The translated text of Dr. Massoudinia’s speech made at the Symposium of the Link between Cults and Terrorism held in Isfahan.
4. Structural and formal similarities between Mojahedin-e-Khalq and Cults
It has to be pointed out that there are no significant differences between traditional cult methods (like that of Hassan Sabbah) and the modern cults getting advantage of psychological modes. In all, the main identical factors are the self-appointed leader, total devotion and exploitation of members. After ideological revolution in MKO, leadership was considered as the zenith of the organization that, emphasized in inter-organizational meetings, had to be obeyed blindly and whose superiority could never be questioned. Such a leader is only accountable to God. In other words, he is regarded as the vicegerent of God. Mahdi Abrishamchi describes the position of leader as follows:
Leader is not accountable to low-ranking members. His responsibilities are determined by ideological and political necessities of the organization. (36)
Therefore, the leader is on top. Such a position makes the leader unchallengeable and holy to the point that the entrance of others to this position may be considered as a serious sin. Abrishamchi says:
Normally, all members are accountable to high-ranking officials. Now, to whom is Mas’ud accountable? Only to revolution. He is just accountable to God. Everybody has a responsibility in the organization except for the leader. Maryam and Mas’ud are not accountable to anybody. (37)
Such a view places the leader in the status of God. Abrishamchi believes that the whole universe depends on God; likewise, MKO depends on its ideology, i.e. leadership. He believes that:
The issue of ideology, is the issue of a revolutionary organization, the issue of being or not to be. If philosophy considers God as the creator of whole being, in a revolutionary organization, ideology works as such. The existence of organization depends on its ideology. (38)
Logical reasoning of Abrishamchi is like that of Hassan Sabbah. He proves his mission for leadership as follows:
The Arabic phrase ‘لا اله الا الله’ means that there is no God but Allah. First it says ‘there is no god’ and denies the existence of any god and in the second part it says ‘but Allah’. There is no logical relationship between these parts and it does not say why there is no god but Allah. So accepting the fact that there is no god but Allah is a obligatory. (39)
Mahdi Abrishamchi like his historical counterpart, Hassan Sabbah, regards leadership as an ideological matter of inevitable legitimacy. He says:
There should be an ideological interpreter in the organization to determine its ideological boundaries. In Mojahedin-e-Khalq, Mas’ud Rajavi does so. As such, leader is not accountable downward; otherwise his position would be interrupted. (40)
Such comments, compared with that of Batinis leaders who accused their supporters of failing to develop an esoteric understanding of divine verses and of the leadership, seems to be identical. Furthermore, irrational belief of some members in absolute leadership is like that of self-appointed Batinis leaders. A comparison between this claim of Hassan II, the third imam of Batinis, regarding his legitimate leadership with those of MKO helps develop a better understanding:
When you see the sunlight it is as if you see the sun itself. It is not possible to see sun without its light. As such, I am the divine light. When you see me it is as if you see God. Whoever wants to be blissful in this world and the hereafter should love me. (41)
Now, if not explicitly, such claims are implicitly made by the self-appointed leader of MKO. A high-ranking member when praising Rajavi says:
Thanks God I came to know you, otherwise, according to the holy prophet of Islam, if did not know my imam of the time, I would have died in ignorance. Today, I see myself embraced by God and I found Him at the end of the route wherein I saw you at the beginning. I feel his absolute presence as I feel yours. (42)
These cases show clearly the amazing similarities between doctrines of MKO and that of exoteric sect of Hassan Sabbah.
Such a background is formed by a mental shock imposed on the beliefs of members. Such a strategy reminds us of debriefing strategies in the medieval ages. Only the goals are different. It is similar to the strategies of exoteric sect (Hassan Sabbah). Despite what can be imagined regarding the brainwashing strategies for making people ready for any kind of sacrifice, physical sacrifice is a minor part of the demands of the leader of cults who exploit members. What determines the extent of members’ obedience is not only their self-sacrifice but also their blind obedience. It is a fact that physical self-sacrifice in cults is a preface to next steps. The significance of such organizational disciplines can be seen in exoteric sects. They force members to be devoted completely to all principles and values of cult and this happens before physical sacrifice. In principles of cults we read:
We don’t need exited members but members of stable belief. We want to be sure whenever a command is issued nothing may prevent it. (43)
The danger of boldness for cult leaders is the possibility that it leads to disobedience. Such a self-devotion is justified in exoteric sects as follows:
Only calm members are reliable and those who are so exited calm down quickly. (44)
It has to be taken into consideration that scientific studies focus on those components in cultist psychological strategies which have been mentioned as the key of success by cultists. Singer refers to falsification of conscience as the most important consequence of cultist strategies while studying empirical and psychological strategies for recruiting members in cults and says:
Nowadays, cults’ plans is based on forming personal imbalance through falsification of conscience, awareness, beliefs, worldview, emotions, etc. their main technique is attacking mental balance of members and also attacking a person capacity for self-evaluation. Such attacks are carried out under different conditions and rarely involve any force or physical imposing. Such a strong psychological process results in personal imbalance and dependence to others. (45)
Such components are the basis of mental background of mechanisms in terrorist groups. Comparing such components with theoretical analyses would show the points of similarity between these trends. It seems that so-called ideological revolution in MKO has been a starting point for using such strategies and developing blind obedience in members toward revolutionary principles.
Bijan Niyabati, a Marxist supporter of MKO, describes ideological revolution of the group based on cultist leadership of Rajavi, absolute mental, ideological and even sexual self-sacrifice of members. He refers to above-mentioned components as attacking conscience and basic receptions and thus shocking members. He refers to member’s conscience as old understanding and regards cultist components as new understanding. Comparing such comments with findings of Singer shows the amazing structural similarities between cults and MKO. Niyabati says:
A successive interpolation of new elements of value into the old system of values is possible only through upsetting the equilibrium of old value system that occurs only by the means of a sudden shock. (46)
He considers destabilizing of values as the starting point to reform the dominant values in the society. In other words, disruption of personal beliefs is followed by its disruption in the society. The success of personal effectiveness depends on the generalization of such strategies to the society.
However, he asserts that forming such a shift in society demands political power while mental shocking is sufficient for individual imbalance. He says:
However, although to disrupt the predominant value equilibrium in an individual in order to be substituted by new value equilibrium proves not to be unmanageable, it is a long, hard task to be accomplished either through assuming an authoritative political power (as well as controlling economy and the media) or a stricken shock. To disrupt the subsisting equilibrium and to prepare an individual to be reconciled with the new milieu, it is evident that only a shock and nothing else can possibly be productive. (47)
He regards such intra-organizational shifts as an index of an ideal cultist society resulting in political revolution. He also refers to all symbols and institutions of such a society and says:
Such a micro society needs all indices and political structure of a real society, i.e. government, president, parliament, army, police force, prison, legal courts, broadcast, diplomacy system, financial systems, etc. Such a micro society should be a pioneer in the transfer of human beings to humanistic values far from the existing animal-like values.(48)
He is aware of the mental consequences of this shock. He believes that such an attack may result in the person being wise or mad. In this strategy, classification of values into absolute good and absolute bad prevents person from a realistic analysis. Mahdi Abrishamchi, a member of MKO, justifies ideological revolution and the marriage of Rajavi with Maryam Azodanloo after her divorce, using an absolute reasoning. In such a situation any evaluation depends on absolute acceptance or absolute rejection. Such logic makes this act as a holy one beyond our understanding. Mahdi Abrishamchi says:
Our mind is aware of the logic of sacrifice. It is an amazing story. Everybody who hears it (their marriage) cannot remain indifferent or express a moderate idea. You have to regard it either as deceitful or eclectic or a purely ideological one. There is no middle point. You have to either confirm or reject it. (49)
The leader himself emphasizes such an analysis of subjects. He is not afraid that others regard this action as a dishonored one. Rajavi says:
This is a rebirth. You can accuse me of being whimsical, dishonorable and even a person who stole the wife of his friend. But if I were acquitted, you have to follow me to the end. (50)
Niyabati asserts the mental consequences of such a shock. He refers to the fact that if such a personal imbalance is not replaced with another system, it would not lead to expected results. He says:
Madness or wisdom is the inevitable consequence of such a value imbalance. The difference between a mad person with a wise one is that the former has not replaced his value system with an alternative but the latter has. In both cases, the main factor of such personal imbalance is a mental shock. (51)
He also refers to a third situation between madness and wisdom; A situation which results in the sense of absurdity and passivity in members. In this regard we read:
In summary, without that imbalance there is neither wisdom nor madness. It is evident that absurdity and absolute determinism are added to the consequences of such an imbalance. (52)
According to Singer, the main factor in the success of members’ brainwashing is the disruption of their value system to the point that makes them fully submissive toward predetermined behaviors and activities. Singer describes such a disaster as follows:
These latter-day efforts have built upon the age-old influence techniques to perfect amazingly successful programs of persuasion and change. What’s new-and crucial–is that these programs change attitudes by attacking essential aspects of a person’s sense of self, unlike the earlier brainwashing programs. (53)
Niyabati refers to the third index of cults as the determining factor in political exploitation and says:
Power equations should be changed objectively rather than subjectively and this is not possible without a basic change in value systems. (54)
Instrumental use of latest achievements of empirical sciences, and psychology in particular, shows only slight differences between brainwashing strategies of MKO and those of cults. Niyabati says:
In a conference on the study of the latest scientific findings concerning functions of different parts of human brain, it was argued that activating different parts of the brain may affect social behavior and characteristics of people. For instance, while the left hemisphere is the center of mathematics, logic, politics, etc the right hemisphere is the centre of culture, arts, poetry and emotion. Activating these hemispheres may determine the future role of children in the society. (55)
Despite all scientific and political reasoning of Niyabati for focusing on the achievements of ideological revolution, he finally refers to history. Such inevitable similarities relate cultist mechanisms to Sufis’ styles. He quotes Shams-Al-Din Ameli to justify the leadership of Rajavi:
"During spiritual path, there should be no question. The wayfarer has to be a devotee to Sheikh and accompany him submissively, never complaining of anything" and quotes Moulavi (Sufi poet) as follows:
A wayfarer has no responsibility and should be submissive like a piece of wood in the hands of carpenter. (56)
Such reasoning for proving ideological revolution and absolute leadership of Rajavi is that of a person who doesn’t believe in religion and metaphysics. Such a method is using religion for theorizing cultist principles.
36. Lectures of Mahdi Abrishamchi on the Ideological Revolution in MKO. (1985). Taleghani Publication.
39. Amir, Paul. (TR). . (2006). the Lord of Almout. Javid Publication.
40. Mojahed journal. No.255.p. 23.
41. Amir, Paul. (TR). . (2006). The Lord of Almout. Javid Publication.
42. Mojahed journal. No. 241. p.20.
43. Amir, Paul. (Tr). .(2006). The Lord of Almout. Javid Publication.
45. Niyabati, Bijan. A different look at Mojahedin’s Ideological Revolution, 2004.
46. ibid .
47. ibid .
48. ibid .
49. Lectures of Mahdi Abrishamchi on the Ideological Revolution in MKO. (1985). Taleghani Publication.
50. Mojahed Journal. (1985). Marriage of Maryam and Mas’ud.
51..Niyabati, Bijan, A different look at Mojahedin’s Ideological Revolution, 2004.
53. Singer, Margaret Thaler. Cults in our midst, 60.
54. Niyabati, Bijan. A different look at Mojahedin’s Ideological Revolution, 2004.
Nejat Association May 2007
Translated by mojahedin.ws,August, 2007