Translation by Iran Press Watch
21 May 2016
A statement by a group of modern religious scholars about the necessity to be tolerant toward those who think or believe differently: Belief cannot be a basis for legal offence or religious sin
Zeitoon – Five modern religious scholars have published a statement emphasizing the necessity to be tolerant toward those who think or believe differently.
As reported by Zeitoon, in reference to the “dogmatism and extremism” that threaten Iran, like other countries, this statement says: “Supported by the governing political power, and through the use of violence and intimidation, extremists have imposed stupendous costs on the country and the nation ‒ in the cultural, artistic, economic and social arenas, as well as domestic and foreign policies. Sadly, a number of pretenders whose microscopic eyes see one thread of the hair of a woman, one article in a magazine, or a single visit to a Baha’i compatriot, are incapable of noticing major catastrophes.”
Referring to the meeting of Faezeh Hashemi with one of her old cellmates, this statement expresses the opinions of these innovative religious thinkers regarding the followers of the Baha’i religion.
This statement has been signed by Abdolali Bazargan 1, Hasan Fereshtian 2, Mohsen Kadivar 3, Sedigheh Vasmaghi 4 and Hasan Yousefi-Eshkevari 5.
The complete translated text of this statement, which has been given to Zeitoon, is conveyed below:
The fire of ignorance and prejudice has encompassed the Islamic world, has destroyed cities and countries, has ravaged and killed hundreds of thousands of children, women, youth and elderly, and has displaced millions of people from their homes. Multiple sects and belief systems have been created in the heart of Islam, each calling the followers of other sects blasphemous and unprotected by Islam; Wahhabis against Shi’ites, Shi’ites against Baha’is, Sunnis against Alavis, another one against Izadis and Houthis, etc.
Dogmatism and extremism threaten our country, as they threaten other countries. Supported by the governing political power, and through the use of violence and intimidation, extremists have imposed stupendous costs on the country and the nation ‒ in the cultural, artistic, economic and social arenas, as well as domestic and foreign policies. Sadly, a number of pretenders whose microscopic eyes see one thread of the hair of a woman, one article in a magazine, or a single visit to a Baha’i compatriot, are incapable of noticing major catastrophes.”
One such example is Mrs. Faezeh Hashemi and a group of righteous justice-seekers, who have visited Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi, an oppressed Baha’i compatriot, who after serving eight years of her twenty-year sentence, had been on furlough for a few days. However, in face of this noble and moral behavior, a group of dogmatic and extremist fundamentalists, whose political motives are well-known, have shown tempestuous and unreasonable reactions. Even more deplorable is that some clergy and religious authorities, including Grand Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi, have denounced this visit, and have even called it a prosecutable offence, and a means to strengthen the Baha’ireligion and weaken Islam!
Regarding the aforementioned reactions, we convey the following:
- The followers of the Baha’i religion have been oppressed because of their religion and beliefs for decades. They have been deprived of their rights to education and employment for the past thirty-eight years. The property of some, and the lives of others have been taken, and some have spent many years in prison. If any sect or religion in power takes its sword out, and deprives the followers of other religions and sects of their human rights, no one can live in security. The spread of this mentality could also be used to justify oppression and discrimination against followers of various Shi’ite sects, who are minorities in other countries.
- Criticism and rejection of the beliefs of a sect or religion cannot justify violence and tyranny against its followers. Justifying oppression, and expressing satisfaction with the persecution and harassment of fellow human beings is in itself the most significant error and ignorance. Religious belief cannot be a basis for legal offence or religious sin.
- Islam supports freedom of religion and belief. The Qur’an has affirmed this important point in several verses. Freedom of religion, belief and thought is an inseparable component of human nobility and dignity, and no one should deprive others of it. In addition, from a religious point of view violating the human rights of non-Muslims, even polytheists or infidels, is not sanctioned by religious decree.
- Within the enacted laws of Iran, there is no law on the basis of which the rights of non-Muslim Iranians, or those who are not of the Book, may be violated. In fact, based on the uncompromising modern principles of the Nation-State, which for one reason or another have also been reflected in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, the equality of rights of Iranian citizens has been guaranteed. Fundamentally, the government and the political regime in power is not in a position to be a religious judge. The role of an Islamic government, which is clear in the treaty of Imam Ali with the Malik-i-Ashter 6, as well as other cases in Nahj-ul-Balagheh 7, is nothing more than performing those public services that cannot be performed by individuals.
- Visiting a Baha’i fellow citizen who has unjustly spent many years in prison is not only not an offence, but is actually a religious, moral, and humanitarian behavior.
- Complacency in the face of aggression, ignoring immoral and inhumane behaviors, and lack of objection to dogmatism, extremism and superstition have decimated the capacities of our society – even of the political, cultural and intellectual elite – to such an extent that it cannot defend the simple, moral and humane action of a fellow citizen visiting a prisoner. This has gone as far as to force Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani to denounce his own daughter’s humanitarian action, in the face of the uproar and coercion by the deceitful. Proclaiming visits to be an offence is not limited to visiting a Baha’i fellow citizen. Since 2009, visiting Green Movement prisoners, who are called seditious, and even assistance to the families of political prisoners – which is moral and humane behavior in any system or ideology – is proclaimed to be an offence. Not objecting to these obvious atrocities and unjust innovations has gone so far that the security system, and sometimes the judicial system, has forced a husband and wife to be separated and divorced, and has destroyed families.
- Experience has shown that the majority of Iranians, regardless of the religion and belief of others, have lived together in peace and amity; and anytime there has been an opportunity, they have been a solace to the oppressed. The humanitarian Islamic decrees of some noble scholars such as Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, have provided instruments to enable us to set aside theological rigidity, and take a step toward humane coexistence.
It is befitting for intellectuals, artists and politicians to take advantage of this human spirit, and to refute any division, animosity, oppression and discrimination against fellow citizens because of religion and belief. Violating the rights of human beings, for any reason or excuse, does not bring honor or integrity to any religion or nation. Respect for common human rights brings dignity and integrity to Islam and to our country.
The time has come to support more assiduously the necessity of amicable human coexistence, and the important principle of tolerance toward those who think or believe differently.
Abdolali Bazargan, Hasan Fereshtian, Mohsen Kadivar, Sedigheh Vasmaghi and Hasan Yousefi-Eshkevari
21 May 2016
2. A previous statement by Hasan Fereshtian about Baha’is can be found here: http://iranpresswatch.org/post/9688/
7. A collection of the sermons of Imam ‘Ali. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nahj_al-Balagha