The Iranian regime has a helping hand in its makeover for foreign audiences: American Catholic bishops. After a short trip to Iran, a prominent group of Catholics issued a joint declaration with regime-approved clerics that is full of soothing propagandistic rhetoric and empty of facts.
From March 11 to 17, a delegation from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was in Iran to explore interfaith dialogue. The clerics they met with were from the Supreme Council of the Seminary Teachers in Qom, which the bishops’ website describes as “the preeminent center of religious scholarship in Iran.”
In other words, the bishops’ interfaith partners were the theological spine of the terrorism-sponsoring theocracy. The Iran Primer by Robin B. Wright explains that this is a “group of clerics who are in charge of policy planning in Iran’s seminaries.”
As any fair-minded observer of Iran knows, these seminaries preach the Shiite extremism that defines the regime. Wright says that the officials that make up this Supreme Council—the clerics that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops adores—are chosen by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and, if necessary, fired on his word.
One of the signatories of the June 17 joint declaration is Ayatollah Ali-Reza A’arafi, who is not only a senior member of the Supreme Council but is also president of Al-Mustafa International University. Wright says this is “owned and run by Ayatollah Khamenei.”
The moderate presentation of President Rouhani has fooled many in the West, but virtually no one views Khamenei the same way. He’s been Supreme Leader since 1989 with a record of extremism and brutality that not even the craftiest of spin-doctors could cleanse. Yet, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops went to clerics that essentially represent him for interfaith dialogue and advanced their depiction of the regime.
The result was the delivery of false advertising to the bishops’ audience. Take a look at some of the joint declaration’s lines:
“As religious leaders, we condemn all forms of disrespect for the religious traditions of others.”
The United Nations says persecution of Christians in Iran has reached “unprecedented” levels. Pastor Saeed Abedini, an American citizen, continues to be imprisoned in horrific conditions. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s latest report states that President Rouhani “has not delivered on his campaign promises of strengthening civil liberties for religious minorities.”
“We oppose any action that endangers the life, health, dignity or welfare of others. Catholicism and Shia Islam hold a common commitment to peaceful coexistence and mutual respect.”
In the mind of Islamists, their ideology is the peaceful and just one. The Iranian regime has been on the U.S. State Department’s list of State Sponsors of Terrorism since 1984. The U.S. government has consistently pointed out Iran’s support for Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Hezbollah, Hamas, Iraqi Shiite extremists and the list goes on and on.
A new book makes the case that Iran masterminded the Benghazi attacks of September 11, 2012. Iran continues to conspire to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, as well as other international and Afghan forces.
One glance at this factsheet on human rights in Iran is enough to dispel the propaganda in this part of the joint declaration.
“We call on all societies and persons to respect religion and its role in sharing moral guidance in the public square.”
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops may not have realized it, but this sentence is designed to legitimize the theocracy. The Iranian regime argues that its Sharia-based governance is required in order to protect the moral integrity of its people. Its opponents are accused of disrespecting Islam and immorality because the regime believes its rule is representative of Islam and morality.
“Shia Islam opposes and forbids the production, stockpiling, use and threat to use weapons of mass destruction. Catholicism is also working for a world without weapons of mass destruction and calls on all nations to rid themselves of these indiscriminate weapons.”
This sounds unequivocal but it is not. The International Atomic Energy Agency of the United Nations has confirmed that Iran has worked on technology only suitable for nuclear weapons; not energy. This includes work on nuclear warheads, nuclear simulations, the neutron initiator “triggers” for nuclear explosions and even preparations for an underground nuclear test. This is all in addition to the nuclear “energy” program that allows Iran to create the fuel for a bomb.
The only way to reconcile these facts with the joint declaration is to assume that the condemnation of WMD is equivocal. It depends on the circumstances or the definition of “weapons of mass destruction.” Or, it’s an outright lie.
The Iranian regime claims that Khamenei has issued a fatwa banning the production of nuclear weapons. The Iranian state media goes so far as to say that it means that Iran will “never” develop nukes. But, again, the aforementioned discovered nuclear activity proves the regime does foresee situations where nuclear weapons development becomes justifiable. Otherwise, there’d be no point in investing in the technology and carrying the risk of being caught.
As pointed out by Ali Safavi, the regime’s founder and original Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, preached that all religious rulings become null and void if they jeopardize the country. He quotes Khomeini as saying, “The vali-e-faqih [Supreme Leader] is empowered to unilaterally abrogate the religious commitments he has undertaken with the people should he find them contrary to the interests of the nation and Islam.”
Furthermore, there’s no proof that this anti-nuke fatwa even exists. Unlike the hundreds of other fatwas issued by Khamenei, this one is not publicly available. According to the Middle East Media Research Institute, it was not among the 493 “newest” fatwas published by the regime on July 30, 2013.
It is peculiar, to say the least, that this fatwa—the one with the greatest significance internationally—is the one that is missing. Either it does not exist or it does exist and Khamenei doesn’t want the world to read it. If it is the latter, then the only conceivable reason is that there’s an escape clause he wishes to be kept hidden.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops delegation should have brushed up their knowledge on the Iranian regime and its ideology.
The Islamic doctrine of taqiyya, or lying, originates in Shiite teaching. Shiites were taught that it is permissible to lie about their beliefs when faced with oppression. Another Islamic doctrine is tawriya, where Muslims are authorized to use purposely deceitful language without outright lying.
Egyptian scholar Mamoun Fandy writes that jurist Jafar al-Sadiq, considered by Shiites to be the Sixth Imam, preached that Muslims should hide their agendas from their adversaries. Al-Sadiq said, “Befriend people on the surface, and keep your grudges and intentions hidden.”
“[B]eing double-faced with one’s own takes one outside the bounds of faith, but with others [with non-Shiites] is a form of worship,” Fandy quotes from Al-Sadiq.
The Iranian regime is reaching out to Christian leaders in the hopes of reinventing itself in the eyes of the American public. Friendly meetings and tailored language must not take precedence over unsettling facts.