Mehdi Khalaji in 2009
September 21, 1973
|Occupation||Writer, Islamic scholar, translator|
Mehdi Khalaji (Persian: مهدی خلجی, (born 21 September 1973) is an Iranian-American writer, scholar of Islamic studies and political analyst. He has been researching at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy since 2005, and is now a senior research fellow focusing on the politics of Iran and Shiite groups in the Middle East. He has frequently contributed to major media outlets such as The Guardian, BBC, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. He became an American citizen in 2011 and is a registered Democrat.
Education and Career
A native from Qom, the center for Shi'a scholarship in Iran, Khalaji studied Islamic theology in Qom seminary, and Philosophy in Tarbiat Modarres University, which is one of the country's leading Teacher Training Institutes.
From 1986 to 2000, Khalaji trained in the seminaries of Qom, the traditional center of Iran's clerical establishment. There he studied theology and jurisprudence, earning a doctorate and thoroughly researched on modern intellectual and philosophical-political developments in Iran and the wider Islamic and Western worlds. In Qom, and later in Tehran, Khalaji launched a career in journalism, first serving on the editorial board of a theological journal, Naqd va Nazar, and then the daily Entekhab. In addition to his own writing, he has translated the works of the Islamic humanist scholar Muhammad Arkoun and other modernist Muslim intellectuals.
In 1993, Khalaji became a contributor to Kiyan monthly magazine, which at the time was the main voice of religious intellectuals in Iran.
In 2000, Khalaji moved to Paris where he studied Shiite theology and exegesis in the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes. He also worked for BBC Persian as a political analyst on Iranian affairs, eventually becoming a broadcaster for the Prague-based Radio Farda, the Persian-language service of the U.S. government's Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. At Radio Farda, he produced news, features, and analysis on a range of Middle Eastern, Iranian, and Islamic issues.
In 2005, Mehdi Khalaji became a senior fellow at The Washington Institute, focusing on the politics of Iran and Shiite groups in the Middle East. A Shiite theologian by training, Khalaji has also served on the editorial boards of two prominent Iranian periodicals and produced for the BBC as well as the U.S. government's Persian news service. He is a frequent contributor in PolicyWatch and PeaceWatch segments submitted by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He has participated in many panels including one in November 2006 when he appeared on a panel run by American Foreign Policy Council, titled "Understanding the Iranian Threat", along with James Woolsey, Ilan Berman, and Patrick Clawson. The video of his presentation is available: Part one, Part two. He is a writer and contributor for numerous English-language and Persian-language media entities.
Khalaji vs. Derakhshan defamation lawsuit
In November 2007, Khalaji, being a fellow at a think-tank called the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), filed a $2 million libel and defamation lawsuit  against Hossein Derakhshan. The subject of conflict was a number of statements made on Derakhshan’s Persian blog page under the name Hoder. He criticizes Khalaji for his alleged "service to the enemies of his people and humanity". He also called Khalaji a traitor and labeled him as Dick Cheney’s puppet. The hosting site of Derakhshan’s blog, Hosting Matters, forced him to remove all posts that referred to Khalaji. Derakhshan began a new blog page after his Hosting Matters account was terminated and attempted to clarify his previous alleged remarks, attesting they were mistranslated. He then made an attempt to justify his previous statements (referring to Khalaji’s relation to Dick Cheney, which is non-existent, and other posts that listed Khalaji as an enemy of Iran) by linking Khalaji’s work with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy as work in direct opposition to the current Iranian regime and President Ahmadinejad, therefore making him an enemy of Iran.
At the demand of Hosting Matters, Derakhshan was ordered to remove all posts referring to Khalaji. Hosting Matters told him directly that, "we do not have the time, interest, or resources to invest in continually dealing with his complaints and to review" Derakhshan's site.
Arrest of father
In January 2010, Mehdi Khalaji’s father, Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Khalaji, was arrested in Iran. He was arrested "with no apparent reason", but is thought to have been arrested in order to intimidate Mehdi. Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Khalaji is a supporter of the Islamic regime in Iran, however it seems that this was irrelevant and did not stop his arrest.
- Apocalyptic Politics: On the Rationality of Iranian Politics
- Through the Veil: The Role of Broadcasting in U.S. Public Diplomacy toward Iranians
- The Last Marja: Sistani and the End of Traditional Religious Authority in Shiism
- Natani (novel in Persian, published in Berlin by Nashr-e Gardoon)
- The New Order of the Clerical Establishment in Iran: Nazm-e Novin-e Rohaniat Dar Iran (Persian Edition)(Amazon link)
- The Ayatollah Will Overwhelm Ahmadinejad
- Influence Curtailed: Democracy in the Arab World Stands to Strip Iran of Its Power
- Iran's Supreme Power Struggle
- A Marriage of Convenience
- The Iran Primer: Power, Politics, and U.S. Policy
- The Iranian Clergy's Silence
- The Islamic Propagation Office of the Islamic Seminary of Qom
- Experts. Mehdi Khalaji, Senior Fellow
- (in Persian)
- (August 2007)
- Global Voices Online » Hossein Derakhshan’s blog is suspended
- A neo-con censorship: A Threat to All of Us (August 2007). Monthly Review
- Hoder Shutdown, Shakedown (August 2007). Pars Arts
- Shutting Down Hoder (August 2007). Iranian
- Blogfather: Times are hard for Iran's online free-speech pioneer (November 2007). Ottawa Citizen
- BOMS & ARYA: Iranian hostage-takers attack, January 28, 2010
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