Who are the Shirazis opposing Iran’s Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist?

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The recent incident involving the storming of the Iranian embassy in London by the Shiite “Shirazi” followers, highlighted the identity of this group and the details of their differences with Vilayat-e-Faqih (The Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist), as well as their extremist approach towards those who ideologically differ from them.

The incident came after Iranian authorities arrested last Wednesday Hussein Shirazi, son of famous Shiite cleric in Qom Sadiq Shirazi, because a prior sermon in which he described the Supreme Leader of the Iranian regime Ali Khamenei as a “Pharaoh.”

Sources confirmed that regime forces violently arrested him and threw his turban on the ground during the arrest. He has been transferred to an unknown place.

The Supreme Court of Qom’s clergy issued a ruling against his summons after an explicit critique of the Iranian regime’s practices and the principle of the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist rule. In a sermon posted on YouTube, Shirazi likened Jurist rule as similar to the rule of the Pharaoh.

Both Shirazi senior and junior are descendants of well-known cleric Ayatollah Muhammad Hassan al-Shirazi, who at the end of the 19th century banned people from using tobacco as he opposed British colonialism.

Rejecting the Islamic Jurist Guardianship

The Shirazi family, which has followers in Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and a number of other countries with Shiite populations, rejected the Islamic Jurist mandate and have strongly criticized the rule of the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

But over the years, they offered extremist ideas that fed into regional sectarianism in ways no different from those belonging to the Iranian regime in terms of intellectual principles, according to their critics.

The influence of the Shirazi family expanded after the Iranian revolution in 1979, when they supported their patriarch Muhammed al-Shirazi supported Khomeini, before falling out with the regime years later.

Dispute with Khamenei

Soon after, those differences began to further deteriorate when Iran’s Revolutionary Guards began to limit their influence after Mohammed Shirazi supported the idea of a Shura Council of Jurists rather than one of absolute mandate. He also rejected the current mandate of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Mohammad Shirazi also opposed Khamenei’s fatwa against the prohibition of the Tatbir (act of hitting one’s head with a sword during Ashoura ceremonies). He was then placed was under house arrest until his death in 2001.

Sadiq al-Shirazi is currently the eldest cleric of the family, the third son of Mahdi bin Habibullah Shirazi. He opposed the referentiality after the death of his older brother Mohammed Shirazi in 2001, it was expected that after him his nephew Mohammed Reza Shirazi would defy the Islamist Jurist mandate as well, but he was killed earlier in his house in Qom in Iran on June 1, 2008.

Establishing organizations and militias

The Shirazis worked to expand the influence of the Iranian project in the Arab region by penetrating Shiite communities in the region and establishing sectarian political organizations and militias in some of the Gulf countries under the pretext of religious work and expanding the number of the Hussainiat (maatams or places of worship), where they attracted many supporters.

They actively contributed in establishing the “Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain”, and “Organization for the Islamic Revolution in the Arabian Peninsula”, which are considered the Shirazi’s most important movements.

After the blow the Shirazis received in Iran, they changed their speech in the Gulf and began to adopt a more moderate discourse with the Arab governments. Hassan al-Saffar returned to Saudi Arabia and adopted a dialogue with the Salafis and the state. He moved from Marija al-Shirazi to Ayatollah Sistani’s reference in Iraq. Many of Shirazis entered Bahrain’s parliament and reconciled with the government.

Kuwaiti MP Saleh Ashour is considered the godfather of the Shirazis in Kuwait and the supervisor of “al-Anwar” channel, which is managed by the Shirazi Iranian millionaire, Ismail Jannati.

Extremist idealogy

The Shiites adopt many of the “Hijatiyya” ideas in Iran, which exaggerates the sanctification of the family of Prophet Mohammed to the extent of veneration and considers anyone opposes them as infidels.

The lectures of Mujtaba Shirazi and Yasser Habib were of those supporting the approach of Shiites in insulting the Sahaabah (companions, disciples, scribes and family of the Prophet Muhammad), many of which were promoted through their privately-owned channel which Iran shut down dozens of in 2014.

The Shirazis attack anyone who calls for rapprochement with Sunnis and attracts the Shiite extremist voices.

Four years ago, the Shirazis begun direct media conflicts with Hezbollah and Iran, which the supporters of Islamist Jurist mandate considered as a betrayal of the Iranian-led Shiites in the region.