By Salman Parviz

Scholar says nuclear activity back to pre-JCPOA level, predicts change in Majlis composition, slams ‘deal of century’

February 14, 2020 - 12:33

Hojatoleslam Mohammed Nasir Saghaye-Biria is deputy chief for research at Imam Khomeini Education and Research Institute in Qom. The 61-year-old cleric was also the head of Psychology Department at the institute.

He graduated with a BA from McGill University in Montreal and later in 2004 got his EdD (Doctor of Education) from the University of Houston.

In an exclusive interview with Tehran Times, Biria talked about his background and perspectives. "Prior to McGill I studied in Hozeh (seminary) in Qom at the highest level of Hozeh under the instructions of Ayatollah Hossein Mazaheri who is now in Isfahan."

"When I returned to Iran, I was a member of the Imam Khomeini Education and Research Institute and after few years I became head of the Psychology Department. Presently I am a deputy for research in the institute for some nine years."

He is one of the founding members of Front of Islamic Revolution Resistance (FIRR) (Jebheye Paidari Enqelab-e Islami) and the secretary of the front in Qom province.

Dr. Biria is a protégé of Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi and served as adviser to former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on clerical and religious affairs for nearly five years in his first term and one year of the second term after which he resigned due to differences with Ahmadinejad's policies.

For his time in Texas,  Biria worked at the Islamic Education Center in Houston for a period of ten years, from 1995-2005. "I was the Imam of the community, a brilliant experience for me. However, post 9/11 many things changed because of the pressure of Islamophobia and harassment by American officials at the time."

About the news of the seizure of the Islamic center in Houston by the U.S. federal government in 2017, Biria said: "They haven't seized the building. As far as I know they have established another center, but they are still using this building. That is because the community has a long history of using that place and the local government cannot easily take it away from them. Recent news is that the community won the appeal and the center now is declared as the community’s property."

Post 9/11 Islamophobia experience in U.S.

Commenting on his post 9/11 experience at the Islamic center in Houston, Biria said, "We were harassed by the propaganda of media and government after September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. However, many people from various churches and other communities came to talk to us about Islam and Christianity. I was personally invited to various churches. Our educational center visited other educational centers … Our school was located inside the community center, we didn't have enough facilities. When other educational centers visited us they realized the values we inculcated in our pupils."

Al Hadi School was established in 1995 as part of Islamic Education Center in Houston. During a competition on how to build a city Al Hadi School got first position for several years in a row. "We had one of the highest ranking in terms of education and training. Al Hadi is still continuing to provide services and has more than 400 students from KG -12 grade."

About acceptance of Islamic values by native Americans in a post 9/11 environment, Biria said, "We had some people who had accepted Islam, we had three or four Shia and numerous Sunni centers… We had books and correspondence …. Even some people in prison, mostly African Americans, studied Quran and became familiar with Islam and after they finished their term in the prison they visited the center. The officials of the prison appreciated that because Islam had educated these people with criminal backgrounds and their behavior improved while in prison."

Parliamentary elections

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani have called for a high turnout in the upcoming parliamentary election. 

Biria predicted that the turnout will be like the previous years. 

"It's going to be as usual. People will take part in the polls just like in the past. The election date falls close to 22nd Bahman (Feb. 11), the 41st anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution. Our people have shown their love for Islam and they have always participated in the ballot boxes. We are not worried about participation. I think that the ballot turnout may even improve this year, because one of things is the martyrdom of Gen. Soleimani which inspired a new spirit among the people, even though people are under the pressure of sanctions. We didn't anticipate that 25 million people would participate for Gen. Soleimani's funeral which shows how much people are behind the revolution."

JCPOA

Spokesman of Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, Hossein Naqavi Hosseini has criticized France, Britain and Germany for triggering the dispute mechanism under the Iran nuclear deal, officially called the JCPOA.

Hojatoleslam Biria said the possibility that Iran quit the NPT in the future is not “weak”.

"Of course, we have started our nuclear activities and returned to pre-nuclear deal level … The government has threatened to walk out of the NPT because of the undue pressures they have put on us. So the possibility to walk out of the nuclear deal in the future is not weak," he said when asked about the destiny of the agreement.

 Commenting on Rouhani's economic policy of boosting foreign trade and investment, Biriai stated without hesitation that "we need to pay more attention to the Leader's voice and follow the Resistance Economy, i.e. improving economy from inside, restore and activate stalled factories, so unemployment rate falls. This way outside decision will not have an impact on us."

He added, "We don't believe that foreigners have much benefit for us, they are after their own benefits. Foreigner’s involvement in economy is not a solution. The capacity we have inside the country is enough to boost the economy … we have many countries around us that we can have trade with and we don't need other people from outside to come help us. We do not need people from outside the country to invest, although we do not reject it but we should not depend on it. It is a side issue and not the main one. "

The cleric also predicted a change in the composition of Majlis as the parliamentary elections are approaching.

"The present parliament is not dominated by principlist faction … the Majlis is on the side of reformist camp and we see the parliament mostly matches the ideas of the government. For example some debates on issues like JCPOA… In my opinion Majlis is more reformist at present. I must add that Mr. Larijani is labeled as Osulgara (loyal to the principles of the revolution) but he is leaning towards reformists and that's why he has been the Speaker of the Majlis throughout the term. That is the reality of the current parliament."

On the Rouhani administration's efforts to remove sanctions and alleviate economic pressure, the religious scholar said, "The current government didn't do much to help people's problem, they couldn't remove sanctions, rather they made decisions that doubled and tripled the inflation … so people are under economic pressure. Despite the insistence of the Leader for paying attention to the inside rather than outside of the country, the present administration has been inactive in utilizing our economic and human capacity.

"People have come to realize that the Rouhani administration has lost validity with majority. Also parties close to the present government have lost people's confidence. That's why we predict that the future parliament will consist of revolutionary youth."

Deal of the century
     
Commenting on the Leader's remarks that the so-called "deal of the century" will not survive Trump's lifespan, Biria said, "The Leader has repeated this point several times. Deal of the century is a hollow deal, because the owners of Palestine are absent from it and according to news reports they are demonstrating against it.

"When the main side is absent how do they want to have such a deal? During this last decade the occupant regime of Israel is showing its weaker side … if there is another war they may perish and they know it very well. They are just showing off their strength while they are coming from their weakness. The reality of the scene is that the 'deal of the century' will die before Trump dies, so it implies that Trump is also in a process of dying.

"Trump, himself came out of the brim of impeachment … so he is dying also."

Israel as an occupying tyrant regime has exiled, imprisoned and killed many of the original occupants of Palestine for more than seventy years.

According to the Leader's recent speech, the land belongs to the original occupants, whether they were Muslims, Christians or Jews. 

Asked to comment on the issue, he said, "The conception of this regime is shaped with occupation. This is the nature of the beast. The mass killing of the people. In recent years Israel has become weak, was defeated in the last few wars including the 33-day 2006 conflict in Lebanon, 22-day in Gaza and the last one was a 2-day war in Gaza … We have a solution and it is a logical one and it matches the democratic values of liberals: Leader has said that all the people who were originally from this land, e.g. Muslims, Christians and Jews should come and establish the rules for the land. Several times Islamic Republic has suggested these European immigrants in Israel to go to their original lands in Europe and U.S.”

"It is better for the world to understand that Palestine has its own people who like to govern over their own land. Alhamdulillah (praise be to God) people of Palestine have gained the will and due to victories have been encouraged to stand up for their right."



 

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