Monday, 17 November 2008

AFP: Iran condemns Sufi to jail, flogging and exile: report

TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran's judiciary has sentenced a member of one of the country's largest Sufi sects to five years in jail, flogging and exile for spreading lies, the moderate Kargozaran newspaper reported on Saturday.

The report identified the man as Amir Ali Mohammad Labaf, member of the Nematollahis or Gonabadi Dervishes order based in the northeastern province of Khorassan Razavi.

Labaf was convicted by a court in Iran's clerical nerve centre of Qom after it ruled that his holding of prayers as a Sufi was "a case of spreading lies," the report added, without elaborating.

In addition to the five-year prison term, Labaf was sentenced to 74 lashes and exile to the southeastern town of Babak.

Security forces have been involved in a number of clashes between the Muslim mystics and Shiite worshippers in the past few years.

Sufi worship is not illegal in Iran but the practice is frowned upon by many conservative clerics who regard it as an affront to Islam.
The Islamic mysticism followed by an array of Sufi orders since the early centuries of the faith has always aroused suspicion among orthodox Muslims, whether Shiite or Sunni.

In Shiite Islam, some Sufi orders have been further tarnished by the accusation of heresy because of their association with the unorthodox Alevi faith practised in parts of Syria and Turkey.

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