Molavi Abdolmajid Moradzehi is a religious scholar and a Sunni clerical leader from the Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchistan, which is home to many Baluchi Sunnis. After the twin terror attacks in Tehran on June 7, he condemned the attack, which was claimed by ISIS and was carried out by Iranian Sunnis.
I spoke to Molavi Moradzehi about the attacks and what he thought could be done to prevent future attacks.
After the terror attacks in Tehran there was speculation that ISIS might use the opportunity to recruit more help in Sunni areas of Iran. And there have been some reports that it already has been doing so.
The Sunni community is opposed to any kind of violence and bloodshed. It is true that in the past there have been groups [in the province] who resorted to violence, but even then the Sunni community resisted such extremism and worked against it. In the recent elections, a record number of Sunnis participated.
Some believe that the Sunni faith has a theoretical potential for accepting certain justifications for violence. What hadiths [narratives about the Prophet Mohammad’s words and actions] do Sunnis accept that might apply to terrorism and terror activity?
Violence is not limited to Sunnis. And sane human beings hate the killing of innocent people. Unfortunately, in some films that I have seen, terrorists target people, and it's easy for them. And they don’t feel any guilt. How can a religion approve of this kind of violence? There is a hadith that says if somebody takes up a pickaxe and destroys the house of God with his own hands, he will be less the subject of God’s wrath than if he kills an innocent person.
So what excuses do people who commit these acts of violence use, if these acts are abhorred by religion?
Unfortunately extremism exists in today’s Islamic societies, be it Shia or Sunni. Extremist groups have emerged from both communities. The Koran and both Shia and Sunni communities condemn the murder of human beings. These individuals commit these acts as a result of wrong interpretations and brainwashing. They are fed up with the environment in which they live, and with the tyrannies in the region. These killings are not forgivable. At the same time, we have to find out what the factors are that push extremist dissident groups toward such levels of cruelty. Scientific and academic centers must conduct research into why ordinary people join such groups.
Sunni clerical authorities and the people of Sistan and Baluchistan believe that problems must be solved in the framework of logic, by discourse, and according to the laws of the country. They neither resort to violence nor support violent extremists. No religion or faith approves of the killing of innocent people, especially during the holy month of Ramadan and especially when the attacks [in Tehran] targeted a place where people gather to meet with their representatives and solve their problems.
You mentioned that some people are fed up with the tyrannical environments in which they live. Do you mean that this is a factor? Does it lead to successful recruitment by extremist groups?
I believe that it is mainly the tyrannical governments in the region that give rise to extremist groups. Despotic rulers have been indifferent to their own people and have not been willing to listen to their problems, to negotiate and to remove the division between the government and their own people.
I recommend that statesmen endeavor to remove this division, and to tend to the problems of the diverse Iranian peoples within the framework of the constitution. Have them participate in the management of national and regional affairs, and through this participation, deny al-Qaeda and ISIS any way to recruit these individuals and deceive them.
What is biggest issue facing the Sunni community?
Our biggest issue is discrimination. Qualified Sunnis are ignored. In the past the Sunni vote has decided the outcome of the presidential election three or four times, and in this election around seven million Sunnis voted for Mr. Rouhani. It is only fair that Sunnis be part of running the regional and national affairs.
We have to ask: Why there is no Baluchi or Sunni cabinet minister? Why is our provincial governor not a Baluchi? These are our constitutional rights and there is no law against them. They say that merit is the criterion and ethnicity does not enter into it. So it is logical to say that in this big society there are efficient and honorable Sunnis who, given the chance, can serve people as well as their Shia brethren.
In any case, it is the Sunnis who are guarding this border. This is not a safe region and many of our enemies are trying to bring insecurity into the country. The Sunni community must be looked after. Then no one will be able to use any excuse to gravitate toward fundamentalist groups.