July 30, 2023


Iran: The new grand ayatollah upsetting the establishment: Seyyed Javad Alavi Boroujerdi, a 72-year-old cleric, has expressed support for minority rights and Mahsa Amini protests (Middle East Eye, 30 July 2023)

One of the striking aspects of Boroujerdi's vision is his focus on the history of Iran before Islam, which is counter to the administration and those clerics close to it, who attempt to ignore ancient Persian civilisation.

Boroujerdi highlights the significance of the Cyrus cylinder, a sixth century BCE document recognised by the United Nations, which notes that the texts "indicate that everyone is entitled to freedom and choice and that all individuals should respect one another".

"I praise the Cyrus cylinder, while some people believe that [there is nothing valuable before Islam]. This is not right," Boroujerdi has said.

Cyrus II of Persia (c. 600-530 BCE), commonly known as Cyrus the Great, founded the Achaemenid Empire, the First Persian Empire. Excavated at Babylon in 1879, the cylinder was inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform on Cyrus's orders. It promotes human rights, tolerance, courage and the respect of minorities.

Beyond human rights, Boroujerdi, unlike many of his peers, rejects the notion of an "Islamic economy", emphasising that Islam does not prescribe specific economic principles.

"We have been working for 43 years, we have done everything by trial and error. Matters should be left to experts and it is not even necessary for an expert to be religious," he has said of the government's approach to the economy.

When it comes to the controversy over whether it should be mandatory to wear the hijab, the cleric has said that true faith should not be defined solely by outward appearance. Boroujerdi has instead encouraged a focus on genuine belief and action, urging society to avoid excessive disputes that strain the fabric of religious unity.

When 22-year old Mahsa Amini died in the custody of the morality police for allegedly not observing regulations concerning the hijab, Boroujerdi said: "She was the daughter of us all and what happened to our daughter was very bitter for us all."

Protests have rocked Iran since Amini's death, and the grand ayatollah has been clear in his response to them. Addressing the Islamic Republic, Boroujerdi said of the protesters: "These people here have their say and they don't agree with what you are doing. Their voice should be heard somewhere. Leave the newspapers free to write it. The press should be free. Different views should be heard on state TV."

Posted by at July 30, 2023 12:00 AM