday, 17 December 2007

Humanity, Hate and Love

Humanity, Hate and Love
December 2007
This manifest is an appeal to the whole world for love and tolerance.
Progressive Sufi Muslim Movement

Some Muslims believe they are superior to everyone else. They don’t accept a dialogue about the Koran and the Islam with Christians or Jews or any other religion. If we make a dialogue with them from Muslim to Muslim and we can show them that their conception of Islam does not correspond to the Koran, it will be a powerful logic.

It is more reasonable to participate in an international dialogue about the human rights in the Koran, than to sit in the corner and release Fatwas against human rights.
We are an organization of independent members. The name of the organization is Progressive Sufi-Muslim Movement. We are concerned about the sources of inspiration and we are concerned about the future of humanity.

We hereby launch an international appeal to have a dialogue about the place of the human rights in the Koran.
The crisis

The conflict between the East and the West is a reality, which existed and exists. In the Eastern countries there is a bad reminiscence of the period of colonialism. Perhaps because of this period and the reminiscence of the negative consequences for the population in this region, there are a lot of people in the Middle East, who do not look at all with friendly eyes unto the Western countries and they desperately hate the culture there.

The authorities, the government of certain Muslim dominated countries they try to manipulate this historical conflict of the Eastern population against the Western cultures and countries, to manipulate them by the way of religion. They are using the religion as an instrument of manipulation of the mass. They are manipulating the mass by religion and they are manipulating the religion for manipulating the mass. The authorities of certain Muslim countries say: if we tell the people, USA is the Satan and if you go to suicide yourself for damaging the interest of, for example USA, you will reach paradise, and it is God, who promises you to reach paradise by doing so, this person will accept to do a suicide act because of the perspective offered to him. For his believe he accepts to do. Thus it is very easy to manipulate the mind of the people by the instrument of religion. So if we put away this instrument, how can we manipulate the people, or how can we resist in the confrontation with the Western countries?
In certain Muslim countries authorities spread populist messages in their public speeches: “Each aspect of a religion like the Islam has a political note.”(1)
[1] Rouh ollah Hossienian/ ref- 3 july-2007/ 12 /4/1386

آیت‌الله نوری همدانی گفت هدف از ترویج تصوف سرکوب اسلام خروشان و ناشی از فرهنگ اهل بیت(ع) است و سلاطین جبار با پرو بال دادن به شخصیت هایی چون بایزید بسطامی و فضیل عیاض، قصد بدل سازی برای ائمه اطهار(ع) را داشتند تا به وسیله ارتباط با این افراد، تدین خود را که برای مردم اهمیت داشت، اظهار کنند. اینها بلایایی بود تا اسلام دارای فرهنگ جهاد را به کشکول و تبرزین و سبیل و چله نشینی تبدیل کنند
Ayatollah Nouri Hamedani, Qom/ Wednesday 4th July 2007/ 13/4/1386,;;
Ayatollah Nouri Hamedani gave a warning about the development of Sufism in the Muslim-World .The Excellency Ayatollah Hossein Nouri Hamedani, one of the religious authorities of Qom, warned about the danger of Sufism in the world of Islam and told: This sect made bear the worst knock to the religion of Islam. IRNA’s report says: He reminded during his teachings of “Kharej” in the biggest mosque of Qom: the world-vision of Sufism is very dangerous and harmful against the Muslim-world, and we should watch their conspiracy.

He told also: a lot of points in their thoughts and ideas are closer to the polytheism, and it is rejected from our point of view. He told: They [the Sufis] try to make the propaganda of their thought in different gatherings and assemblies, and because of this danger, the Muslims entirely should be aware and awoke in front of them.

This religious authority told: the Sufis are the disastrous phenomenon for Islam, and he added: a lot of very considerable important men of the religious sciences like Ayatollah Mar’ashi Najafi have felt their dangers, and warned about their harmful knocks against Islam.
He added: a lot of Sufis are supported by the enemies of Islam in order to harm the religion.
Ayatollah Nouri Hamedani, Qom/ Monday 5th December 2007 / 26/9/1386
Sufis and the Koran

The answer of the Sufi is: God never send the holy books in order to be manipulated by humans in times of crisis for their own purposes. They must refrain from commenting and interpreting the Koran. They must not involve Koran and Islam and the belief of the people in their calculation and in their policy. This is not fair. Not only that people cannot resist in front of imperialism and capitalism - but more than this, the country becomes weaker and weaker, because people are losing their faith and their belief and they start to abuse drugs and alcohol. One of the biggest problems of Iran of today and a lot of Islamic countries is the problem of drug abuse. It is very widespread and really out of the control of the governments.
People lose their hope to religion and to spirituality. For giving quietness to their mind, they choose to use the drugs. The time for manipulation of the belief of the people is very, very short. It is not a long term plan. And the people responsible for these manipulations know themselves this fact. So it is better to find another solution to confront as they pretend to do with the imperialist and former colonialist countries, than to use the Koran for their purposes. It is not allowed at all to manipulate God and Gods book and the belief of the people to God for political affairs.

There is confusion about the intentions of Sufism. As we are writing these thoughts, we can be sure to be accused by these same governments to work on account of the imperialist countries and that we don’t want people to be revolutionary in the name of Islam. But what we would like is not to stop the revolution of the people. The revolution of the people has nothing to do with Sufism. The Sufi as a right Muslim would like to defend the respect of the holiness of the Koran and the Islam. Each Sufi should be engaged in this way to defend the respect and the dearness of the holy book of the Koran and of the Islam teachings. A Sufi cannot rest closed hands in front of what is happening against Islam, because the damage that the fundamentalist authorities are making to Islam is certainly more than the damage that the Imperialists and the Capitalists are making for the Muslim countries. So the authorities must find another solution for their own problem. We as Sufis would like to defend the holiness of the book. This is very important for us.
The Eastern and Western countries are in the summit of their historical conflict which started with Marco Polo. Each one of them would like to have the supremacy in the world and they are confronting each other. It is clear that after the dismantlement of the Soviet Union, the
ideology of Marxism-Leninism based on the dialectical materialism was eliminated and meanwhile the event of Islamic revolution in Iran with the Shiite ideology, took the place of the Soviet Union as a pole to the USA and Islam became a governmental religion, a religion in service of the government. Of a government that manipulates religion in its own benefit.
Before this event in Iran the Madresse, the religious seminaries in Iran, like in Mashad, in Qom etc. were independent from the government. But after the revolution all of the religious centers lost their independency. All of the independent religious persons lost their position and place in Iran. Now the system manipulates the religion. The religion is in service of the system and it is said that it is a religious system and religious government and a governmental religion. Besides there are a lot of other fanatic and extremist movements like Salafism, like Wahabism, like the Islam of the Taliban etc which are more radical than the Extremists in Iran. So we see that the world is going more and more towards a big dangerous hole, which opens its mouth like a dragon to swallow everything. And first the human rights and the human values are going to be swallowed in the mouth of this dragon.

How are these problems to be solved? This is the most important dilemma of our time. First thing which is sacrificed in this conflict of this agitated world is the holiness of the Koran and the holiness of the teachings of the Prophets who came to bring a spiritual education for human beings and showed the way of the substantial evolution to each individual. All of these teachings which are the content of each religion, including Islam, are totally forgotten and each aspect of extremism and non-tolerance is introduced to the entire world as Islam. We would like to understand what Islam really is. We would like to know if there is another version of Islam and if there is another understanding of Islam defended by Muslims, who like to rest in the frame of the Koran, outside of the historical conflict of Sunnism and Shiism and all of this. We would like to discover what the Koran teaches us and how we can understand better the Koran to find the place of the Koran of today. What is another version of Islam, which can help to bring peace in the entire world and peace in each individual? By this we are going to discover Sufism.
What is Sufism?

There are different possibilities to explain what Sufism is. We can refer to a lot of books and a lot of explanations given by a lot of Sufi teachers and Sufi Masters very differently. But if we would like to extract the common point of all the Sufi masters in the world during the centuries, we reach to this point that it means: study the book of yourself, it is enough for you. (1) (اقراء کتابک کفی بنفسک ) In other words we can tell: know yourself and you will know God. It is the same thing.
But „know yourself and you will know God” is older than Sufism. It is written in an antique temple in Greece (Delphi: Gnothi seauton).
This message kept being respected by the Sufi. But we have this other sentence: „read the book of your own creation, of your own existence, it is enough for you.” We would like to explain a little more about this sentence. (2)

[1] اقْرَأْ كِتَابَكَ كَفَى بِنَفْسِكَ الْيَوْمَ عَلَيْكَ حَسِيبًا Koran/ S 17- v.14
2سَنُرِيهِمْ آيَاتِنَا فِي الآفَاقِ وَفِي أَنْفُسِهِمْ حَتَّى يَتَبَيَّنَ لَهُمْ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ Koran/S 41- v.53

It is said that a sign orienting the attention of the searchers for the creator exists everywhere in the universe, in each horizon and in the researcher in the creation of the researcher. So when a researcher starts to do a research for himself, he reaches to the truth. He understands that the truth is true. And only by his personal research he can reach to the truth. So this sentence is very important. It says: „study the book of yourself, it is enough for you“.
This is a verse of the Koran. It means that in the Koran the individual is invited, to know himself after a deep study about himself, about a substantial study. To pass layer by layer toward the substance of him or herself, to emerge in the ocean of his or her own self.
So the common point of Sufism and the teachings of all Sufi Masters during the centuries is: know yourself and you will know the truth. It is amazing to know that this sentence is the most important appeal of the Koran.

But how can I emerge in the depth of myself? How can I know myself? By which method can I get to know myself? I don’t know. Only by me and my reason it works not, because reason is limited. My Self is not limited. A not-limited thing cannot be understood by limited equipment. How can I do?

The Sufi says that out of his clemency God send his own teachers, the spiritual teachers, to bring an adequate method and teach us how to know ourselves.
In the eyes of the Sufi the method of Self-realizing and Self-understanding is the main message of the spiritual teachers who are named the Prophets and the Saints. So for the Sufi each Prophet is a spiritual teacher. Each Prophet is send by God, to bring to humanity the method of self discovering, how to study yourself. By this manner we see that the message of the Sufi for each individual is how to discover your Self.

The Sufi didn’t invent anything about this method of self discovering, but they know this method from generation to generation, either by the divine teachers or the Prophets. The Sufi masters are the frame-keeper of the spiritual teachings of the prophets, which permit to the individual to discover him or herself.

This is the main message of the Sufi.

Further on the Sufi tells, you don’t know your creator and you don’t know your universe and you don’t know your neighbor. When you don’t know yourself you are living in ignorance. The ignorant people are used to put themselves as the center of the universe and to claim everything for themselves and to start conflicts and wars and a lot of problems for others, because they are not in quietness in themselves. When you know and discover yourself you reach to a universe of quietness. When you don’t know yourself you are living in an inner conflict inside of yourself.
The first step in Sufism is to know your Self. After you discover yourself, you discover quietness and your way changes, you start to become tolerant. You understand the meaning of the quality of tolerance.
In the eyes of the Sufis the main problem of the conqueror is that they are after something, but they don’t know what the subject of their search is.
They are going from the East to the West and vice-versa. The reality of the purpose of their search is inside of themselves, but they are going so far from themselves.
What is the purpose of Sufism? What is the method of Sufism? What is the source of inspiration of Sufism? What is the world vision of Sufism?

All of this what we explain, you can find in the explanation of every Sufi master. This is the message of Hafez, this is the message of Shah Nematollah, and this is the message of Saadi, of every important Sufi master. Especially we find all of this in the teachings of Rumi. We can give a thousand examples of this appeal of each Sufi.

Know yourself. When you know yourself you become tolerant. When you know yourself you can control and dominate your emotions, your imagination, you reach to control yourself. Thus you can reach to inner peace. And when peace dominates inside of your existence, you will be in peace with everything outside of you.

This is the message and the purpose of Sufism.

Mewlana Rumi is well known in the entire world. He gives us a manner of self-discovery. He thinks by applying this manner a lot of individual and social problems will be solved. He is convinced by this.

I give this example: when two persons close a pact with each other, they marry or associate to each other, they are very very sincere, but all of a sudden something happens which was not expected.
Why does something happen? I do something which is totally unexpected to my friend, and my friend would like to break with me and will tell me: “I didn’t know you are like this, I didn’t know that you are able to do this. If I had known before I would not have made a pact with you.”

And it is true. But in reality the person who is pointed at with the finger, which is accused of doing something unexpected in the eyes of the other one, did not expect herself to do something like this. The person’s friend says: “I didn’t expect you to do something like this, I didn’t know you.” But in fact the person does not know herself. I am not aware about myself and about my reactions. There are a milliard possibilities and I don’t how to do. How can I control myself?

So only when something happens the persons who are around me criticize me for doing this or that and not doing something else. They say: “we didn’t know you might be able to do this”, and they are right, “because I didn’t know myself that I was able to do like this”. All of the problems which happen in the society between the individuals are due to not-understanding oneself. So everything is possible. It is right for everybody. For everybody is the same thing. Nobody knows him or herself.

I would like to know everything about everything, not about myself. And this is the biggest wrong that we are doing. We are going so far out of ourselves.

There is a Persian proverb: You are thirsty and the water is in the jar. And you are going so far for searching the water. You are going next the sea, searching for the river and you cannot find the river, it becomes more and more complicated – and the water is in the jar.

Your friend is in the house and you are travelling everywhere in the world for searching the trace of your beloved. And your beloved is in the house.

So the truth is inside of yourself. You are going everywhere for finding the truth and you forget finally the truth and yourself and everything will be possible.

As a Sufi master Rumi is applying exactly the appeal of the Koran which invites each individual to study the book of his own creation, of his self to discover oneself. Rumi first worked on his own discovery and afterwards he guided people in this way and he gave an appeal to humanity, to the history of humanity to do a personal research for finding oneself.

I would like to give a very important example of this fact of the book of Rumi.

Rumi explained in the 6th volume of the Mathnawi about a man whose father passed away and let a lot of money for this man. And because this man who had a sudden access to all this wealth had never worked and never had a hard time to gain this heritage, he didn’t know the value of that heritage. So he started to spend largely this money and after a few years he became poor. He didn’t have any money left. He was not used to work and had no profession and no job. So he started to cry and asked God to help him to find a way to have something to eat. One night after a lot of crying and a lot of insistence to God, he slept and during his dream he saw a hidden treasure and for finding this hidden treasure he should go to Baghdad. So he travelled from his own city in Egypt to Baghdad, where he was put to jail the moment he arrived in Baghdad. He was mistaken for a robber whom the police in Baghdad was looking for since very long. And the police wouldn‘t believe his words claiming not to be the robber and to be in Baghdad for the first time and keep him in jail. And only after a period of long investigation they started to believe him that he is for the first time in Baghdad and not at all the searched for robber. But before they let him go, they asked him why he had left his country and had gone to Baghdad. And he talked about his dream where he had seen the treasure and was send to Baghdad. When the investigating policeman heard about the dream he laughed and told the man how stupid he was, because he had once found a map where a treasure was marked in exactly the city in Egypt in the street and in the house where our dreamer came from. So he went back to Egypt and dug in his garden for the treasure and found it there.

So in his dream he was told there is a hidden treasure. For finding this hidden treasure he should go to Baghdad. And he understood that he must go to Baghdad for finding the treasure in Baghdad. But it was meant that he had to go to Baghdad to find out how to find the treasure. So finally the treasure was under his feet. This story existed long time before Rumi and Rumi talked about it in his book.

But Nezami, who lived 150 years before Rumi, explained a story about a man who was living in a ruin. In that ruin there was a hidden treasure. This man was very very poor. He was a beggar. Every day he went into the streets for begging and came back in the night to the house. He died like this and the treasure rested covered and hidden under his feet. His whole life he was a beggar. So he gives this message that we are the same beggar. We are asking the money from left and right and the most valuable treasure exists in ourselves. But we are not aware of this and we are indifferent to this.

So we must start to dig a vertical channel to our substance to discover this hidden treasure which is given by God to us.

Rumi like other Sufi masters pointed out for discovering this hidden treasure the method of the Vali and of the Prophets and the Saints were always different than the method of the thinkers and the philosophers and the scientists.

Why? Because they are using their five senses and their intellect for reasoning by a rational manner to find the things and to think about the things and to understand the mechanism of the things.

Rumi says that the method of the Sufi is different.

The method and interest of the Sufi is to develop the supra-sensorial senses for opening the door to another dimension, because the substance of human being is a spiritual substance which is coming from divinity. It is the breath of God. And via the ordinary equipment like the five senses and the intellect, we cannot understand it. So by using our five senses we cannot discover our real self. By reasoning we cannot understand our real selves. How we should do for discovering our real selves to develop the extraordinary senses?

Rumi and all Sufi masters, who follow the trace of the Prophet say: It is clear that the appeal of the Prophet and of the Koran is: study your own book of life, it is enough for you. It is not necessary to make war, to stifle conflicts and so on. Try to know yourself.

Here we understood two things: it is necessary to know ourselves. For this we must use a particular method. Because by using our intellect as the philosophers do, we cannot discover our real selves. Our real self is a spiritual reality which is coming from another world and has nothing to do with the material world and with nature. So we cannot discover our spiritual nature by material equipment.

Rumi said we need to use another method in order to develop another capacity inside ourselves which permits to discover ourselves and this other capacity is the supra-sensorial understanding. So this grants us another perspective and deeper understanding of ourselves.
When someone discovers the real reality of love, the energy of love starts to run in his existence. By this he starts to understand what love is and the interference of the whole universe and each particle of the universe to each other. So he starts to be in love with the Creator and with creation.

The result of self-discovering, self-understanding, self-realization, self-accomplishment is this energy of love, which is enormous and which doesn’t stop as Hafez says: „I am dear, in the eyes of the server of the fire temple, because the eternal fire which never dies is in my heart. “
The result is there. If we see, that Hafez is full of love, the style of Hafez’ poetry, of Rumi‘s poetry, of Saadi’s poetry and so on is full of energy of love, it is because they discovered themselves. They accomplished this travel inside of themselves. Saadi says: “I am in love with the entire world. My beloved is in every piece of the world, so I am in love with my beloved, who is running everywhere in everything.”

Developing an extra sensorial understanding

For this the Sufi method is very very clear. The method of the Sufi education is based on two pillars. One pillar is silent meditation and being connected to the muscle of the heart. Second pillar is to fly to other dimensions with the wings of specific rhythms.

This method is taught by Rumi to his students and by his students to other students. Before Rumi it was like this and after Rumi it rested like this, that mainly and absolutely the method of Sufi education has nothing to do neither with reasoning nor with sensorial perception. They are developing the extra sensorial perception by meditation in silence and by using the rhythms.
The source of inspiration for the Sufi is the Koran. It could be all of the divine and holy and sacred books in the world. But the particularity of this time is that there is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding and amalgam about the Koran teachings.

A lot of people who name themselves a Muslim they are doing a lot of acts which can only be described as fanaticism and they are doing all of this, they permit to do all of this, they permit to cross every red limit under the name of Islam. But what is the source of their inspiration? About which Islam are they talking? Often they are talking about a revolutionary Islam. But what does it mean a revolutionary Islam?

Finally each kind of Islam should be in correspondence with the Koranic teachings. It cannot be in the opposite sense of the Koranic teachings. So we must know from which Islam they are talking. We would like to know if these persons who proclaim to be Muslim they really believe to the Koran or not. Do they accept the Koran as the main source of inspiration or not? If we look at the Koran a lot of things which happen now under the name of Islam, are not possible to do according to the principles you will find in the Koran.

The importance of Sufism is that their own method of education, their purpose, their goal, their destination, their point of departure is extracted from the Koran teachings and it is based and referred to the Koran verses. This is not the case with the non-tolerant people who do everything under the name of Islam and they are transgressing the teachings of the Koran.
One of the reasons for which we think that Sufism was always looked at suspiciously and badly in past times and nowadays, is that the Sufi are relying on the Koran.

The importance of the Koran

Why is the Koran important? In the Islamic countries all of the other books, like the Bhagavad-Gita, the Bible, the Thora, the Avesta and other holy books, cannot be an alternative to Islam in the Islamic countries. The Islamic countries have the population who believe to Islam, and you cannot tell that something else is written in the Bible or in the Bhagavad-Gita or in any other book of revelation, because the Muslims say, all right it is good for them. We are following our belief to Islam and we are not interested to other books and other culture or other religion. For us is important the content of Islam.

Throughout the history the Sufi appeal to the Muslim people to become aware of the question what Islam means, what conception of Islam they have. We don’t know their conception, but for us the main pillar of Islam is the Koran and what is written in the Koran we are applying in daily life. For each thing that we are doing we have the support of the Koran. So we are Muslim but we have another version of Islam. Thus we must compare our version of Islam with each other to know which one is closer to the Koran. The main source of Islam is the Koran. And we must choose by this method, which is the way of the Koran. The Koran is the talk of God; it is the speech of God. Afterwards, every other thing is the reasoning or the pretention or the invention of mankind. The Koran is sacred, other things are not sacred. So when we have the Koran why should we refer to other books? So the Sufis proclaim to try to follow the teachings of the Koran, no more, no less. That is all. For this reason Sufism was always considered as an alternative of Islam in the Muslim countries which existed always in the margin, because nobody under the name of Sufism governed any country.

Past and present mission of Sufism

Sufism is for developing the super sensorial understanding in order to accomplish oneself, to discover oneself. But what is important for the entire world is that the main source of inspiration is the Koran and nothing else. The Sufi are the real Muslim, they think that they are the real Muslim. They think they have the knowledge of the Koran and everything they do is corresponding to the Koran. Rumi précised and insisted very much in this fact. Rumi lived in a very agitated time of history. It was the time of attack of the Mongolian army in many regions of the world, especially in the Muslim countries.

So Rumi could not give advice Dschingis Khan in that moment. There was no ideological relationship between them, because Dschingis Khan followed the order of Jassa, his own book. But Saadi or Hafez could criticize the emperor of their region and time, because he pretended to be Muslim. Hafez told him: „what you are doing doesn’t correspond with Islam, because it is against the Koran.

Why is this not only important for Muslim countries?

The main attention of the entire world is how to deal with the problem which is coming from the Muslim countries. Many people from Muslim countries want to destroy and attack the signs of civilization and modern times by the name of Islam. If we can solve the problem of the misunderstanding of Islam, if we can tell to the Muslim people, that there is another way closer to the teachings of the Koran, another version of Islam more human and closer to the spirit of the teachings of the Koran, if a lot of Muslim people will change their mind, a lot of problems in the world will be solved.

It is the importance of Sufism in this moment. It was always important, but the difference to our times is there that Sufism was always busy by its own purpose which was giving the teachings and the education to each individual to bring peace and quietness inside of each person. But now the question is how we can bring the message of peace, to show a way to peace to the entire world. This is the mission of Sufism nowadays.

The Sufi would like to tell that if you look at the Koran with open eyes and read the Koran you will find that there is another version of Islam. We can be Muslim and not be reactionary, we can be Muslim and not be fanatic, we can be Muslim and be tolerant, and everything is possible. Nowadays Sufism has a hidden historical mission: to show to the whole world and not only to the Muslim people that there is a big misunderstanding about the teachings of the Koran, about Islam.

Mohammad’s mission

In this time we are confronted with a very big dilemma. When Mohammad was living in Arabia 15 centuries before our time, he was born in a tribe, which was immersed in superstition and obscurantism. They were people who were not able to write or read. They worshipped the idols of stone and wood. They were people who didn’t have any experience of rationality, philosophy, science, wisdom. Mohammad was a prophet, a divine messenger, a spiritual teacher and one of the consequences of his mission was the accomplishment of a cultural revolution in the region in which he was living. For the first time he brought to his people the word of Ketab: the book. What does it mean a book? How to write a book? How to read a book? How to study a book? He taught them all of that.

He told his people don’t worship the stones and in place of that go the way of God. How? By knowing yourself. Study yourself, it is enough for you. He showed them the way of culture and wisdom and transmission of science and of wisdom to the coming generation by the manner of writing and reading books. It was a very big historical mission in his time. But now we see that in certain parts of the world with the majority of the Muslim population we see that despite of the fact that the people are Muslim and they think that they are followers of Mohammad they are going in the contrary sense of the Cultural Revolution and spiritual mission of their own prophet. In the time of Mohammad they converted the Beytullah, the house of God in Mecca to an idol house. It was filled with 360 idols. Each tribe had posed its stony idol inside. So it was no longer the Allah house, but it was the house of the idols. It was the time of the reign of superstition and obscurantism and darkness. The mission of Mohammad was to delete and to eliminate all of the idols and to put away the idols from the house of Allah.

The necessity of our time

Now we live in the 21st century and we see people who worship and expect the miracle from a dried and forgotten well in the middle of the desert.
So if this is not superstition, what is superstition? This belief to the dry well and to expect the miracle from the dry well has nothing to do with Islam, with the Koran. It is on the contrary sense of the mission of Mohammad.

It is very hard to accept and unbelievable that there are Millions of people who follow this way, the way of superstition. And they think they are the good Muslim. They think that they are the best people ever created by God. In the Koran there is a verse which says: „the most loser people are the persons who are doing the wrong things and they think they are doing the good thing. “ They are losing their energy and their time and they believe they are doing the good thing and they are doing the worst thing. They are the most loser creature of God. This is the example what we experience today.

The problem is that a lot of superstitions are applied each day under the name of Islam. Because Islam is unknown, because Koran is unknown, because the majority of those people don’t know what the teachings of the Koran are. It is necessary to tell them that all of this is contrary to the teachings and the mission of Mohammad.

It is not something we would like to invent; it is being said for 15 centuries by the Sufis. The Sufis don’t expect any miracle from any dry well. They are searching for Gods light in their heart. If the way of Sufism is known by the Muslim people and by Non-Muslim people, it will be peace and tolerance between the civilization and the cultures and the religions. From the other hand it will be less room for superstition inside of the Muslim countries. I regard this as very very important.

The necessity of our time is to build a barrier against superstition.

We must sensitize the societies in the entire world and especially in the West to talk about the real Islam, because we see that in the Western countries this misunderstanding about Islam is going to be developed more and more among the Muslim people who live in the Western countries. They think if they are against the society or are angry against the society they are good Muslims. We must tell the world it is not true. The Islam is the way of evolution and progress and discovery. It is very important to sensitize the entire world to the teachings of the Koran and the fact that the Islam has nothing to do with all of the violence and intolerance, and emphasize on the fact that worshipping the dry well and things like this has any place at all in Islam and it is not necessary to fanaticize the people and wash the minds of the people by this kind of things and bring them to do the suicide act and to do the violent actions against modern society and to place bombs and so on.

Only by an intellectual manner or by delivering speeches about the human rights, it is not possible to achieve anything in the minds of the people in Muslim countries. When the UN for example condemns the Muslim government for not respecting the human rights, the Muslim government replies: „ You are following the human rights that you invented by yourself. We are following the right written in the Islam which is the inspiration of God and for us it is more important than your human rights. But we must tell them, that it is not true. What they are following is not written in the Koran. In the Koran is written the contrary of what they are doing.

We must talk with them from Muslim to Muslim. Christian people or say Buddhist people cannot criticize, because their point of view is not accepted by a Muslim from the beginning. A Muslim says he is right, because he is already a Muslim and a Non- Muslim is wrong, because he simply is not a Muslim. It is not possible to make a dialogue. They believe they are superior to everyone else. But if we make a dialogue with them as a Muslim and we can show them that their conception of Islam does not correspond to the Koran, it will be a powerful logic.

It is more reasonable to participate in an international dialogue about the human rights in the Koran, than to sit in the corner and release Fatwas against human rights. We launch an international appeal to have a dialogue about the place of the human rights in the Koran. P-S-M-M
(Progressive Sufi –Muslim Movement)

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

November 21, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- One of the lawyers representing a Sufi order targeted by a recent crackdown has been detained in Iran, Radio Farda reported.

Mostafa Daneshju was detained in Karaj on November 20, but the reason for his arrest has not been made clear, nor is it known where Daneshju is being held.

A fellow lawyer, Farshid Yadollahi, told Radio Farda that Daneshju had previously been sentenced to a prison term and lashes on charges of spreading lies and insulting officials. He reportedly appealed against the sentence.

Yadollahi also said Daneshju has been active in defending the rights of the Gonabadi order of dervishes. "Following the destruction of the Gonabadi worship house in Ghom, [Daneshju] launched a complaint about the legal and religious violations that happened there," Yadollahi said. "He also represented the case of a Sufi who had been attacked in Loristan Province."
Daneshju's arrest comes about 10 days after clashes broke out between dervishes and Shi'ite hard-liners in the Western city of Borujerd.

Dozens of people were injured and arrested during the skirmishes, and the Sufis' prayer house was partly destroyed.

Human rights groups have expressed concern over what appears to be increased state pressure on the Sufi order in Iran.

The U.S. State Department says respect for religious freedom in Iran is extremely poor and has been deteriorating since Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005 -- especially for Sufi Muslims and members of the Baha'i faith.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Friday, 16 November 2007

By Ron Synovitz

(RFE/RL) -- Clashes in Iran this week between security forces and followers of a mystic Sufi order have underlined what international human rights groups say is the increasing "demonization" of Sufi Muslims in Iran.

Dozens of people were injured and arrested during the November 11 clashes in the western city of Borujerd, and parts of the Sufis' monastery there were destroyed. Official media said the clashes came after Sufis attacked a Shi'a mosque in the city where clerics had been criticising Sufism.

Sufism is growing in popularity in predominantly Shi'ite Iran, though officials and conservative Shi'a clerics have said it is a deviation of Islam.
Centuries-old Tensions

Sufism is a mystic tradition within Islam in which individuals pursue absolute truth and divine wisdom through mystic revelation. It is best known around the world for its "whirling dervish" dances and for the mystical poetry of 13th-century Persian poet Molana Jalal ad-Din Rumi.
In fact, Sufi Muslims believe that rituals involving dance, music, and the recitation of Allah's divine names can give them direct perception of God.

But although many Sufi orders strictly observe Islamic practices and beliefs, some conservative Shi'a clerics in Iran say Sufism is a danger to Islam.

Indeed, there have long been tensions in Iran between Sufism and more orthodox traditions of Islam. Observers such as the human-rights group Amnesty International say these tensions have worsened -- and state tolerance for Sufi groups in Iran has diminished -- since the establishment of an Islamic republic some 28 years ago.The poet Molana Jalal ad-Din Rumi (public domain)

And since Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005, Iranian authorities appear to be increasingly confronting Sufi Muslims.

Abdol Karim Lahiji, a prominent Iranian lawyer who directs the Paris-based League for Defense of Human Rights in Iran, tells RFE/RL that the divisions between Sufis and Shi'a in Iran can be traced back more than 1,000 years.

In particular, Lahiji notes that the approach toward Islam of Sufi orders -- known as Tariqas -- differs markedly from that of Iran's conservative Shi'a clerics, who follow a strict interpretation of Islamic rules known as shari'a law.

"First it's the historical problem between two kinds of thinking about Islam," Lahiji says. "It's two schools -- the school of shari'a and the school of Tariqa. Tariqa means Sufis [orders] and all the mystic schools. In all our history, it was always a fight between two kinds of interpretations of Islam. The Sufis were more tolerant of freedom of speech and freedom of religion. The [shari'a] people were more aggressive and less tolerant of the other interpretations of Islam."
The Islamic Revolution, which brought Iran's conservative clerics to power in 1979, also established shari'a as the basis of all laws in the country.

"For that reason, the other sections of Islam -- like Sunnis, like Ismaili, like Sufis -- not only haven't the same rights in the constitution and the political and judicial systems of Iran, they aren't considered real Muslims," Lahiji says. "For that reason, all kinds of persecution of these kinds of Muslims are permitted in Iran."

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."

Monastery Bulldozed
The November 11 clashes pitted police and Basij paramilitary troops against members of the largest Sufi order in Iran, Nematollahi Gonabadi.
Nematollahi Gonabadi is the Sufi order with teachings that most closely resemble Shi'a Islamic traditions. Nevertheless, Iranian security forces in the end used bulldozers to demolish parts of the Sufi monastery in Borujerd, known as Hossaini-ye Nematollahi Gonabadi.

There are conflicting reports about what led to the clashes, none of which could be independently confirmed. However, by all accounts, scores of people were injured and arrested during the confrontation.Whriling dervishes performing in Istanbul (AFP)
Iran's official state-run news agencies says Sufis attacked a Shi'a mosque, the Masjid an-Nabi, that is next door to their Sufi monastery.

Those reports say the Sufis were angry about criticism from Shi'a clerics that were being broadcast from loudspeakers in the mosque's minarets.

Sufis in Borujerd describe events differently. They say Shi'a clerics feel threatened by the growing popularity of the Sufi movement in Iran, especially among young people.

One Sufi follower in Borujerd told Radio Farda that Iranian authorities had invented stories about the Sufi attack on the Shi'a mosque in order to justify the destruction of the monastery.
"[Authorities] spread a rumor that Sufi mystics had attacked Masjid an-Nabi and injured one of the clerics there," he said. "This very rumor gave an excuse for the [paramilitary Basij] to say that they must seek vengeance. By mobilizing forces around the city, they somehow gathered people together and attacked Hossaini-ye, [the Sufi's monastery.] They attacked first with sticks and stones, demolishing the ceiling of Hossaini-ye. Then, when they entered Hossaini-ye, the Sufis and dervishes resisted and forced them back out of the building. Then, they attacked again -- this time using tear gas and colored gases. So they occupied the Hossaini-ye. They burned it and destroyed it. They are persecuting Sufis for their religious beliefs."

Leaders of other Sufi orders contacted by RFE/RL have declined to comment on the Borujerd dispute, saying they fear their followers will be persecuted in Iran if they issue political statements about Ahmadinejad's regime.

'Threatening Atmosphere'
The U.S. State Department says respect for religious freedom in Iran is extremely poor and has been deteriorating since Ahmadinejad came to power -- especially for Sufi Muslims and members of the Baha'i Faith.

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.

Local officials in Qom said the Sufis had illegally created a center of worship and refused to leave it. They also said that some of the Sufis demonstrators had been armed.

But representatives of the Sufi order in Qom have denied the charges, saying they have been targeted for persecution because of the increasing popularity of Sufism.
(Radio Farda's Alireza Taheri contributed to this report)

Monday, 12 November 2007

Iran police battle Sufi Muslims

BBC-Around 180 Sufi Muslims have been arrested in Iran after attacking a Shia mosque where a cleric labelled their religion "illegitimate", say reports.
The confrontation in the western city of Boroujerd led to a shootout between the Sufis and police that reportedly left about 80 people injured.
Sufis are tolerated in the Islamic Republic though some religious leaders have branded them "a danger to Islam".
About 1,000 Sufis were held last year in clashes at Iran's holy city of Qom.

The disorder in Boroujerd, about 320 km (200 miles) south-west of the capital, Tehran, broke out on Saturday morning, according to local news agencies.
Sufis attacked a Shia mosque after a cleric said their lodge should be shut down.
On Sunday, police reportedly raided the Sufi lodge to make arrests and bloody clashes ensued, resulting in the building being partially destroyed.
Sufism is Islamic mysticism. Sufis believe in a mystical path to God through prayer, dance and music.

There are Sunni and Shia Sufis. Their practices are often seen as unorthodox and illegitimate by more conservative Muslims
Dozens injured in clash between Sufi mystics and Iran paramilitary

International Herald Tribune:
Dozens of people were injured and arrested when Iranian police and special forces stormed a Muslim Sufi lodge in southwestern Iran after a clash between Sufis and members of a nearby Shiite mosque, authorities and witnesses said Sunday.

Paramilitary forces attached to the Islamic Republic's elite Revolutionary Guard exchanged gunfire with Sufis as they backed police efforts Saturday to take over the Sufi lodge, where the group holds ceremonies in the town of Boroujerd, witnesses said.

"Some 80 people were injured and a part of the Sufis' temple was destroyed during the clashes," Mohammad Ali Tohidi, the town governor, told The Associated Press on the telephone from Boroujerd. He said 180 Sufi members were arrested.
Iranian state radio briefly mentioned the news on Sunday, saying "clashes between people and Sufis ended in Boroujerd after police intervention."

A student who said he witnessed the clash said Iranian special forces were involved in the fighting along with police and the paramilitary unit, known as the Basij.
The student, who is not a Sufi but spoke on condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity, said he saw shooting by both sides during the clash. He said forces seized the temple after setting fire to Sufis' belongings.

Authorities did not comment on how many civilians, police and military were among the injured. Calls to local hospitals were unanswered.

The Associated Press could not reach any Sufis in the town.
Local journalist Morteza Bourbour said the violence began Saturday morning when Sufis attacked a nearby mosque, injuring several Shiite Muslim clerics who had previously urged their followers to shut down the Sufi temple because it was "illegitimate."

"Some 50 Basijs were injured when they and police tried to enter the Khaneqah (Sufi lodge) on Saturday," Bourbour told AP. "Sufis resisted and pelted Basij members with bricks and stones."
The semi-official Mehr news agency reported that six Basijs were injured during the clashes in Boroujerd, a town of 230,000 that lies some 500 kilometers southwest of the capital, Tehran.

The agency quoted Hossein Saberi, governor general of Lorestan province, where the town is located, as saying that the Sufi lodge and the mosque were in the same neighborhood, and that police had been ordered to take control in case of any clash.

The independent news web site Advarnews said some 100 Sufis were injured and another 500 arrested "after an unidentified group captured the lodge, setting fire to it and flattening it by bulldozer."
Discrepancies between the various reports could not immediately be verified.
Sufi orders form a mystical branch of Islam that emphasizes direct mystical experience over mainstream religious practice.

Although Sufis have often been influential in various Muslim countries over the centuries, they have at times been persecuted by both the Sunni and Shiite religious establishments.
Iran's Islamic government does not welcome religious sects and cults in general. However, major religions are recognized officially and their followers have representatives in parliament.
Although part of Islam, Sufis have had increasingly uneasy relations with Iran's clerical regime in recent years and months. Last year, for example, authorities closed down a Sufi lodge in the holy city of Qom.

Iranian Sufis mainly belong to an order known as the Nematollahi-Gonabadi.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Sufis Clash With Iranian Troops

Associated Press: Police and paramilitary officers traded fire with followers of the mystical Sufi branch of Islam who had clashed over religious differences with Shiite Muslims in southwest Iran, authorities and witnesses said Sunday.

Dozens of people were injured and arrested when the police, paramilitaries and special forces stormed the lodge of the Sufis, who had fought members of a nearby Shiite mosque in the city of Boroujerd, witnesses said.

Both sides shot at each other before authorities seized the lodge and set fire to Sufis' belongings, according to a student who said he witnessed the clash, and spoke on condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity.

Sufi orders form a branch of Islam that emphasizes direct mystical experience over mainstream religious practice. Sufis have had increasingly uneasy relations with Iran's Shiite clerical regime, and authorities closed down a Sufi lodge in the holy Shiite city of Qom last year.

Local journalist Morteza Bourbour said the violence in Boroujerd began Saturday morning when Sufis attacked a nearby mosque, injuring several Shiite Muslim clerics who had urged their followers to shut down the Sufi lodge because it was "illegitimate."

The semiofficial Mehr news agency quoted Hossein Saberi, governor general of Lorestan province, as saying that police had been ordered to take control in case of any clash between members of the Sufi lodge and the mosque, which were in the same neighborhood.
The student, who is not a Sufi, said Iranian special forces were involved in the fighting along with police and the paramilitary unit, known as the Basij.

"Sufis resisted and pelted Basij members with bricks and stones," injuring some 50 member of the paramilitary group after they tried to enter the lodge along with police, Bourbour told The Associated Press.

"Some 80 people were injured and a part of the Sufis' lodge was destroyed during the clashes," town governor Mohammad Ali Tohidi told the AP by telephone from Boroujerd. He said 180 Sufis were arrested.
The independent news web site Advarnews said some 100 Sufis were injured and another 500 arrested "after an unidentified group captured the lodge, setting fire to it and flattening it by bulldozer."

Mehr reported that six Basijs were injured during the clashes in Boroujerd, a city of 230,000 some 300 miles southwest of the capital, Tehran.
Iranian state radio briefly mentioned the news on Sunday, saying "clashes between people and Sufis ended in Boroujerd after police intervention."

Authorities did not comment on how many civilians, police and military were among the injured. Calls to local hospitals were unanswered, and the AP could not reach any Sufis in the town.

Although Sufis have been influential in various Muslim countries over the centuries, they have at times been persecuted by both Sunni and Shiite religious establishments.
Iran's Islamic government does not welcome religious sects and cults. However, major religions are recognized officially and their followers have representatives in parliament.
Iranian Sufis mainly belong to an order known as the Nematollahi-Gonabadi
Police hold 180 in Iran religious clash-report
(Reuters) - Police detained 180 people in a western Iranian city after unrest involving Sufi Muslims, the semi-official Fars News Agency reported on Sunday.

Details about Saturday night's incident were unclear and could not be independently confirmed.
Sufi Muslims have in the past clashed with the authorities in predominantly Shi'ite Muslim Iran. Sufism, a form of mystical Islam, is tolerated in Iran but some of its religious leaders have called for a clampdown on the group.

Fars News Agency said the trouble began when Sufis attacked a mosque in Boroujerd, about 320 km (200 miles) southwest of Tehran, prompting scuffles between Sufis and their opponents.

"The region's security forces strove to prevent the tension from escalating and, to this end, 180 people were also detained and handed over to the judicial authorities," Fars reported, as monitored by the BBC.

It quoted a senior provincial governor as saying about 80 people were hurt but said most injuries were light.
Around 1,000 Sufis were arrested last year during clashes with authorities over the closure of a Sufi prayer house in the holy city of Qom. Fifty-two of them were sentenced to a year in jail, 74 lashes, and fines on various charges.

Although Sufis are tolerated, their belief in the mystical path to God through dance and music can rankle some within the religious establishment of the Islamic Republic. Some religious leaders have called Sufis a "danger to Islam".

Sufism is best known in the West for its "whirling dervish" dances and for the mystical poetry of 13th-century Persian poet Jalal ad-din Rumi whose works have been bestsellers in the United States. (Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Charles Dick)