Monday, June 16, 2008

The Al-Yassin Followers

First time I met Ramin Ahmadi, it was during a conference in London. We were sitting at the back of the room and bored to the point of going to sleep listening to the older generation of Iranian opposition ranting on about the same stuff we had heard over and over before from them. Then the chair introduced Ramin Ahmadi, a professor of internal medicine, a human rights activist who had represented Physicians for Human Rights in Chechnya where he had investigated and documented human rights violations as well his work in East Timour etc...

Just the impressive introduction of Ramin's previous activities was enough to wake us up. The 'organisers' had told Ramin Ahamdi that his presentation will be in English but at the last minute they told him to do it in Persian. Still composed, Ramin Ahmadi, grabbed our attention because he was not just telling us that the Islamic Republic was bad, which we all knew any way, but actually what can be done about it. I have never seen Ramin Ahamdi since but have kept in constant contact with him and he is one of those trusted circle of friends whose opinion I value and often ask for.

Few days ago, I came across an article titled 'Who is scared of the Ale-Yassin' by Ramin Ahmadi on a Persian website. As I have always said, I am not a spiritual person, I had decided at a very young age, years before the 1979 revolution that I will spare myself the burden of organized religion of my elders. Not being a spiritual person, I knew nothing about the Ale-Yassin society other than Yasin was some weird chapter in the Koran, which I had glanced through a few times and then had asked myself why did I waste my time and not do something more practical or worthwhile instead?

Having said all this, I have also come to the conclusion that although many individuals like myself may feel comfortable without the need for spiritual fulfilment, society as a whole needs religion. I believe anything which is force fed to people will be vomited back. Look at the Socialist countries who for decades tried to force their people to become atheist and yet the churches were stronger in Poland and Russia than in Western Europe. Similarly but in reverse, ever since the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, the Iranians, particularly the youth, have converted away from Islam on a scale never seen before. There is a youtube clip of a fiery Shiite cleric in Iran which shows him saying, 'Don't worry about converting others into Islam this year, it will be more than enough if you make sure the Shiite youth in Iran have not converted into Zoroastrianism'.

Of course society needs a pure untarnished spiritualism, this is something that the current corrupt, decadent and brutal version of state Islam in Iran can not provide. Thus a society which is placed in a free fall of moral values, looks for new spiritual leaders, new sects and even new religions become an alternative for those who demand something beyond this material world.

Ramin Ahmadi writes about a spiritual group, the Ale-Yasin Society, whose 35 year old leader, Payman Fattahi known to his followers as Master Ilia, was jailed last year in the notorious section 209 of Evin prison. Fattahi suffered 150 days in solitary confinement as well as 104 interrogation sessions, as a result of his tortures, Fattahi suffers from a variety of physical ailments. His brother Ramin Fattahi died in mysterious circumstances in Evin prison and the regime even arrested his pregnant wife. The Islamic Republic now wants Fattahi to recant his activities in front of the camera or face execution.

How is it that a young man and his followers who have no interest in politics, no interest in overthrowing the regime or even offering any political alternative and whose sole pre-occupation is to live a 'purer' and more spiritual life are subjected to such state crackdown and brutality?

'Are youngsters who instead of turning into drugs, alcoholism and prostitution, the very traits which have become instutionalised in Iranian society by the regime itself, have turned to meditation, reciting Rumi's poetry, debates and discussions of self awareness and such like a threat to the Islamic Republic?' Ramin Ahmadi asks in his article and answers:
'Sadly the answer is yes. A society facing a crisis of legitimacy and credibility where its religious leaders are deeply submerged in corruption and immoral behaviour, becomes sensitive towards all new sources of spiritualism which appeal to the public.
The ruling cast blatantly says, if you do not accept me and my interpretation of religion as the only source of the truth, then you are a non-believer and immoral.'

I tend to agree with Ramin here. The Islamic Republic itself is a product of exploiting the faithfuls beliefs, it knows full well the overwhelming power of this phenomena, this is why the punishments handed out to religious dissent, whether it is the Bahaiis, the Christians, the MeK, followers of Ayatollah Shariatmadari or Boroujerdi or the Sufi sects etc. has been so ferocious and so draconian.


Anonymous said...

Masjids have become the centre of immoral behaviour in Iran, see this clip:

Azarmehr said...

از اين كه واژه هاي زشت و ناشايست در زمينه اين فيلم بكار رفته از دوستان فارسي زبان پوزش ميخواهم و در چاپ اين نظر دو دل بودم ولي در آخر مهم بود كه نشان داده شود ’واعظان كه اين جلوه در محراب و منبر ميكنند چون به خلوت ميرون آن كار ديگر ميكنند’

Anonymous said...

دوست ارجمند
چو ن خودم مدت هاست از ایران دورم ولی مطالعاتی در زمینه نیاز جوانان ایرانی به تفسیر و تعبیر مناسب معنویات با زمان کنونی داشته ام در مطلبی که نوشته اید نکات قابل تاملی یافتم که باید روی آن بسیار دقت کرد .امیدوارم پیروز باشید

Anonymous said...

Thank you and Dr. Ahmadi for the post and the article. They were quite new for me.
I believe we all believe in God but in a variety of methods and with different names.
God is truth and whoever follows the truth follows God.

Anonymous said...

Thank you and Dr. Ahmadi for your post and the article.
I believe we all need to have God because God is the pure truth. Whoever follows truth follows God and whoever follows selfishness and wants to utilize others for his or her sake is a devil follower even if he/she has a sacred name on.