Iran’s Minister of Intelligence has for the first time publicly admitted that his agency is collaborating with Shia religious seminaries in seeking to combat the perceived threat of mass conversions to Christianity across the country.
Mahmoud Alavi, addressing a gathering of Shia clerics in Qom on Saturday, admitted to summoning converts to Christianity for questioning – a clear breach of Article 23 of Iran’s constitution, which states that “no-one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief”, and a contradiction of the claims of other Iranian officials, such as the Foreign Minister, that members of religious minorities are not targeted in Iran.
Alavi said he had “summoned [converts] to ask them why they were converting”, as it was “happening right before our eyes”.
“Some [of the converts] said they were looking for a religion that gives them peace,” Alavi said. “We told them that ‘Islam is the religion of brotherhood and peace’. They responded by saying that: ‘We see Muslim clerics and those who preach from the pulpit talk against each other all the time. If Islam is the religion of peace, then before anything else, there must be cordiality and peace among the clerics themselves.”
Article18’s Advocacy Director, Mansour Borji, says Alavi’s comments are a clear indication that “it is not Western propaganda, or even Christian evangelism, that is the primary driving force leading Iranians to distance themselves from the rigid version of Shia Islam propagated by the Iranian regime; rather it is the irresponsible behaviour of Iranian clergy and the mass corruption that is visible for all to see within all elements of the regime”.
In his speech, Alavi also admitted that “these converts are ordinary people, whose jobs are selling sandwiches or similar things”.
Borji says this admission again represents a “huge shift away from Iran’s usual rhetoric that converts are agents of the West who have undergone significant training to undermine national security.
“Indeed, such proclamations have often formed the basis of official court rulings against converts – that their actions have represented collusion with the ‘Zionist’ enemies of Iran. The minister’s statement completely undermines the basis for such claims.”
It is also especially alarming for the Iranian regime to acknowledge that “ordinary Iranians” are converting, Borji says, as it is “these ordinary Iranians who have formed the regime’s hardcore support for the past 40 years – support the regime is now losing in huge numbers”.
It is also interesting to see the intelligence minister admit to “whole families” converting, Borji says, as this is “an admission that such conversions are far from a rare event; rather they are happening en masse, and across the country.
“Perhaps this is why the minister chose to make these comments to a gathering of Shia clergy about to be commissioned and sent off to various parts of the country to propagate the Shia Islam of the regime.”