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Hojjatieh (in Persian: انجمن حجتیه ) — also called Hojjatieh Society — is a traditionalist Shi'a lay religious organization founded in Iran that stresses adherence to orthodoxy and opposition to perceived heresy through non-violent evangelism. It was founded in response to emerging heterodox and messianic movements such as the Bahá'í Faith, Ruhollah Khomeini's political messianism and his theories regarding theocratic leadership, and various strands of Sunni extremism such as Salafism and Wahhabi movement.
As the leaders of Ḥojjatiya were committed to a non-violent, persuasive strategy in dealing with Bahais, the Association did not take part in persecution of Bahais in post-revolutionary Iran. For all Ḥalabi’s animus against Bahais, he was a disciplined pacifist. He was distraught by violence and repeatedly warned his followers: “This is not the way, this is not our way” (interview with Nāder Fāżeli, 2003).
However members of the organization were taught to use subterfuge to infiltrate among Bahá'ís, steal hard to make copies of books, verbally harass Bahá'ís, slander Bahá'í religious figures, and spread rumors which denied Bahá'ís employment.
"(The leaders of Hojjatieh), more than the desecration of the Baha'i cemetery in 1979, or the damage against Baha'i communal and private property, represent the deliberateness of the campaign against the Baha'is, a campaign that continued after them."
The organization was founded in 1953 in Tehran by a member of the Shia clergy, Shaikh Mahmoud Halabi, with permission of Ayatollah Seyyed Hossein Borujerdi. The founding premise of the organization was that the most immediate threat to Islam was the Bahá'í Faith, which they viewed as a heresy that must be eliminated. The group also opposes both Sunniism and Ruhollah Khomeini's heterodox concept of Velayat-e Faqih, which mainline Shi'a clergy viewed as heretical. An earlier organization was founded by Halabi, the Anjoman-e Imám-e Zaman (called Anjoman-e Zedd-e Bahá'í privately) which later was renamed to the Anjoman-e Hojjatieh Mahdavieh (called Hojjatieh for short) after the Iranian Revolution. Halabi and his followers supported Mohammad Mosaddegh. Following the toppling of Mosaddegh, the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, allowed their activities.
In March to June 1955, the Ramadan period that year, a widespread systematic program was undertaken cooperatively by the government and the clergy. During the period they destroyed the national Bahá'í Center in Tehran, confiscated properties and made it illegal for a time to be Bahá'í (punishable by 2 to 10 year prison term). Founder of SAVAK, Teymur Bakhtiar, took a pick-axe to a Bahá'í building himself at the time.
Halabi is said to have worked with SAVAK security agency under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, offering his full cooperation in fighting "other heathen forces, including the Communists." By doing so he was given freedom to recruit members and raise funds, and by 1977 Hojjatieh is said to have had 12,000 members. However, since the Shah's regime, in Halabi's view, allowed the Baha'is too much freedom, he then supported Khomeini's movement to overthrow the Shah.
The group flourished during the 1979 Iranian Revolution that ousted the Shah and installed an Islamic government in his place. However, after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's speech in July 1983, Halabi announced that the organization was disestablished, and Halabi went to Mashhad on the same day. Nevertheless, there have been mentions of it again circa 2002-2004.
Origin of the name
The Hojjatieh society has been described as "an underground messianic sect ... which hopes to quicken the coming of the apocalypse" in order to hasten the return of the Mahdi, the prophesied future redeemer of Islam. However, according to legal scholar Noah Feldman, the idea that supporters "want to bring back the imam by violence, rather than ... wait piously and prepare for the imam's eventual return on his own schedule," is a misinterpretation of the society's position common "outside Iran". In fact, the "Hojjatiya Society was banned and persecuted by Khomeini's government in part for its quiescent view that the mahdi's arrival could not be hastened."  Those who adhere to this perspective claim Hojjatieh is a millenarian group who put great stock on the return of the Mahdi and the idea of such a return bringing happiness to true believers.
Though initially claimed to be using "peaceful methods" allowing harassment but not direct insult or violence, a circle of spies infiltrated Bahá'í communities seeking out Iranians who were interested in the religion and "reconvert" them back to Islam as well as confronting muballighs or Bahá'í missionaries. According to one first hand testimony, suspicions were spread and reputations compromised leading Bahá'ís to treat inquirers badly who would then be recruited to the anti-Bahá'í movement. Students of the organization engaged in practice debates on various topics and were taught disreputable Political accusations against the Baha'i Faith.
Rumored members and sympathizers
Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi is reported to be the highest-ranking member of the Hojjatieh. He denies this and said that if anyone finds a connection between him and Hojjatieh, he will denounce everything he stands for. It is noteworthy that while Hojjatieh generally renounces all Islamic (and other) governments before the arrival of the twelfth Imam as illegitimate or at least unnecessary, Mesbah Yazdi recommends and gives full authority to the pre-messianic Islamic government. Since the 1980s, Hojjatieh has been frequently cited in unfounded conspiracy theories which claim that real power lies in hands of people who are secretly affiliated with Hojjatieh.
The president of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from 2005–2013 is also rumored to be an advocate of Hojjatieh through the influence of Ayatollah Yazdi, who was his mentor. Asia Times reports that Ahmad Tavassoli, a former chief of staff of Khomeini, claimed in 2005 that "the executive branch of the Iranian government as well as the crack troops of the Revolutionary Guards have been hijacked by the Hojjatieh, which, he implied, now also controls Ahmadinejad." According to the report, Hojjatieh were endangering Iran by working for Shia supremacy, Feldman writing in 2006 in the New York Times suggests this rumor was spread by Ahmadinejad's enemies. It is also reported that Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, who was to have been Ahmedinejad's First Vice President, may be a Hojjatieh member, but the source of this information is unclear.
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- Sahimi, Mohammad (29 September 2010). "Hojjatiyeh, Mesbahiyeh, and Ahmadinejad". PBS. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
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- Taheri The Spirit of Allah, (1985), p. 189-90
- Barry A. Rubin (2010). Guide to Islamist Movements. M.E. Sharpe. p. 257. ISBN 978-0-7656-4138-0. Retrieved 18 February 2013.
- Letter From Tehran: Iran's New Hard-Liners, Who Is in Control of the Islamic Republic? Jerry Guo, 30 September 2009, Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 7 October 2009
- Islam, Terror and the Second Nuclear Age By Noah Feldman New York Times 29 October 2006
- "آیتالله مصباح: احمدینژاد اشتباه كرده است". Sharif News.
- fa:انجمن حجتیه#.D9.BE.D8.B3 .D8.A7.D8.B2 .D8.A7.D9.86.D9.82.D9.84.D8.A7.D8.A8 در سالهای پس از پایان فعالیتهای حجتیه، در مورد منشأ، ماهیت و اهداف انجمن بحثهایی مطرح میشود که بسیاری از اوقات بیدقت و جانبدارانه هستند...
- "ḤOJJATIYA". Encyclopedia Iranica. Retrieved 18 February 2013.
[Hojjatieh's] detractors from the left and the right have played a pivotal role in perpetuating views that vastly exaggerate and distort the organization’s influence and agenda through spreading myths and conspiracy theories about Ḥojjatiya.
- "Iran president paves the way for arabs' imam return". Persian Journal (Iranian.ws). 17 November 2005. Archived from the original on 22 February 2009. Retrieved 2 October 2013.
- Shi'ite supremacists emerge from Iran's shadows Asia Times 9 September 2005
- "Iranian president fires two top officials; 2 more protesters reportedly killed". Los Angeles Times. 26 July 2009. Retrieved 26 July 2009.
- Ali Alfoneh and Reuel Marc Gerecht (23 January 2014). "Mohammad-Javad Zarif: Iran's Foreign Minister Is a Religious Zealot". The New Republic. Retrieved 28 January 2014.
- Article on Hojjatiya from the Encyclopædia Iranica
- Ronen A. Cohen (13 February 2013). The Hojjatiyeh Society in Iran: Ideology and Practice from the 1950s to the Present. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-137-30478-0.