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

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