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October 8, 2006

Iranian Ayatollah Arrested For Advocating Separation Of Religion And Politics

Topics: Iran

Anti-Mullah reported yesterday on the violence between Ayatollah Mohammad Kazemeini Borojerdi's supporters and Iranian security forces, leading up to the today's arrest of the reform-minded cleric. Highlighting the attacks on Borujerdi and his supporters was the statement by Mohssein Ejai, Minister of Information and Security (MOIS), who promised Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that he would bring him Ayatollah Boroujerdi's severed head before dawn.

Today, AFP reports that Boroujerdi, who appears to have a significant following, has been arrested:

TEHERAN - Iran has arrested a controversial cleric and some of his followers who advocate separating religion and politics, a taboo in Islamic Iran, after clashes with police, the student ISNA agency said on Sunday.

Hundreds of supporters of Ayatollah Mohammad Kazemeini Borujerdi had gathered on Saturday around his house in Teheran to protest the arrest of a number of the Shiite cleric's followers and restrictions imposed on him, press reports said.

"The ones behind Saturday's unrest were arrested. All including, Mr Borujerdi, have been handed over to judiciary officials," said a security official in Teheran governor's office, identified only by his last name, Roshan.

Roshan said the police had previously sought to contain these "sectarian elements" but yesterday "they were carrying Molotov cocktails, knives, swords and clubs to confront the police."

"They even (for a time) took members of the force hostage and threw acid on policemen and vandalized public property," he said, adding "calm has been restored" in the crowded neighborhood in downtown Teheran.

A report in reformist Hambastegi daily said the Special Court for Clergy had recently tried to arrest Borujerdi but faced by resistance by his supporters.

Questioning a pillar of the Islamic republic, the ayatollah has said "we believe people have grown tired of political religion and they want to return to traditional religion.

"The objective of my followers and me is in defending traditional religion," the semi-official ILNA news agency quoted the ayatollah as saying.

But the deputy head of Teheran police, Commander Nasser Shabani, accused the ayatollah of claiming to be the representative of the Shiites' "hidden" twelfth Imam, Mahdi, and misinterpreting religion.

It will be interesting to see if this is only the begining of more violence to come. It is doubtful that Borujerdi's arrest will end the discussion over the separation of religion and politics.

Offsides Abseits (hat tip - Gateway Pundit, who has additional commentary) has a copy of the letter from Ayatollah Borojerdi to the Pope where he describes the tortuous conditions under the mullacracy and asks for support! Borojerdi has also appealed to Javier Solana for assistance: "This is not about me. It is about the freedom of worship. We hope that the international community supports Iranians' right to follow their traditional faith. We pray for the day when the United Nations Security Council passes a resolution in support of freedom of religion in Iran."

The Spirit of Man has more pictures.

Be sure to check out Reuters - Clashes in Iran to defend critical cleric: reports, for more info.

And in another very interesting Iran-related development, has it that the Bush administration made secret overtures to former Iran president Mohammed Khatami (ed: no longer a secret) during his visit to the United States last month in an attempt to establish a back channel via the ex-leader:

American officials made the approach as part of a strategy to isolate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mr Khatami's hard-line successor, by using the former president as a conduit to the Iranian people.

They also hoped that Mr Khatami would report his conversations to senior members of Iran's theocratic regime who are wary of the current president. Diplomatic sources said that "third parties" were authorised by Nicholas Burns, the US under-secretary of state responsible for relations with Iran, to talk to Mr Khatami in a step towards "engagement" with senior Iranians.

All this could be fortuitus good timing, given what appears to be the beginnings of something of an uprising going on, initiated by Boroujerdi and his supporters. Now that Boroujerdi has been arrested, what remains to be seen is whether or not the moves toward change abates or grows.

Atlas Shrugs has additional commentary and links.

Related: Bush Signs Iran Freedom Support Act

Posted by Richard at October 8, 2006 5:39 PM

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