Derived from Turkish and Persian, the word "mullah" means an educated Muslim, trained in Islamic laws and doctrine, usually serving as head of a mosque or holding an official post. The mullah’s role evolved as that of shepherd for Muslim flocks in need of guidance on how to live a Koran-compliant life.
While life for flock members is typically harsh and demanding, life for mullahs — of the extremist variety — has definite rewards. Teaching flock members to embrace violence against non-Muslims, extremist mullahs of the modern era have violated a centuries old Islamic taboo by encouraging the faithful to pursue a career where success fails to enhance the advancement opportunity — suicide bombing.
But these extremists, while extolling the virtues of suicide bombers, take a free pass for themselves. They unhesitatingly “talk the talk” to flock members while feeling no responsibility to “walk the walk.” To them, practicing what they preach is no virtue. Accordingly, there is no recorded case of a mullah participating in a suicide bombing. Evidently, their free pass includes family members too, for missing from the record as well is any case of an extremist mullah’s child opting to ply such a trade. And, while praising this practice against non-believers, these mullahs feel no need to explain to their flock why the lives of many more believers than non-believers are ultimately claimed by suicide bombings.
But life as an extremist mullah also provides significant financial security. Flock members normally tithe about 10% of their earnings to their religious leaders. For some mullahs, however, this is just not enough. Nowhere is this more apparent than Iran. Information coming to light reveals these holy men have been acquiring more money than Allah.
Last August, employees of an Iranian bank, apparently disturbed by the wealth many of their religious leaders have acquired and transferred to international banks, went public with information about their accounts. Iran’s mullahs, while stripping the people of their human rights and dignity in the name of Allah, use their positions of power to strip the country of its wealth. Coupled with details released recently by Iranian filmmaker and opposition spokesman Mohsen Makhmalbaf about the lavish lifestyle of the country’s Supreme Leader, we see piety is a characteristic in short supply among its "rich and famous" clerics.
Billions of dollars in cash have been deposited into personal international accounts of Iran’s leading religious leaders. And that does not include billions more held in resources such as real estate, oil, state trading companies, etc. Apparently the title "Ayatollah" gives one a license to steal. Supreme Leader Ayatolloah Ali Khamenei has several foreign accounts — with $100 million alone in a Geneva bank — representing just the tip of the iceberg. Meanwhile, he lives lavishly in several of the Shah’s former palaces. An avid horseman, Khamenei also owns a multi-million dollar horse farm, with his prize horses flown to various locations whenever desired. His estimated personal wealth is over $30 billion, with an estimated additional $6 billion held by his family.
Former Iranian president and current opposition supporter Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani must have mastered the power of prayer. A man of modest means early in Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, he is now a billionaire. Ayatollah Abolghassem Khazali, a former member of the powerful Guardians Council, enjoyed a similar rags-to-riches transition, now boasting assets of close to $300 million from his control of maritime trade. Another cleric blessed by Allah, at least before his death in 2007, was Ayatollah Ali Meshkini who accumulated a fortune of $330 million, having parlayed his position as Speaker of the Assembly of Experts — the clerical body responsible for designating the country’s Supreme Leader — into great wealth.
For the people of Iran, the Islamic Revolution has brought a significant decrease in per capita income; for Iran’s clerics, however, it has brought an astronomical increase.
Undoubtedly, Iran’s clerics clamor for access to the Supreme Leader’s inner circle of ayatollahs where the only question asked is, "Who wants to be a millionaire?" In light of these revelations of horrendous clerical greed, perhaps the title “mullah” in Iran should appropriately be changed to "moolah!"
Sign up to the Human Events newsletter