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Dissident Ayatollah Offers High Holiday Blessings

ayatollah boroujerdi

Ayatollah Boroujerdi in Evin prison

My first thought was that publishing this might further endanger this man’s life, but not publishing it gives in to the whims of tyrants.

One of Iran’s leading dissident Ayatollahs, Sayed Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi, is serving a 10-year jail sentence, during which he has been grievously mistreated.  His crime was calling for the strict separation of politics from religion in Iran.  Now, he has further angered his captors though his followers publishing Rosh Hashanah greetings to world Jewry.  The message is both touching and profound.  I originally read Thamar Gindin’s translation of the message from Persian to Hebrew.  Muhammad Sahimi and Tamar corrected my earlier translation from Hebrew to English so that it was truer to the original Persian.  Thanks to them for their help:

Blessings for Rosh Hashanah

We send our blessings to Jews throughout the world, especially the Jews of Iran on the beginning of the new Jewish year.  We beseech the Great Lord that in the new year all our wishes for peace and tranquility for both the Jewish and Palestinian peoples, for friendship for Jews and all the people of the world, and for the collapse of religious tyranny and freeing of the oppressed prisoners in Iran be realized.

How beautiful it is that this day should be called the Day of Judgment and Creation, demonstrating that God, the Omnipotent, created the world with both justice and equality as the pillars of existence, and fixed freedom and peace as the foundation of existence.

Good Lord has offered His graciousness and purity through blessings and abundance like apple and honey and has made the world sweet and delectable for His servants.

The Jews believe that the Creator, and He alone, inscribes on this blessed day the fate of all humankind.  Therefore, on this day all His servants and creatures call His name so that goodness and joy shall replace evil and brutality.

Moreover, we greet the Jewish community in advance of  Yom Kippur and Sukkot.  In the eyes of Jews, Yom Kippur is a day of penitence and a day of bonding between God and his creatures.  In their prayers, they mention their sins and ask for forgiveness.

The holiday of Sukkot commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from exile in Egypt under the leadership of Moses the Prophet, on their way to the land of their fathers, until which time they lived in booths (sukkot) for forty years. This holiday marks the liberation from slavery, and includes the return of freedom, and the return [of the exile] to the home of the father. The message to all humanity in our day is that it is right to achieve freedom and security and that we must gird ourselves patiently and be ready to offer ourselves as sacrifices and pay the price.

We ask from God with the blast of the shofar of human rights that he will open a door to the fate of his servants and lead all humanity, seekers of wholeness, on the path to joy.

From the supporters of the prisoner, advocate of freedom, and pursuer of peace,

Sayyed Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi

shiraz ketubah

Wedding ketubah, Shiraz, 1925 (Lessing Photo Archive)

In the incessant ranting of both sides against the other, Iranian and Israeli, it is refreshing to read that tolerance is not dead.  If only there were views of rabbis inside Israel as thoughtful and courageous as these.  Israel must realize that when they rattle sabers against Iran that they are undermining the purity of the cause of dissidents like Boroujerdi.  All they do is undermine him and all other seekers of freedom and democracy inside Iran.

There are Israel advocacy groups like MEMRI who are delighted by figures like Boroujerdi, because they mistakenly believe that his views will turn Iran into a more docile or pro-Israel entity.  What they don’t realize is that this particular Ayatollah is in favor of an Iran in which religion is not involved in politics at all.  He embraces a state whose governance is entirely secular in nature.  Some of you may already be on my wavelength, and be thinking that Israel is a state that fails such a test.  In fact, the settler-Haredi ideology/theology which prevails in many circles in latter-day Israel is closer to the current mullah regime than to Boroujerdi’s views.

{ 14 comments… add one }
  • randa September 29, 2011, 11:40 PM

    this letter is so beautiful and full of blessings. the content of the letter made me imagine an ideal world full of love and harmony and everyone sends their greetings to everyone who are from different religions. i like it.

  • yankel September 30, 2011, 10:37 AM

    Thanks for posting this most beautiful greeting for our new year.

    This corresponds well with what Muslim individuals I knew (Sunni and Shiite, born-Muslims and converts) told me — that Islam is first and foremost about promoting tolerance, justice and respect to all.

    What a shame so many clerics, of all creeds, abuse their positions and followers’ trust to promote the opposite.

  • pabelmont September 30, 2011, 4:10 AM

    A beautiful statement. I suppose he would be a prisoner in any country where injustice rules and the government wishes to remain uncriticized.

  • yankel September 30, 2011, 7:01 AM

    Here’s an official English translation in his supporters’ site:

    link to bamazadi.org

    and here’s a petition for his release:

    link to petitiononline.com

  • yankel September 30, 2011, 7:11 AM

    Richard, something seems to be going wrong with these comments’ time-stamps.

    My earlier comment is stamped:
    — September 30, 2011 at 10:37 AM

    While my later one’s stamp is:
    — September 30, 2011 at 7:01 AM

    Is it related to those lately-detected apparent flaws in uncle Albert’s time-space?

    • Elisabeth September 30, 2011, 1:01 PM

      That was funny!

  • PersianAdvocate September 30, 2011, 7:21 AM

    This was a sweet gesture and a true showing of what core Iranian values are supposed to espouse – and the fact is, Iranians espouse these values by the millions. Thank you very much for publishing this. It is important that we bridge our civilizations instead of create fake clashes.

    As for putting him in danger, he would be in none. The Qu’uran demands that the people of the book be respected, and that includes Jews (Shiism was, in part, a sect that became a permanent Islamic fixture from the Iranian peoples’ will to force the inclusion of Zoroastrianism within this principle). Sharia law in Iran follows suit.

    This notion that even the Iranian government is anti-Jewish is hocus pocus. Iran has a Chief Rabbi. There are synagogues inside Tehran. Jews in Iran are not prejudiced against in that society for being Jewish. The Iranian government does not persecute Jews. The differentiation between Zionism, a political principle, and Judaism is unquestionable amongst Iranians — the lines being blurred in the West so as to scapegoat Judaism for wrongs committed by a criminal few. Those in Iran who are racist against other Iranians for religious beliefs are not being IRANIAN. The same goes for Jews who preach murder (they aren’t being JEWISH). Or the criminal class that has hijacked America – they say they’re American, but they certainly don’t act American.

    It’s a chauvinism, a human one, that transfers this guilt of prejudice from actual racists in Europe and other parts to a people that never really had such hatred. This is not an Iranian facet of life, not for 10,000+ years, not now. Neither is racial purity. We are proud of our various intersecting ethnic origins, united several millennia before Europe ever came to prominence. It’s a wrong calculus to think that these factions can be separated – it will only result in the opposite, but I digress…

    I agree that the government of Iran does many things wrong, but I believe more strongly in the line from Hamlet, “To thine own self be true.” This Ayatollah is in prison for something other than sending blessings to Jews (the separation of church and state is the undoing of the clerical establishment – an overthrow of a government – a revolution). He is the paradigm of Iranian thought.

  • Omar September 30, 2011, 11:52 AM

    Richard I would suggest that the ‘ranting’ is not a two-way thing.

    From Israel, it is ranting.

    From Iran, it is rational concern for its security: two of its neighbours conquered and destroyed – Iraq and Afghanistan – with itself openly talked about as the next target by Israel and the US – both nuclear states.

    Add to this that Pakistan, India, Russia and China all have nukes, Iran is being encircled.

    Any ‘ranting’ from Tehran is, I would suggest, merely an expression of the dire situation in which Iran finds itself and its frustration that any effort to assure its own security is bewailed as ‘extremism’, ‘terror’ and what have you.

    All that said, you’re right to praise statements like those from this cleric.

    More of him and less of Rabbi Lior and Awlaki, I say. Though I guess we don’t have to worry about the latter anymore.

    • Richard Silverstein September 30, 2011, 3:13 PM

      Ahmadinejad is a bit of a ranter. Though it’s not like he hasn’t been provoked by the Israeli side.

  • fred October 1, 2011, 3:59 PM

    This is obviously a fake.We have to seriously ask ourselves one important question : why would the Iranian regime even release this statement if it was indeed true.It is a hoax & nothing more.Just a nasty game to fool us all as to how “human” the regime in Iran wants to appear!

    • Richard Silverstein October 1, 2011, 10:42 PM

      I’d say the only fake here is you. The “regime” didn’t release anything. The ayatollah’s supporters did. Please don’t insult us with your lack of intelligence about the nature of Iran.

  • Chayma October 2, 2011, 12:47 PM

    I’m surprised to read this.

    Where is the evidence that his captors were angered by his offering greetings to Jews?

    Ahmedinejad is on goods terms with his own Jews.

    Being Jewish and being Zionist is not necessarily the same thing in Iran.

    • THMR October 5, 2011, 7:23 AM

      I’m afraid there was a misunderstanding:
      Ayatollah Borujerdi is not in jail for this greeting. He’s been incarcerated for 1800 days now for endorsing the separation of church (well, mosque) and state.

  • Chayma October 2, 2011, 12:50 PM


    You need to remember that anti Zionists are not necessarily anti Jewish. That is something that the left, or extreme left tie together, and of course the right wing Zionist wingnuts (read MEMRI crowd) Not so, with us Muslims,

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