[DEBATE] : Ayatollah Montazeri Decrees Baha'is 'Rightful Citizens of Iran'
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Fri May 23 17:59:11 BST 2008
Reaction: Ayatollah Montazeri Decrees Baha'is 'Rightful Citizens of Iran'
Grand Ayatollah Montazeri has recognized that members of the Baha'i
faith are 'rightful citizens of Iran' in an unprecedented move by a
member of the traditional Iranian ulema or clergy. His statement is
tantamount to recognition of the Baha'i faith as a fully-fledged
fixture of Iran's rich mosaic of disparate religions,ethnicities,
languages and creeds. The mainstream of the Iranian ulema have in the
past and the vast majority continue to regard Baha'ism as heretical to
Islam, and many of the faith's leading members have been executed or
disappeared under mysterious circumstances since the tumult which
announced the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
There are some 350,000 members of the Baha'i faith inside Iran and
many also live in exile amongst the Iranian diaspora. Grand Ayatollah
Montazeri who currently resides in Qom, the capital of Iran's clerical
establishment was freed back in 2003 after a stint of 6 years under
house-arrest for openly criticizing and haranguing the government. In
the early years of the revolution, Montazeri was set to be Ayatollah
Khomeini's successor as Supreme Leader, Iran's most powerful
politico-religious office. He was later denounced by Khomeini in 1989
in a fiery letter in response to a series of criticisms the former had
made of the violence undertaken by the Khomeinist clique heading the
regime against its political opponents and has continued in the role
of fierce critic and caustic voice of dissent within the maelstrom
which is the Islamic Republic of Iran until the present day.
His decree is a vital and watershed moment in the ongoing struggle for
tolerance and peaceful coexistence inside Iran. In fact a pivotal
point made by Montazeri, if only implicitly (though I think it's in
fact quite clear), in the decree is that all Iranians irrespective of
religious affliation are entitled to the same set of rights and
obligations and therefore all members of the body politic have an
equal claim to a notion of citizenship unencumbered by religious
stipulations and allegiances. This he contends finds its legitimacy in
Islamic and Quranic sources.
Montazeri's decree will also almost certainly send reverberations
throughout the region, as an Islamic scholar of such high-repute
highlights the distinct possibility of dispensing with reified
dualities such as apostate vs believer to adopt in lieu an ideal which
stresses tolerance, interfaith dialogue and understanding. Of course
we shouldn't be too triumphalist, there still remains a great deal of
work to be done; Montazeri's decree is an important step amongst many
which have already taken place as a result of the indomitable efforts
and tireless struggles of hundreds of Iranian intellectuals and
activists of both a religious and secular disposition, and many more
acts of courage and conscience which still need to be taken...
I owe a debt of thanks to Faryarm for drawing my attention to this new
and important development, here on Iranian.com.
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