Read: Falsafi Kashani and the Baha'is

From: (A.W. Samii)
Date:         1996/01/15
Message-ID:   <4df8kh$>
Organization: America Online, Inc. (1-800-827-6364)
Reply-To: (Abbas65)
Newsgroups:   soc.culture.iranian


On  11 Jan 1996, some information about Falsafi was posted.  So I did some
research and came up with this stuff:

 The clergy had played a significant role in the Oil Crisis and the Shah's
subsequent return to power.  Aya. Kashani's role bears elaboration.
Kashani was a vocal proponent of nationalization and the elimination of
foreign influence in Iranian affairs.  While he advocated a return to
Islamic government for Iran, it is generally agreed that this stemmed more
from his political motives than any real religious motivation.1  During
the 30 Tir (18 July 1952) incident Kashani helped organize crowds in
Musaddiq's favor, prompting the Shah to ask Musaddiq to resume the role of
Prime Minister, which he had symbolically resigned.

 Later, however, both Kashani and Aya. Sayyid Mohammad Behbehani were
approached by CIA contract officers to encourage them to split with the
National Front.2  It was later stated that they did take the money,
leading to stories of 'Behbehani dollars' in the bazaar, and a report of a
post-coup meeting between the Shah, Zahedi, and Kashani, in which Kashani
was thanked for his efforts.3  Musaddiq's extra-legal efforts to
concentrate power in his own hands had a greater effect in losing him his
early supporters, despite what some apologists may say, than did foreign

 After the coup Kashani gradually slipped from public life, because many
came to believe that he was a British agent, and Tehran's press and radio
ignored his efforts to attract attention.5  This did not signify a
diminution in the importance of the clergy in Iranian affairs, and it has
been suggested that the clergy's importance increased after August 1953.6
The government's position towards the religious community did not involve
the use of repression and coercion, in contrast to its dealings with
Communists and Nationalists.  In fact, the ulama were generally quiet
after the coup, following the example of the Marja al-Taqlid (source of
imitation) Aya. Mohammad Hossein Borujerdi in Qum.

 There was one major exception to this general quiet.  During the Ramadan
period in 1955 the popular preacher Falsafi spoke out against the rising
power of the Bahais in Iran and accused them of being traitors and foreign
agents.7  The military government called on the Bahais to stop spreading
propaganda that would provoke the public, and the government radio station
replayed Falsafi's sermons.  Borujerdi then praised Falsafi publicly, and
the Majlis voted to outlaw the Bahai faith.8

 On 9 May 1955 the press carried reports of the destruction of the dome of
the Bahai Center in Tehran (Hazhir'e al-Qods) and its occupation by
troops, and on 17 May it was announced that the Bahai Center in Shiraz had
been closed and occupied by the military.9  The Chief of Staff
(Batmanghelidj) and the Military Governor of Tehran (Bakhtiar) led the
attackers.10  Behbehani congratulated the Shah for these acts.  At the
same time, the Shah's personal physician, Abdol Karim Ayadi, a Bahai, was
told to leave the country for a while.  For this reason he went to Italy
for about nine months.  The Bahais fought back by withdrawing their cash
from the bazaar, a move which led to the collapse of several businesses.11

 In purely religious terms, Bahai refusal to accept Mohammad as the final
prophet was the ulama's major concern.  More practical reasons, such as an
attempt to counter the Bahais' increasing political and economic influence
and reform-orientation, and an effort by the ulama to regain its
influence, probably carried more weight.  More conservative elements
resented the Bahai pressure for reforms, too.12  Also, the ulama felt
threatened by the number of conversions of Moslems to the Bahai faith.13

 In 1955, 70 military officers were retired on the grounds of being
Bahais, yet among this group were some of the very officers who were most
helpful in terms of remodeling the armed forces.  So, while the Shah had
to permit these moves to appease the religious establishment, to which he
undoubtedly felt an obligation for its support and a need for its
continued support, he also recognized that he could not allow the campaign
to go too far.14  Minister of the Interior Assadollah Alam had Falsafi
muzzled until order was restored.15

 Over time, Bahais regained their influence, and although the ones
mentioned below exceeded the limits of mutual help, it is important to
cite them as examples of people's irritants.  Ayadi was given exclusive
rights for Persian Gulf shrimp fishing, was a shareholder in numerous
companies, and used his position to help other Bahais.16  Another example
is that of Hojabr Yazdani, who had started out as little more than a
shepherd in Sangsar.  Allegedly through the use of coercion and protection
from high in the government, he achieved immense wealth and power.
Allegedly, when he was investigated by the Imperial Inspectorate
Organization (IIO), its head, Gen. Hossein Fardust, was told by Ayadi that
he had intervened with the Shah and Fardust should drop the issue.17

 Resenting the end of the anti-Bahai campaign, the ulama rose up when
efforts to enforce women's Constitutional rights arose.  By mid-1959,
however, the clergy fully supported the Shah, even making anti-Soviet
speeches during the Muharram processions, and in general, the ulama was
supportive of the Shah during the post-coup period.  The Fada'iyan-i Islam
is an exception to this view, but as stated earlier, the group's
importance was exaggerated.  Clergy-government relations became strained
with the introduction of the Shah's Land Reforms in the 1960s.18


1.  See M. Yazdi, 'Patterns of Clerical Political Behavior in Postwar
Iran, 1941-53,' Middle Eastern Studies v. 26, n. 3 (July 1990).  On
Kashani's early career, see 'Transmitting Biographic Data on Ayatollah
Kashani,' Foreign Service Despatch, 788.521/9JUN50.

2.  Based on interviews with seven former CIA officials in Iran at the
time, in M.J. Gasiorowski, 'The 1953 Coup D'Etat in Iran,' IJMES 19 (1987)
pp. 268-69.  This financial approach was part of an operation, codenamed
BEDAMN, intended to thwart Tudeh and Soviet influence.  Funded at $1
million a year, BEDAMN utilized propaganda, 'black operations' (such as
infiltration of the Tudeh, 'paying religious figures to denounce the Tudeh
as anti-Islamic, and organizing attacks on mosques and public figures in
the name of the Tudeh'), and 'direct attacks on Soviet allies.'

3.  1983 and 1984 interviews with the CIA officials who delivered $10,000
to a Kashani representative, Ahmad Aramesh; in Gasiorowski, 'The 1953 Coup
D'Etat in Iran,' p. 274; and 'Account of Conversation,' 1SEP53,
FO/371/104571, in ibid., p. 285.

4.  This apologetic tendency has been noted in a review of J.A. Bill and
W.R. Louis, ed.'s, Musaddiq, Iranian Nationalism and Oil, by C. Arjani,
British Society for Middle Eastern Studies Bulletin, v. 16, n. 2 (1989),
pp. 207-12.

5.  'National Front Leaders:  Whereabouts and Potentialities,' Foreign
Service Despatch, 788.521/17APR54, RG-59, Box 4119; and 'The Government
and Kashani's Publicity Campaign,' Foreign Service Despatch
788.00/26FEB54, RG-59, Box 4112.

6. A. Tabari, 'The Role of the Clergy in Modern Iranian Politics,' in N.R.
Keddie, ed., Religion and Politics in Iran:  Shi'ism from Quietism to
Revolution, (New Haven, 1983).

7.  Falsafi had a history of rabble-rousing.  In June 1951 he was
identified as 'one of Iran's most influential younger mullahs' whose
lectures against the UK, US, and USSR led to riots. In May 1952, he was
involved in disorders in the Tehran bazaar.  Also, he was sponsored by a
CIA operation called BEDAMN as an alternative to Kashani during the oil
crisis.  (State Department telegram 3453, 788.00/27JUN51, RG-59, Box 4107;
Mashad Consulate telegrams 2 & 4, 788.00/2AUG51, ibid.; S. Akhavi,
Religion and Politics in Contemporary Iran  Clergy-State Relations in the
Pahlavi Period, [Albany, 1980], p. 64; Gasiorowski, US Foreign Policy and
the Shah, p. 70).  On Falsafi's relations with the government, see W.M.
Floor, "The Revolutionary Character of the Ulama:  Wishful Thinking or
Reality?", in Keddie, Religion and Politics in Iran:  Shi'ism from
Quietism to Revolution, p. 76.

8.  State Department telegram 2225, 788.00/8MAY55.  Falsafi was a member
of an anti-Bahai group which eventually became the Hojjatieh Society, and
the leading ulama approved of the group's work;  see 'The Hojjatieh
Society - Its History, Advocates, and Opponents,' Iran Press Digest,
(28SEP82), p. 20, and ibid., (5OCT82), p. 15.

9.  Akhavi, Religion and Politics in Contemporary Iran, p. 77, 80.

10.  Oney, CIA Research Study; in Asnad, v. 7, p. 33.

11.  State Department Office of Intelligence Research, 'Political
Significance of the Campaign Against the Bahai Sect in Iran,' Intelligence
Report 6964, (16JUN55), p. 5.

12.  Ibid.,  pp. 1-2, 6.

13.  'Murderers of Bahais Convicted - Analysis of Present Position of
Bahai Community,' Foreign Service Despatch 27, 788.00/12JUL56, RG-59, Box

14.  'Political Significance of the Campaign Against the Bahai Sect in
Iran,' p. 7.  Tragically, Islamic aggression against the Bahais was
revived during the Revolution.

15.  In 1963, Falsafi spoke out against the Shah's Reforms, so Alam, who
had become Prime Minister, had him imprisoned; see A. Alam, (A. Alikhani,
ed.), The Shah and I:  The Confidential Diary of Iran's Royal Court,
1969-1977, [London, 1991], p. 48)  .

16.  Alam, The Shah and I, p. 386; Asnad, v. 17, p. 66.

17.  Fardust, Khatirat, p. 375.  Yazdani was jailed by the Shah in August
1978 for fraud and illegal use of government land; see Department of State
telegram, ( 28NOV78); in Asnad, v. 37, pp. 4-5.

18.  'Women's Rights Become Current Political Issue,' Foreign Service
Despatch 479, 788.00/15JAN59, RG-59, Box 3812; US Army WEEKA (weekly
update), 788.00 (W)/23JUL59, RG-59, Box 3814. v2.7 (213613) © 2005 - 2021 Emanuel V. Towfigh & Peter Hoerster | Imprint | Change Interface Language: DE