January 22, 2015

Where are the moderate clerics? In prison

After every Al Qaeda or Islamic State-inspired terrorist attack, there are two common refrains heard in the West. The first is that Islam has nothing to do with it. Last night, in his State of the Union address, for example, President Obama avoided mention of radical Islam and instead fell back on the tired trope of “ideology of violent extremism.” Such political correctness forgets that the most frequent targets and greatest number of victims of radical Islam are moderate Muslims.
But why don’t moderate Muslims speak up? The fact is, they do. But when they do, too often, no one has their back. Take the case of Ayatollah Kazemeini Boroujerdi. Against the backdrop of growing Iranian government extremism, Boroujerdi called for a return to traditional Islam. The Iranian regime’s storm troopers responded by surrounding Boroujerdi’s house, overcoming his supporters, and dragging the religious leader off to Iran’s notorious Evin Prison.
Earlier this month, Boroujerdi apparently had a letter smuggled out of Evin Prison in response to the massacre at Charlie Hebdo. I replicate the letter here:
I praise the Creator, who never forgot to embrace his people and never ordered the use of violence, and did not send a prophet for the harassment of people, and did not create a law for committing brutalities.
Greetings to all the freedom and peace seeking people of the world,  from a religious leader who has been imprisoned for over 3,000 days in the center of violence, brutality and tyranny, which has a religious appearance, and where he has lost his youth and health and his life:
As a captive of religious tyranny, I was recently accused of contradicting the Islamic regime, and following the presentation of religious documents and due to the rejection of all forms of brutality and violence in the name of God, I was sentenced to death.
I am presenting this aggressive statement against political Islam in the realm of contemporary history, from my special cell which is governed by inhuman conditions:
I consider that a religion which defies the laws which state that there is no obligation in religion as being more dangerous than any kind of criminality; a religion which oppresses and represses the nation, and opens the gates of skepticism on the eminence of God, a religion which has become mingled with politics, turns into a deadly potion which will not bring anything other than violence and danger for the world community. The history of mankind reveals violence by the religious leaders who have placed God in the seat of accusation and have chosen to make their material and carnal greed prosper.

The obscenity of mixing religious ideologies with ambitious goals in the organization of extremist groups and elements associated with acts of terrorism can easily be seen. 
The emergence and formation of the armies of jihad and suicide, destroys individual and social freedoms and tightens the sphere of life on the people and nations in the world, and its dangers and harms are much more grave, important and terrifying than all of the authoritarian political regimes in the world.
As a religious scholar who has always defended the sanctum of monotheism, I ask the believers of all religions: do not allow the religious profiteers and fanatics to accuse the compassionate God by using violent religious means, and to tarnish his great name, and I ask the religious leaders not to stay silent against such acts of religious violence.
I hereby express my abhorrence and renunciation for such criminal acts against the freedom seeking people.
Hossein Kazemini Boroujerdi
Iran -Tehran- Evin
January 2015

How sad it is that so many commentators in the United States lament the lack of moderate voices, yet turn a deaf ear to those who do speak out. Those bold enough to challenge radicalism so directly, of course, might be too rare. Boroujerdi, however, is not alone. The true tragedy, however, is the silence that confronts those when repressive regimes seek to silence or imprison them.
If President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry spent half the time seeking to win the release of those imprisoned for confronting radicalism as they do trying to court the regimes who oppress them, and if they ceased turning a blind eye toward the repressive blasphemy laws which have less to do with protecting the sanctity of God than in intimidating minorities and arbitrarily constraining those who would challenge radicalism, the situation in which the Middle East and South Asia finds itself might not be so bad. Liberty should never be a casualty to diplomacy.

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