Fearless Iranian cleric defies ‘dictatorial’ regime, embraces Israel, dreams of praying in Jerusalem

Deposed ayatollah risks a Zoom call with an Israeli reporter, saying, ‘Our regime is dictatorial, we have no problem with Israel.”

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

An Iranian cleric affiliated with the opposition was interviewed on Israeli television and said he did not fear retribution from the regime in Tehran for talking to Israelis, and that ordinary Iranians do not have a bad opinion of the Jewish State, Channel 12 reported Monday.

Abdol-Hamid Masoumi-Tehrani is a former ayatollah who had the title removed by the Iranian government and spent five years in jail because of his objections to the regime. In a video call from his home in Iran, he told Channel 12 news that Iranians struggled with a dictatorial regime that suppresses its own people and was “inventing non-existent enemies.”

Asked what the Iranians on the street think of Israel, Masoumi-Tehrani replied: “Understand that Iranians and Jews have a long history of friendship. From what I see and hear in conversations with people here, I have not encountered Iranians who have a bad opinion of Israel.”

Masoumi-Tehrani held one of the highest religious titles in Iran – ayatollah – and was admired and respected until he issued a ruling against the appointment of Iran’s current Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“In 1986, when he was elected Iran’s supreme spiritual leader, due to my early acquaintance with him and his behavior, I claimed that he would surely destroy both religion and the country,” Masoumi-Tehrani said. “Because of that and because I opposed it, I spent five years in prison. This controversy continues to this day.”

Masoumi-Tehrani is considered a leading opposition voice within Iran and has been arrested many times for preaching the separation of religion and state and objecting to conservative rule. He is also recognized in Iran as fighting for minority rights of Bahais and Jews, and for the Iranians’ right to demonstrate against the regime.

The rebellious cleric brushed off the question of risking government retribution for speaking publicly with Israeli television.

“I have been speaking in the most transparent way possible for 20 years,” Masoumi-Tehrani said. “I sit in Tehran and do not work for any country, organization or group. If they do not like me talking to you or anyone else – this is their problem. We [Iranians] have no problem neither with Israel nor with any other country in the world.”

“Unfortunately because our regime is dictatorial and limited to the rule of one person who does not care about the minds of most of the public in Iran, the people here cannot protest quietly and the regime suppresses them violently,” he said.

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Maoumi-Tehrani is also a scholar of calligraphy and has authored several holy books. His Hebrew copy of the Book of Ezra resulted in him being interrogated more than once by the authorities.

He says Israel has nothing to worry about from Iran’s threats: “I do not think this talk (about the destruction of Israel) is serious. Do not forget that Saddam Hussein also said these slogans, and we know where he is today.”

At the end of the interview, Maoumi-Tehrani said one of his wishes is to visit Israel.

“If one day my health allows me to board a plane, of course I will come to Israel. My request from God has always been to come to Jerusalem and especially to pray at the Western Wall,” Masoumi-Tehrani said.