Stephen Sizer and the Khomeini Family

This past week, ABC News reported the arrest of Ayatollah Khomeini’s granddaughter Zahra Eshraghi, along with reformist husband Mohamed Reza Khatami.

In direct relation to this news, illustrated with a photo of Hassan Khomeini guarding a copy his book on Christian Zionism, Stephen Sizer comments:

Two years ago I took part in a lecture tour of Iranian universities at the invitation of Dr Zahra Mostafavi, the daughter of the Ayatollah Khomeini. Predictably, I was accused by Zionists of siding with the Iranian regime, with holocaust deniers, and those who allegedly want to ‘wipe Israel off the map’, etc, etc. I am glad that  what I always knew but could not say at the time has been made public – that they are part of the opposition movement to the Iranian regime. The picture is of Khomeini’s grandson, Hassan Khomeini.

Lara Setrakian, writing for ABC News, logged this story a few days ago.

[…]

I have several points to make in response to this.

1. Stephen Sizer presents this arrest as allowing him to finally reveal the secret of Khomeini family members in opposition to the Ahmadinejad regime.

Yet this is not news: the New York Times reported in April 2003 that Eshraghi was a leading reformer opposed to the oppression of women in Iran. The New Republic reported in August 2009:

Eshraghi and her husband are open supporters of Mousavi and have officially endorsed him through their party; both were arrested a day after the election. In another interview ten days before the election, Zahra said, “Mousavi was one of the very few people trusted by my grandfather.”

2. Zahra Mostafavi’s public support for Moussavi – also reported by TNR in August 2009 – is no secret either, and is not something Rev Sizer is revealing to the world just now.

3. Zahra Eshraghi, grand-daughter of Khomeini, is not the same woman as Zahra Mostafavi, Khomeini’s daughter. Both are active in women’s politics, but whereas Eshraghi actively opposes the chador (Islamic veil) being forced on women, Mostafavi sees wearing the hijab as divine law and therefore not up for debate. There is a clear difference, and Sizer had nothing to do with Eshraghi during his visit to Iran. Sizer was invited by Zahra Mostafavi.

4. In July 2006, Zahra Mostafavi wrote a letter to Hassan Nasrallah in praise of Hezbollah, imploring children to become suicide bombers. Not good.

5. Zahra Mostafavi did not invite Stephen Sizer to Iran in a personal capacity or even on behalf of her family. This was a tour organised by the NEDA Institute. Indeed, Sizer himself wrote in a report on his website:

In October 2007, she [Dr Zahra Mostafavi] invited me to give a series of lectures on the impact of Christian Zionism on the Middle East. The tour was arranged and facilitated by Dr Jawad Shabarf of the NEDA Institute for Scientific Research in Tehran.

In January 2006, Dr Jawad Shabarf wrote to Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson on behalf of the NEDA Institute. You can read Shabarf’s corresponse with Faurisson on a Google Cache of the neo-Nazi Zundelsite.

Rev Sizer’s acceptance of an invitation from the NEDA Institute is still inexcusable. It is not justified because Zahra Mostafavi’s niece is a reformer.

6. Hassan Khomeini, depicted in Rev Sizer’s blog, clearly supports terrorist activity against Israeli civilians.

From Payvand’s Iran News:

Hassan Khomeini, grandson of the father of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, said in a July 18 letter to Hizballah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah that he is ready to go to Lebanon to fight the “enemies of Islam and humanity,” Iranian state television reported. Khomeini met with Nasrallah during a July 2 visit to Damascus, IRNA reported.

7. If Rev Sizer’s visit was genuinely out of concern for the opposition to Ahmadinejad, why did he spend his time criticising apocalyptic Christian Zionist theology without even mentioning Ahmadinejad’s apocalyptic Mahdist theology?

8. If Rev Sizer was genuinely opposed to the Iranian state in 2007, why did he appear on the Iranian state’s Press TV in 2008? And why did he cite a Holocaust denier in the process?

9. If Rev Sizer was politically opposed to the Ahmadinejad regime in 2007, why did he appear at a political conference in 2008 alongside representatives from Hamas and Hezbollah, both of which are armed and funded by the Ahmadinejad regime? (Holocaust denier Frederick Tobin was also in attendance, as were Neturei Karta reps).

10. Why was Rev Sizer happy to allow his book on Christian Zionism to be translated into Farsi by Zahra Mostafavi for open usage – despite knowing full well how the Iranian regime treats its Christians?

I do not believe that the very sad arrest of Zahra Eshraghi and Mohamed Reza Khatami justifies or negates Rev Sizer’s political alliances in any way.

For Christians interest in peace and justice who respect Rev Sizer’s writings, these developments may seem disconcerting.

Stephen Sizer’s output is focused on what he sees as the violent outworking of bad theology. Emploring Christians to embrace the Biblical quest for peace and justice, Reverend Sizer presents himself as a moral leader for how Christians should engage in politics.

Perhaps he too has some learning to do.

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22 Comments

Filed under Ahmadinejad's Christian soldiers?

22 responses to “Stephen Sizer and the Khomeini Family

  1. Pingback: Stephen Sizer and the Khomeini Family | eChurch Christian Blog

  2. Thanks Joe, cross-posted.

  3. Gev

    Cheers Joseph, great post.

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  6. Colin

    Dear Joseph,
    thankyou! I also read Sizer’s blog, and found it ridiculous. He seems to think he has been vindicated, and is sort of a 007. There is an emerging church in Iran, which is great, but Sizer thinks they need to be told its ok to hate Israel??!! Maybe he thinks he can gain it favor with the mullahs if he tells them they too hate Israel? This is helping them?? He is giving a young church poison. The same poison which killed off the church in Europe.

  7. Anonymous

    I’m not clear what you’re trying to criticise about Rev Sizer here.

    Are you saying that he is a supporter of the Iranian government, being manipulated by them, or simply choosing unwise allies in what is essentially a benign goal?

    Or a combination or something else entirely?

  8. Zkharya

    Sizer is primarily looking for his book to be published.

  9. P

    I’m not clear what you’re trying to criticise about Rev Sizer here.

    Are you saying that he is a supporter of the Iranian government, being manipulated by them, or simply choosing unwise allies in what is essentially a benign goal?

    Or a combination or something else entirely?

  10. Norster

    He’s saying that Sizer has cosied up with one of the most antisemitic regimes on the planet, cited a Holocaust denier in the process, and then tried to play all innocent by claiming he was actually trying to support the Iranian opposition.

  11. Fran

    Interesting and informative post.

    Thanks.

  12. aaron

    Hi, Seismic Shock. I am new to the topics here and I’d like to seek your advice. I apologize that I’m about to ask such a broad and complex question, but my inability to be more specific reflects my ignorance.

    I am troubled by the violence of the Israeli government against the Palestinian people, and I am troubled by those who regard Israel’s actions as an indictment of the Jewish people.

    The latter issue is simple to me. It is trivially easy to show that governments do not even represent their citizens, let alone whole diasporas.

    The former is not so simple. How can I speak up about abuses of human rights, while not inadvertently giving comfort to antisemites, or naively saying antisemitic things myself? As I said, it’s a very broad question, but I would appreciate any response.

  13. seismicshock

    Hi Aron, thanks for your question. I think if you can specifically isolate what you’re criticising and why, and not make broad generalisations or say things that sound racist (e.g. 1 in 14 Jews is a Mossad agent, we heard recently on Radio 4!), then it’s a good start.

    Think about how people criticise the Mugabe government without:

    a) being racist against blacks
    b) being racist against whites
    c) decrying Zimbabwean nationalism as an offence to God, etc. etc.

    It’s also a good idea to stay far far away from individuals and institutions which deny the Holocaust.

    I also think if you bring theology into politics, you’re running into trouble as you could quickly, so we should be careful how we express both politics and theology.

    I hope this helps, but let me know if you have any further or more specific questions.

  14. aaron

    Thank you. That’s sound advice.

    As an atheist, I have no interest in the substance of theological arguments, but great interest in how such arguments are lobbied to impact the world around us. I have occasionally seen non-Jewish critics of Israel point to Neturei Karta’s theology as though it should be meaningful to the rest of us. Even if NK were not flirting with Ahmadinejad, it would not be the business of non-Jews to involve ourselves in deciding what Israel should mean, in a religious sense, to Jewish people.

    And of course Holocaust denial invariably indicates poor scholarship and/or an attempted legitimization of fascism. I am at a loss to understand why any well-meaning person would overlook this.

    The unfortunate reality is that only Jewish people have to worry about antisemitism for self-preservation. For the rest of us, such worries are optional, and often complacently ignored.

    I am interested in finding Jewish bloggers, activists, or organizations who are rationally critical of Israeli state violence but also seriously concerned with antisemitism as a matter of self-preservation. Not so that I may abrogate my own responsibility (after all, any given Jewish person may have learned to internalize antisemitism from the surrounding society), but simply that I may learn from those who have a personal stake in a peaceful future for Jews.

    Are you aware of any such individuals or groups?

    Here in the US there is an org called Jewish Voice for Peace. As far as I can tell, they are not relying on theology or associating with antisemites. But you may know better than I do. Are you familiar with them?

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  16. seismicshock

    “I am interested in finding Jewish bloggers, activists, or organizations who are rationally critical of Israeli state violence but also seriously concerned with antisemitism as a matter of self-preservation”

    Sure, I myself have my criticisms of the Israeli state:
    http://www.hurryupharry.org/2010/03/01/yad-lachim-terrorists-must-be-outlawed-by-israel-2/

    I’ll agree with JVfP on some things and not on others probably, that’s certainly good they don’t rely on bad theology, although it’s probably treading on other people’s toes a bit if they think they’re the only voices for peace.

    I dunno, what are your specific criticisms of Israel? Just so I know where you’re coming from..

  17. James Mendelsohn

    Hi Aaron,
    Those are good questions. In my view, JVP are probably best avoided:

    They equate Israeli policies with the Holocaust
    http://thebrandeishoot.com/archive/?module=displaystory&story_id=2014&edition_id=61&format=html

    and cooperate with extreme left-wing organisations the Revolutionary Communist League and Socialist Workers Party
    http://www.campus-watch.org/article/id/4041

    As an alternative, I’d recommend the work of Engage http://engageonline.wordpress.com/about-engage/

    “Our campaign against antisemitism and the demonization of Israel is intended to strengthen not weaken other campaigns for peace in the Middle East. We believe that the central reason that so called “Palestine Solidarity” is such a weak and fringe campaign in Britain is that most decent people don’t want to be involved with something that smells of antisemitism. We support those who campaign for Palestinian rights and we believe that what we have to say would strengthen, not weakens, their campaigns. We also support the Israeli peace movement, weak and disorientated as it may be. We believe that the demonization of Israel weakens the Israeli peace movement and pushes Israelis who are for peace into the arms of the Israeli right. It is obvious that a boycott of Israeli Jews, and only Israeli Jews, will be understood by Israelis as a racist attack on them – and boycotts therefore strengthen Israeli hawks at the expense of the peace movement.”

    Hope that helps.

  18. aaron

    Thank you for sharing your time and thoughts.

    That’s a frightening story about Ami Ortiz. I knew about religious violence targeting gay Israelis, but I did not know of such violence against Messianic Jews.

    I am primarily concerned with barriers to a two-state solution. As I understand it, these include the government’s unwillingness to evacuate or even freeze the growth of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and the restriction of legitimate trade between the Palestinians and the outside world which has halted the local economy.

    Naturally, the Palestinian Authority must be expected to provide, or accept external assistance in providing, border security. But this task is made immeasurably more difficult when the Palestinian population is made to live in material desperation with no end in sight.

    • seismicshock

      It’s a very messy situation for sure, and of course you’re within your rights to point out if and where you think Israel has gone wrong in its treatment towards Palestinians. I am not a fan of the current Israeli administration either, but I’m not sure how we’ll get and true and lasting peace in the Middle East. I hope there’ll be one soon.

  19. aaron

    James, thank you for the information. I assume you’re talking about this quote from Alice Rothchild:

    “We’re all searching for meaning in the tragedy of the Holocaust,” she said. “How do [victims of the Holocaust] get to a place where they can do this to another people?”

    But I do not see this as necessarily equating Israeli policy with the Holocaust. I’ll offer a parallel here in the United States. Recently a significant number of black Californians voted to ban gay marriage. In response, many gay people and straight allies asked, how does it happen that people who were so recently denied their own civil rights are now willing to deny the rights of others? But no equivalence of suffering is implied by the question. We do not need to imagine marriage inequality as equivalent to Jim Crow laws, or Bull Connor’s fire hoses, to ask more generally why people who have suffered are not more sensitive to others’ suffering. Likewise when Rothchild speaks of “do[ing] this to another people,” I do not see an implication that “this” is as bad as the Holocaust.

    As for any alliance with revolutionary communists, I cannot be bothered by that unless those communists have themselves been shown to be antisemitic.

    I will certainly pay attention to Engage, as they appear to be worth taking seriously.

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