Ayatollah Younessi visiting non-Muslims in Shiraz on 1 May. The third photo from the top shows the lone Jewish MP, Siamak Mor Sedq, sitting to the right of the Ayatollah. The bottom picture was taken in an Armenian church in Shiraz.
Did a senior adviser to Ayatollah Rouhani, the President of Iran, visit a synagogue in Shiraz in order to denounce Zionism? Ayatollah Younessi came close to legitimising the influence of non-Muslim religions in a public relations exercise aimed at reassuring Jews and Christians in Shiraz that the regime will protect them from extremists like Al-Qaeda. However, he was careful to make the obligatory distinction between Judaism and Zionism.
According to Debka:
"most remarkably, he admitted that historical research and archeological excavations in the last 150 years had corroborated the Biblical account of the deeds of the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great (550-530 BCE).
(The Bible recounts that Cyrus issued a fabled decree for the emancipation of slaves, including the Jewish people, from Babylonian captivity, and allowed them to return to their homeland in Judah and rebuild their Temple in Jerusalem.)
That reference alone will undoubtedly be enough to bring Iran’s radical elements down on Yunessi’s head for his temerity in gainsaying precepts laid down by the founder of its Islamic Revolution. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini declared the Jewish Bible a forgery because of its many contradictions of the Koran text and denounced all Persian rulers prior to his revolution as symbols of despotism and repression.
According to the Islamic Republic News Agency:
"The Presidentˈs special assistant for ethnic and religious minorities Ali Younesi said religious extremist notion like that of the al-Qaeda has no place in Islamic thinking because it poses threat to global peace. He made the remarks here in southern country while talking to a gathering of Iranian Jews Friday evening. He said other divine religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism too dismiss such extreme notions.
"Younesi further stressed that the general policy of the Islamic system in Iran and the present government in particular is that no Iranian be deprived of its rights for religious reasons.
"He said the Islamic system believes that followers of all divine religions are free in conducting their religious rituals. He also noted that good manners of the ancient Iranians made the country a cradle for all divine religions wherein followers of all religions were capable of leading a peaceful life.
"Representative of the Iranian Jews in the parliament Siamak Moreh Sedq said that members of the Jewish community have all throughout the history proved to be ˈgood Iraniansˈ fulfilling their national commitments.
Debka adds: Yanessi did, however, take the precaution of pointing out that it would be a mistake to equate Judaism and Zionism because, he said, some Jews are anti-Zionist."