Excerpts from conversation between Iranian Ayatollah Abdol Hamid Masoumi-Tehrani, George Haroonian and Rabbi Abraham Cooper

February 4, 2021

For over two decades, the Simon Wiesenthal Center has forged contacts and relationships with Muslim leaders, from Indonesia to Morocco, from India and Azerbaijan to Sudan, from Jordan to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and United Arab Emirates.

Recently, Rabbi Abraham Cooper (RAC) held a 1-hour discussion with a religious leader in Tehran. Ayatollah Abdol Hamid Masoumi-Tehrani is a respected scholar with extensive knowledge of Judaic sources. (He invoked King David’s Psalms). He named three grand Ayatollahs who have given him his religious rank as a spiritual leader. (Khoii, Marashi Najafi and Golpayegani). But his advocacy for peace with the Jewish state and her people, among other issues, has left him a pariah. Coming on the heels of an interview with Israel’s Channel 12, Ayatollah Masoumi addressed a number of issues raised by RAC during a one-hour live session.

 – On religious attitudes in Iran vis a vis Jewish people and other faiths:
Ayatollah Masoumi said that a process of change is already underway among Shiites. He added that his group study and review of the Koran have yielded good results. He believes that Iranian Shiites are becoming more moderate. Sunnis, in his country, on the other hand, appear to be fanatic when it comes to Jews and Israel. One major challenge, he believes, is that the history of Islam was written 300 years after the prophet Mohammed and the full history of the early years of Islam are not clear, including why there were issues between Jewish tribes and Mohammed.

The Ayatollah has spoken out in defense of the Baha'i minority and promotes more contacts with other faiths: “Relations with non-Shiites and religious leaders have increased but, in his words, "pre-judgments" still exist.

– On the State of Israel:
The Ayatollah was emphatic that Israel belongs to the Jewish people and quoted two Suras in the Koran to make clear the legitimacy of the links between the Land of Israel and her people.

Sura Asra 8: "If you return to the religion of Moses, then God will return you to the holy land."
Sura Maedeh 21: "O children of Israel, enter this holy land."

– On Holocaust Remembrance and Denial:
When asked if the Iranian people had access to the truth about the Nazi Holocaust, he said yes. As for the regime’s Holocaust denial – and especially Ayatollah Khamenei’s recent using the Nazis’ code words for the genocide of the Jewish people –“Final Solution” – to apply to Israel, Ayatollah Masoumi emphasized that only 5% of the Iranian people support the regime. People have come to believe the opposite of government propaganda. This extends to the serial attacks on the Jewish State – “The majority of Iranian people do not hate Israel."

The Ayatollah was shocked to hear that last year, the head of the World Muslim League, Dr. Al Issa, led a delegation of Muslim religious leaders to Auschwitz – “This is the first time I hear of this,” adding that he was glad to hear about this initiative. He was also surprised and pleased to learn about the extensive and ongoing outreach to Muslim leaders by the Wiesenthal Center around the world.

– On visiting Jerusalem:
Rabbi Cooper asked if the Ayatollah would accept his invitation to make a religious pilgrimage to Jerusalem, if invited by the Simon Wiesenthal Center: “Not before the end of the pandemic," he responded with a smile.

Pictured above top-bottom: Rabbi Abraham Cooper, SWC Associate Dean and Global Social Action Director, Ayatollah Abdol Hamid Masoumi-Tehrani, and Jewish activist and long-time Wiesenthal Center friend, George Haroonian.

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