Ayatollah Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi symbolizes clerical resistance against the Shi’ite Islamist regime in Iran. Boroujerdi threatens the regime by presenting a coherent ideological argument against the Islamist regime from the perspective of a well-respected and high-ranking Shi’ite cleric. He supports separation of religion and state and rejects the regime’s anti-Semitic worldview. In discussing women’s rights, he said,” if religion and the state be separated , these problems will be solved through a great vision.”
Boroujerdi challenges the regime’s ideological underpinning: the concept of Velayat e-Faqi, or the Rule of the Supreme Jurist. Ayatollah Khomeini invented this concept to justify the totalitarian rule of a clerical regime which controls Iranian society. Many Shi’ite clerics question some regime policies, but very few senior clerics directly oppose the system’s ideological foundations. According to Muslim writer Stephen Schwartz, executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, “Like his father, Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Mohammad Ali Kazemeyni Boroujerdi (1924-2002), Boroujerdi preaches the pre-Khomeini interpretation of Iranian Shiism, which calls for religion to be kept apart from politics.” His insistence on separating religion and politics undermines the Islamist regime’s ideological basis.
In a public statement of April 23, 2013, he not only blasted the regime for financing foreign tyrants such as Hamas, Hezbollah, and Assad but also condemned its religious foundation. He wrote,”The day a republic was supposedly intermingled with Islamism, the unholy incongruence as it completely contradicted the divine laws, to mix faith and politics, became my nightmare. The whole concept is nothing more than a lie, a deception, opportunism and excess via a religion whose foundations are based in righteousness, conviction, esteem and generosity.”
Boroujerdi expressed his solidarity with world Jewry on Hanukkah in 2010. He said,”Unlike the current anti-Semitic regime of Iran who creates animosity and hatred among those who descend from the prophet Ibrahim. Mr. Boroujerdi respects peaceful acceptance of different religious beliefs.” He opposes the anti-Semitic ideology of a regime which is building nuclear weapons with the genocidal intention of destroying Israel and the Jews.
He is a pacifist who rejects the militarist ideology of the Islamist regime in Iran and supports peaceful relations between Arabs and Jews. He said,”Every kind of war and bloodshed under any title and reason damages human spirit.” He honors the Jewish people’s ancient roots in the Middle East. He said,” Bnai Israel is one of the most ancient tribe in Middle East which its evidences and documents are in holy books. Since a long time ago, Arab and Hebrew races which have one root, lived together peacefully in….Palestine, Jordan, Hejaz, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, they traded, exchanged and treated friendly together…all the inhabitants of these states are holy Abraham’s children so, every kind of flight and conflict, causes to damage to their origin and separation from their root.” The contrast between his respect for the Jews and the regime’s genocidal anti-Semitism is startling.
Unlike Iranian Islamist clerics, he supports gender equality. He wrote, “women have the same position in creation that men have achieved and each law violates their personality and credit integrity is worthless .All judgments which lead to humiliating and regressing women are as the Human Rights violators…..Islamic laws are based on jurisprudence, it means, they can be changed according to the different situation of time and place,” . He challenges fundamentalist interpretations of Islam which are used by Sunni Wahhabis and Shi’ite Islamists to justify oppression of women. His flexible approach toward Islamic jurisprudence represents an alternative to rigid conceptions of Islamic law.
In 2009, he defended Iran’s persecuted Bahai minority. The Islamist regime has systematically oppressed Bahais, murdering their leaders, invalidating their marriages, and denying them access to education and employment. His support for the despised Bahai minority is an act of extraordinary moral courage.
Boroujerdi and his followers have paid a high price for their bold dissent against the regime. The regime attacked him and his followers with tear gas in October, 2006, and he was sentenced to 11 years in prison. In reality, he will remain in prison until the regime falls because the clerics feel threatened by his ideas. He has been denied medical care for many serious conditions
His family has also been severely persecuted by the regime. His father, also an Ayatollah, died in a Tehran hospital under suspicious circumstances in 2002. His wife Akram Validusti was briefly arrested in 2006 and suffers chronic heart failure. The couple’s oldest son Mahdi was tortured in front of both his parents. Not surprisingly, his children cannot attend university, and his two sons Mahdi and Mohammed were fired from their jobs in 2007.
Israelis and American Jews must learn about Boroujerdi’s struggle against Shi’ite Islamist totalitarianism in Iran. He deserves Western support for rejecting Islamist tyranny and anti-Semitism and defending women, Bahais, and peace under dangerous conditions. The West’s refusal to embrace him and demand his release is unconscionable.