Criticizing the Iranian authorities, especially the security forces for their interference in Sunni religious affairs in the Sunni majority areas, the most influential Iranian Sunni leader called such interventions contrary to the constitution and against to the legal freedoms of the Sunni Community of Iran.
He urged that Sunnis should have their own Waqf board and Shiite scholars are authorized to decide about the religious issues of the Sunni community.
Talking to tens of thousands of worshipers in Zahedan’s biggest Friday gathering, Shaikh Abdol-Hamid asked the Iranian officials for the implementation of constitutional laws and stressed the need to adhere to the Article 12.
In his Friday speech of Zahedan on Dec. 24, 2021, Shaikh Abdol-Hamid criticized the government’s severe barriers on Sunni religious centers, saying that such obstacles and restrictions were clear violations of religious freedom in the Islamic Republic of Iran. He asked the Supreme Leader of Iran to manage the Sunni affairs under his direct supervision, calling him to prevent more oppression on this community.
The Friday prayer leader of Zahedan also called on the officials for an urgent solution to the issue of deposing Mawlana Gorgij, the Friday prayer leader of Sunnis in Azadshahr, Golestan.
Emphasizing that Sunnis of Iran have the right to teach, learn, and educate their community freely, the most prominent Iranian Sunni scholar said: “According to the constitution, Sunnis are free in education and in religious affairs. They should not be prevented from practicing their religion and from worshiping God in their own ways, but should be free from any restraint. Although the Constitution has defined the Ethna’ashari Shia as the official jurisprudence of the country but other sects, including four juridical schools of thought of Sunnis have freedom and equal rights and opportunities that cannot be denied.”
“Mawlana Abdol-Aziz, founder of Darululoom Zahedan and then-member of the constitutional assembly objected the clause which defines Ja’fari jurisprudence the official sect of the country, but the same law was eventually passed,” he said.
Emphasizing that the constitution, especially the Article 12, has given freedom to the Sunnis, Shaikh Abdol-Hami stated: “We are pursuing these rights continuously and through legal means. The law has given us freedom in education and in religious matters. Obstacles should be removed and all Iranians should be treated equally without exception to any religion or sect.”
He alluded to the obstacles on mosques and religious centers of the Sunnis and noted: “Friday prayers are among the most important ceremonies that should be held freely without obstacles. Unfortunately, the constitution is ignored in the Sunni affairs. Sunnis should have equal rights as Shiites. They should not be ostracized and ignored”.
President of Darululoom Zahedan criticized the interference of the Management and Planning Council Organization to Sunni Matters, saying: “The interference of the Tehran-based state-run organization in Sunni affairs is an example of the violation of the constitution. The Council put pressure on Sunni mosques, Madrassahs and religious centers. Teachers, prayer leaders and heads of seminaries are selected and appointed by the selection board of the Council.”
“Iranian Sunnis do not accept these baseless regulations and rules that are contrary to their interests,” he urged.
“Although, we do not have such problems in Balochistan, but we have these problems in some other Sunni majority provinces. Where the Sunnis have accepted such imposing rules, they have faced serious problems. Some of these laws have been applying in Kurdistan; Kurdish scholars are worried with the implementation of these imposed laws. We expect that the Article 12 of the Constitution, which has given us the freedom and right to teach and learn, should be implemented,” said Imam of the Grand Makki Mosque of Zahedan.
“We don’t expect a Shiite scholar from Qom to be appointed as director of Sanandaj Grand Islamic Center. Why the authorities did not appoint a Sunni scholar as the director of this center?” Shaikh Abdol-Hamid questioned.
He said more: “Many seminaries and schools of Sunnis have been closed in Kurdish-populated areas while some others partly closed and weakened by the Management and Planning Council Organization”, he said.
“Security officials should not interfere in religious affairs, especially in the affairs of mosques and schools. The system can monitor the religious affairs but has no right to interfere; interfering in Sunni religious affairs is against the freedom and the constitution. We believe that the elders should monitor the religious affairs, not security forces; security forces have different tendencies and their behavior has led many to leave coming mosques, while in an Islamic country people are supposed to be closer to Islam. When people observe such behaviors and see that one prayer leader is dismissed and another is appointed, they refuse to attend the mosques,” Said the prominent scholar of Sistan-Balochistan.
“The people of Kurdistan are complaining that the government is interfering in the appointment of the Friday prayer leaders and in appointing imams of the mosques. Mosques and religious centers are built by the people, so it is their right to appoint their prayer leaders,” Shaikh Abdol-Hamid underlined.
He believed that Imams of the mosques should obey the law and their freedom should be preserved too.
Shaikh Abdol-Hamid criticized the government for interfering in the affairs of mosques in rural villages, calling such treatments contrary to the law.
Stating that the purpose of the Planning Council is incompatible with the principles and interests of the Sunnis, Shaikh Abdol-Hamid said: “The council is comprised of politicians, security and judiciary officials, the Shiite clerics, with few Sunni clerics who have no authority.”
‘How is it possible for such an organization to manage the Sunni affairs fairly?’ he asked.
“We respect the security forces, but their job is to ensure the security of the country and to fight against the enemies, not to interfere in religious affairs. We have always tolerated such treatments and still tolerate, but it is not our right to interfere in our affairs. Interference is against the laws and the constitution. The Constitution is our national pact. We are Iranians and Iran belongs to us; we are the children of this land. We have accepted the law, so we obey the system and the supreme leader according to the constitution, not beyond it; otherwise we observe detriment,” said the Iranian Sunnis’ leader.
“The constitution defines and urges on our freedom; we want our freedom and our rights. We believe that we should be free in religious matters to practice our faith,” he urged.
Forty-three years after the revolution, the Sunni community of Iran has not yet achieved its demands
The most outstanding Iranian Sunni leader referred to the problems that Sunnis of Iran have been suffering from, for more than 43 years and said: “More than 43 years after the revolution, the Sunnis of Iran have not yet received their rights”.
Shaikh Abdol-Hamid referred to the situation of Sunnis in the capital of Iranian Balochistan by saying: “Although some Sunnis have gotten some positions such as governors of counties in southern parts of Balochistan, but in Zahedan, the capital of the province, Sunnis do not hold more than 10 percent of the official posts”.
‘You have to fulfill the rights of the Sunnis’, he emphasized.
Addressing the officials, the Friday Imam of Sunnis in Zahedan referred to the importance of maintaining fraternity between Shia and Sunni citizens and said: “Shiites are our brothers and sisters; we die for Islam and for the country; we have told the Shiites that we defend you and will never want you to be oppressed.”
Shaikh Abdol-Hamid further defended the Shiites of Afghanistan and addressed the Afghan officials by saying: “Respect the rights of the Shiites, give them freedom in religious affairs, and do not oppress them.”
“I have already warned the Afghan government to respect the rights of Shiites; I am sure that they respect the rights of the Shiites. In the recent suicide attacks on Shiite mosques in Afghanistan, I became angry and strongly condemned such crimes. I called on the new Afghan government to ensure security of Shiite mosques first and told them to deal with the perpetrators of the attacks,” said the eminent Sunni cleric of Iran.
“We believe that the government of Afghanistan must respect the rights of all ethnic and religious minorities,” he underlined.
Continuing his criticism, Shaikh Abdol-Hamid noted: “Sunnis of Iran have been deprived of high government positions at the provincial and national levels. We have been pursuing the case of our rights for 43 years and have asked the officials to appoint at least one Sunni as a minister, but they did not. In the capitals of the Sunni majority provinces, the Sunnis are deprived of high official jobs”
‘In which country of the world do the armed forces deprive their people because of their sect and ethnicity?” he asked.
“We ask the officials to give us a chance by recruiting us in armed forces so that we serve our nation and defend our borders. We want to be killed in the defense of the territorial integrity of our country. We ask the Supreme Leader of the Revolution to manage the affairs of the Sunnis himself and not leave them to others, because others behave us with prejudges. Our system belongs to all Iranians, it is our right to participate in this system and have equal rights and opportunities,” President of Darululoom Zahedan said in the Friday gathering of Zahedan.
He added more: “We are proud of Iran and Islam. Our ancestors fought against the Portuguese and expelled the British invaders from this land. Sunnis who live on the borders have been fighting with foreigners to protect their territory.”
“We call on the Shiite scholars, state officials and the president of the country to take care of our affairs. The new president that we voted for him despite facing many pressures and criticism, should meet our expectations,” said Shaikh Abdol-Hamid.
“A few months after the President Raisi’s administration took power, only one Sunni adviser has been appointed to the president. The country belongs to both of Shiites and Sunnis; everyone should enjoy equal right and opportunity, and discrimination should be eliminated,” the senior scholar of Zahedan said.
Mawlana Abdol-Hamid pointed to some jurisprudential differences between Shiites and Sunnis and said: “We accept that Iran is an Islamic country, but the rules of the Constitution have been written according to the Shiite jurisprudence, not Sunni jurisprudence. As we have much in common with Shia, we have many differences with them too. For example, Sunni jurisprudence does not accept executions which are going in the country. The series of executions in Iran that their verdicts are issued by Shiite judges are not accepted in Sunni jurisprudence. If such verdicts were issued by a Sunni judge, we would stand against him, because Sunni jurisprudence does not allow it. Compulsory confession by force and execution are not legitimated in Sunni jurisprudence. I do not know enough about Shiite jurisprudence, because I have no enough time to study about Shite jurisprudence. Therefore, I call on the officials to hold debates among clerics of both sides on such issues.”
Fighting for the religious freedom, the most prominent Sunni leader of Iran asked for an independent endowment for Sunnis and said: “We Sunnis have a population of more than 20 million in Iran; we want to be independent in our religious matters. We call on the officials to give us a separate endowment board as Shiites have separate endowments in many Sunni countries.”
Shaikh Abdol-Hamid addressed the officials and Shia scholars: “We must deal with religious and ethnic minorities in such a way that the future will judge us well. We can be the best role model for the next generations. We can have a bright future if we treat people well.”
Disposing of Mawlana Gorgij was a hasty decision
Following the deposing of the Friday prayer leader of Azadshahr, Golestan province, and the continuation of reactions in this regard, the most prominent Sunni scholar of Iran called on for an urgent solution to the issue. He believed that the decision of removing Mawlana Gorgij was a hasty decision.
The Friday Khateeb of Sunnis in Zahedan said: “Mawlana Gorgij is one of the prominent and most popular figures of the Sunni Community of Iran. He has been a Friday prayer leader for more than 40 years. Over years, Mawlana Gorgij has supported the country and has taken a strong stance against the enemies.”
Concluding his Friday speech of Zahedan, Shaikh Abdol-Hamid said: “Shaikh Muhammad Hussein loves the households of the prophet PBUH and has stated that he did not intend to insult anyone in his recent speech; then he apologized over the misunderstanding of some people. We expected that the officials should have accepted his apology. Only brave people can apologize. In a letter to the Supreme Leader, I asked him to resolve the issue. I also met with the seiner officials and with representatives of the Supreme Leader to solve the issue. I advise different classes of people to do their best to solve this problem.”