TEHRAN (AFP)- Scores of people were injured and more than 100 arrested when security forces stormed a Sufi lodge in western Iran after clashes between the Muslim mystics and Shiite worshippers, the Jomhuri Eslami newspaper reported on Monday.
According to the report, the unrest broke out on Saturday in the city of Borujerd in Lorestan province following “the desecration of the al-Nabi mosque by Sufis of the deviant Gonabadi order”.
“In the intensive clashes, about 80 people from the two sides were injured and 25 motorcycles belonging to the Sufis were burnt,” it said.
The hardline daily said that Basij militiamen had later joined residents in destroying the Sufi lodge.
The major of Borujerd, Mohammad Ali Tohidi, told the Fars news agency: “All the wrongdoers have been arrested. Around 180 people have been handed to the judiciary,” he said.
The news agency reported that the Sufis had thrown stones at the al-Nabi mosque, breaking windows while prayers were being held inside, drawing an angry reaction from worshippers.
It gave little explanation for the Sufis’ action, saying only that they were “dissatisfied with cultural actions in the mosque”.
“Five people taken hostage by these people (the Sufis) have been freed by the security forces and hospitalised due to deep injuries,” the news agency quoted the mosque’s Friday prayers leader, Abdolrahim Biranvand, as saying.
Sufi worship is not illegal in Iran but the practice is frowned upon by many conservative clerics who regard it as an affront to Islam.
The Islamic mysticism followed by an array of Sufi orders since the early centuries of the faith has always aroused suspicion among orthodox Muslims, whether Shiite or Sunni.
In Shiite Islam, some Sufi orders have been further tarnished by the accusation of heresy because of their association with the unorthodox Alevi faith practised in parts of Syria and Turkey.
In late May, the Iranian press reported the arrest of the leader and several members of one of the largest Sufi sects in the northeast of the country.
Clashes pitting Sufis against the security forces and hardline supporters of the official brand of Shiite Islam in the clerical capital of Qom in February last year saw several dozen Sufi mystics sentenced to the lash and a year in jail for public disorder.