The Blog

Attacks on Sufi Mystics Warn of Wider Islamist Carnage

7:29 AM, Jan 31, 2013 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

The two occupants of the property, Mansour Saffarian and Mehdi Davari, protested against the intrusion and were arrested. But according to the International Organization to Preserve Human Rights in Iran (IOPHRI), neighbors unaffiliated with the Sufi group gathered quickly to obstruct further interference with the property. They summoned other Sufis who were attending a funeral, to repel the government’s interlopers.

IOPHRI said the two arrested men were released on probation, but that some 4,000 Sufis camped around the house during the night to prevent further raids. Fire trucks and Iranian Revolutionary Guards (Pasdaran) arrived at the Sufi protest. The Sufis accused the Pasdaran of planning to burn down the house, an anti-Sufi tactic applied previously at the theological center at Qom, in the western Iranian city of Boroujerd, at Karaj in north Iran, and on the island of Kish along Iran’s southern coast.

For two days Shahrekord, a city of some 150,000 people, was in tumult, according to IOPHRI. About 2,000 Sufis stood guard against their militant opponents, while on January 17, the mayor of Shahrekord delivered an ultimatum demanding evacuation of the Sufi house. The Sufis expressed fear that the Basij, or paramilitary thugs serving Tehran, would attack the crowd. The Sufis claim that their assembled followers remained at the location and that the forces of state repression withdrew. But the Sufis reiterated their position toward clerical government: They “are not submissive to [supreme leader Ali] Khamenei and his ideology.”

Other Gonabadi-Nimatullahi Sufis have suffered official Iranian repression in recent days. On January 28, two Gonabadi Sufis, Saleh Moradi and Kasra Nouri, in jail in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz, were reported by Iranian dissident media to have completed the 14th day of a hunger strike. The incarcerated Sufis had begun the action in opposition to transfer of seven lawyers and webmasters for the Sufi group to solitary confinement in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.

The day before, on January 27, Hamidreza Moradi, the webmaster for the group’s Majzooban Noor (The Alluring Light) website, a prisoner in Evin, was beaten brutally by guards. He vomited blood, and was then left naked and exposed in the cold of the prison yard.

Iran is one of the countries in which Sufi Islam developed, and the activities of the transcendental adherents in pursuing social justice has added to their prestige among ordinary Muslims. Similarly, a South Asian Sufi sheikh from the conservative Qadiri order, Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri, founded the Minhaj-ul-Quran (Quranic Path) international movement. A resident of Canada in recent years, Ul-Qadri appeared in his native Pakistan in December. There he launched a flamboyant effort calling for millions to march against the corruption of the Islamabad government. Ul-Qadri received worldwide attention in 2010 with issuance of a 600-page fatwa denouncing terrorism. Minhaj-ul-Quran is widely known among Pakistani Muslims in the West.

Ul-Qadri has been challenged, however, for alleged links with the Pakistani military and lack of transparency in his financing. His attempt to promote a clean government movement based on Sufi principles in Pakistan seems to have deflated. Like other, often-charismatic or nonconformist religious leaders, Sufis are frequently imperfect. India has also attempted to reach out to the Sufis as an alternative to dealing with fundamentalist Muslims

Recent Blog Posts