On September 25th 2008, five American religious groups will host the Iranian president Mahmood Ahmadinejad, as they did last year during his 2007 visit to the UN. 1
It is safe to assume that the purpose of the dinner won’t be a group interfaith prayer session. This event follows a series of trips by some American religious groups to Tehran. In fact, when these groups are not busy hosting Ahmadinejad here, they are hosted by him in Tehran.
The "American Friends Service Committee" and "the Mennonite Central Committee", two of Ahmadinejad's dinner hosts in New York, visited Tehran in early 2007. 2
These "peace" trips became fashionable after Ahmadinejad's ascendance to presidency in 2005. The main organizer in the U.S. is the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) which has already arranged 8 other trips since 2005.3 For example, their May 2008 trip to Iran was locally organized by the "Islamic Culture and relations Organization"; a governmental agency whose activities encompass a broad range from PR campaign for Tehran to assisting terrorist operations. 4
Prior to the religious delegation’s arrival in Tehran, Rassouli, the head of Iranian host agency declared: "The goal of this trip is to soften the negative image that the US media is spreading about Iran”. He predicted that the visitors would speak positively about Iran. 5
Upon their return from Iran, these delegations behaved as the PR agents for one of the most brutal regimes on earth. Their trip diaries are ludicrous and disgraceful. They remind one of the cold war era visits to the Soviet Union when the returning visitors praised Stalin and the joyful Gulags.
In Iran, according to these visitors, the religious minorities are well respected and enjoy ample freedom to practice their religion. The Iranian nuclear program is absolutely peaceful. The root cause of the nuclear dispute is the US administration who is looking for pretexts to wage another war. People are happy in Iran. They can freely talk about politics and their only worry is the US administration. Reading the journey reports can be quite entertaining. Two sample excerpts follow: 6
"The Iranian Archbishop, Doctor Ghorian Babian, praised the freedom of the religious minorities in Iran:
Archbishop Babian said it was important to respect the laws of each religion. In Islam, converting to another faith is punishable by death and foreign evangelism has been the reason for animosity towards western Christianity here. He said that he thought that it was hypocritical of the United States to claim the lack of human rights or religious freedom in Iran, when the U.S. policy in Saudi Arabia was to pump oil out of that country for 24 years but not to build a single chapel there."
Laurie, one American Christian living in Iran:
"Laurie said that aside from missing her family and the bother of having to dress in a chador, life was quite all right. When asked if people feel free to talk about politics, Laurie said that’s all they ever talk about!
She praised the improvements in health and education that have taken place since the revolution. Compared to Egypt, where there is so much poverty, Iranians are better off, she thought."
This unholy alliance is further augmented with the Iranian web of influence in the U.S. For example, PAX Christi USA is one group which has traveled to Iran on two occasions; one of which was with FOR delegation. Their report about the trip explained that: 7
"One of the new relationships that Pax Christi USA entered into as a result of the delegation was with the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), the largest US based organization representing Iranian Americans. Later in the spring, Dave and NIAC staff Alex Patico, another delegation member, presented their insights on the Iranian situation to DC-based organizations at an event organized together with NETWORK. Dave continued to write and to speak on Iran to groups around the country in the months following the delegation."
Alex Patico, according to NIAC web site, is the co-founder of NIAC. He was also one of the delegates of 2006 trip to Tehran. After the trip, NIAC's president Trita Parsi accompanied the religious leader in a briefing in the Congress about Iranian nuclear program. 8
Patico is also the US coordinator of another Iranian organization called CASMII (Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran) created in 2006. This group is a tenacious defender of the Iranian nuclear program. The readers are invited to visit CASMII's website to get the first hand views of this organization’s position on Iranian related issues. 9
FOR and its allies organize many religious trips to Iran. This organization also has a broader range of activities with CASMII and other pro Tehran organizations. The latest example is their September 21st candle vigil organized by the Iranian regime in Tehran. 10
While religious organizations are at it, the hosts of the September 25th gala might add to their dinner grace, the gratitude of the prosecuted religious minorities, tortured political prisoners, executed children, stoned women, hanged homosexuals and many other victims of the mullahs’ regime!
Kayvan Kaboli is a member of “Progressive American-Iranian Committee” (PAIC). He has been a political activist for 30 years with particular interest in environmental and peace issues.