Sen's daily

September 4, 2013

Ayatollah Masumi Tehrani speaks with, and for, the Bahais

Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, September 4, 2013 [Update Sept. 6]

A number of Bahai activists met with Ayatollah Abdolhamid Masumi Tehrani, a dissident Shia cleric, in his office yesterday following the murder last week of Mr. Ataollah Rezvani, a Bahi, in Bandar Abbas. Ayatollah Masumi Tehrani expressed his sorrow regarding Mr. Rezvani’s murder, and criticized the violation of the civil rights of Iran’s Bahai community. Ayatollah Masumi Tehrani is one of the few clerics who has defended the Bahais in Iran in the past.

In remarks published on his website, and which he was reported to have expressed in the meeting, Ayatollah Masumi Tehrani said, “We do not have the right to limit or deny the personal and social rights of any individual who has not interfered with another person’s life, property, honor or reputation. In today’s world, personal and social rights, or in other words, an individual’s civil rights, are not defined by his or her religion, sect, ethnicity or gender. A human being, on account of being a human, is entitled to human rights without any consideration of belief, ethnicity or gender, and no one has the right to limit these rights for a person who has not violated others’ rights. Every government is responsible for defending the personal and social rights of all citizens without any exceptions and in an impartial manner, and to prosecute anyone who violates the rights of others for any reason or due to subscribing to any opinion.”

Contradicting most other Shia clerics, Ayatollah Masumi Tehrani stated that arguing about the legitimacy of religions and sects has proved fruitless throughout history, and that such arguments have resulted in humans killing their own kind. At the end of his comments, Ayatollah Masumi Tehrani expressed optimism regarding the respect for human rights of all Iranian citizens in the future and said, “ I hope that one day in this country Shias, Sunnis, Zoroastrians, Christians, Jews, Bahaís and even atheists will have equal rights and be accorded the same respect. It is in such a society that talents flourish and the country is strengthened. Thankfully this positive development is spreading in Iranian society, and it is becoming institutionalized. Hopefully this trend will continue.”

Update, Sept. 6: Iran Press Watch has a translation of the complete text. HRANA has the Persian source

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  1. Hi, Sen- This is important news. Where is Ayatollah Masumi’s office? Makes a big difference if it is in Qum (Iran) or Najaf (Iraq). Ayatollah Montazeri, who also made statements in support of Baha’is before his death in 2009, was in Qom, and was restricted after making such statements.

    Comment by petussing — September 5, 2013 @ 00:32 | Reply

    • His office is in Iran, but the HRANA report does not specify where, and his own website does not appear to mention where the office is. He has been to court and prison on various occasions, for questioning accepted readings and practices (execution by stoning and self-castigation for example), so it is not surprising that his address is not public. However he is accessible for radio interviews, so I doubt he has retired to the country. The point is not where he is, but rather that he allowed Bahais, who are “unclean” according to Khomeini and Khamane’i, into his office.

      Comment by Sen — September 5, 2013 @ 11:23 | Reply

      • Dear Sen- I have since seen the entire discussion, and it seems to me that there is an important part which would benefit from translation and even commentary. Late in the article, Masoumi undertakes what I think is a defense of human rights NOT from the point of view of Euro-American post-modernist values, but directly from Aristotelian/Avicennan/Islamic considerations of essence and accidental considerations, pointing out specifically that religion (though not true belief), ethnicity and gender are not essence, but accidents of birth. Since the whole debate around human rights has been framed by the IRI around the intrusion of imperialist/colonialist alien values into those of the true faith, this seems to me to merit a lot of attention. It puts human rights, instead of at the periphery of Islamic law, right front and center.

        Comment by petussing — September 6, 2013 @ 18:53

      • An excellent point Phillip. Please feel free to do the translation 🙂

        Comment by Sen — September 6, 2013 @ 19:50

      • The complete translation can be found here ( If you have time & interest, a commentary on how this fits into Islamic Law would be a great project 😉

        Comment by petussing — September 6, 2013 @ 20:57

  2. A very important and interesting point. Thank you all!

    Comment by César — September 7, 2013 @ 03:42 | Reply

  3. It seems to me that Ayatollah Tehrani has been exposed to the Western school of thoughts and has made it a resolution to practice it. Of course, for those who may not know when one enters the Shia doctrine of theology one is not immune to punishment by the school as a whole expect when one gains the title of the “Ayatollah”. It is only then when his remarks maybe tolerated. However, even then the Ayatollahs are only exempt of the punishment of death otherwise they can be harassed and imprisoned.
    The radical actions of the current regime in Iran under the umbrella of Islam added to the irrational actions of radicals functioning under the same umbrella have exposed the fact that the period for that school of thoughts to a great extend has expired and resolutions fro social order provided by that school no longer effective. When change come to Iran as it will, the major recipient will be Shia Islam. It will no longer be seen the same. The train has been derailed and there no bringing it back on the tracks. There will be a period of sudden vacuum of ideology till people learn and decide what social order and school of theology fits them the best.

    Comment by Mark — September 11, 2013 @ 23:54 | Reply

    • It seems to me too bad that people should attribute the idea that human beings have rights only to “Western” sources. If God is Beneficent and Merciful, He should be able to manifest that in Islam. It is understandable that the Iranian regime cannot, or refuses to imagine that God’s Mercy might extend to human rights, but I am sorry when even people who want to promote human rights suppose that Ayatollah Masoumi’s way of incorporating these ideas into Islam consider that he is somehow preaching “Westernization”. It seems to me to be a measure of the extent to which the fanatics have taken over the conversation about what Islam means. Ayatollah Masoumi is trying to reclaim the high moral ground for Islam, against great odds — I hope he succeeds.

      Comment by petussing — September 12, 2013 @ 04:52 | Reply

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