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Hardline Ayatollahs Compare Dervishes To Daesh Militants

Iran's Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi (R) and Grand Ayatollah Hossein Noori Hamedani. Undated
Iran's Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi (R) and Grand Ayatollah Hossein Noori Hamedani. Undated

Two senior clerics, officially recognized as grand ayatollahs and sources of emulation by Iran, have compared dervishes to the so-called Islamic State (IS), Daesh militants.

Ignoring a call for peace and restraint by the leader of the Gonabadi dervishes, Naser Makarem Shirazi and Hossein Noori-Hamadani have accused the Sufis of “false mysticism” and “deviation.”

Meanwhile, elderly hardline cleric Noori-Hamadani -- known for his vitriolic comments against Sufis, Jews, and women’s rights -- has called upon the Islamic authorities to punish dervishes for their recent clashes with security forces outside the residence of their leader, Nour Ali Tabandeh, on Pasdaran Avenue in northern Tehran.

On February 19, at least three policemen and two Baseej militiamen were reportedly killed in clashes with protesting dervishes.

The clashes continued in the early morning on February 20 and led to the arrest of more than 300 demonstrators.

Police said 30 policemen and eighty dervishes were injured.

Kasra Nouri, one of the dervishes, told Radio Farda that about 100 security agents attacked the Gonabadi dervishes and shot and injured several of them.

Pasdaran Avenue was the site of previous clashes between police and the dervishes in late December 2017 and early January.

Monday’s clashes started when the dervishes gathered near a police precinct in Tehran to protest the arrest of fellow dervish Nematollah Riahi.

Without elaboration, Noori-Hamadani insisted, “The officials who have described these [Sufi dervishes] as moderate and prudent are mistaken since they [dervishes] are devious, in the wrong, and liars.”

Joining his fellow cleric, Shirazi also said, “Iranian officials should be cautious on what they say and avoid comments against religious teachings that will backfire.”

Apparently the two elderly clerics were referring to comments by Interior Minister Abdur-Reza Rahmani Fazli on dervishes.

“We believe the dervish community across the country is tending toward moderation and prudence,” Fazli said. “We definitely do not attribute the incidents on Pasdaran Avenue to the dervishes.”

The Gonabadi dervishes belong to the Sufi order known as Nematollahi Sultan Ali Shahi, which believes in the principles and teachings of 12-Imamite Shi’a Islam. But they believe in separation of politics and religion and potentially offer an alternative to the official ideology of Iran's clerical regime.

Shirazi, who along with Noori-Hamadani has issued a Fatwa banning Iranian women from attending sports arenas, maintained, “False mysticism leads to dangerous development of social, religious, and ethical matters; and what happened [in front of Tabandeh’s residence] in Tehran confirmed that.”

Furthermore, another cleric, Ahmad Alam al-Hoda, also called the dervishes “the enemy’s spies,” saying the clashes with security forces were orchestrated by the United States and the United Kingdom.