The Mujahedin-e Khalq is by every definition of the term a religious cult. The same as other religious cults, the MEK is committed to perform religious rituals. Rituals would include (but not necessarily be limited to) prayer, fasting, sacrifice, vowed offerings, processions and construction of monuments. Some degree of recurrence in place and repetition over time of ritual action is necessary for a cult to be enacted, to be practiced.
The MEK has all the criteria that other religious cults have. They have a unique group language, they require intense work schedules of members, their leaders will often deliver endless sermons, and they will restrict access to media. Members are directed not to ask questions, and professional help or healthcare and outside information are restricted.
Similar to other religious cults, for the MEK, religion acts as a kind of social “glue”. In times of rapid social change, existing rules, habits and beliefs no longer hold. This produces an environment ripe for exploitation – usually by a charismatic man –who is Massoud Rajavi– with all the answers to members’ problems.
This is the tragedy of cults and in particular the MEK that they exploit freedom of belief, freedom of association and freedom of religion – with often abusive and damaging outcomes. Musa Jaberi, former member of the MEK writes about the religious obligations he endured in the MEK, on his Facebook account. “The leaders of the Cult of Rajavi force you to say prayer”, he writes.
Jaberi explains how the group commanders coerced him to perform religious rituals. “I told them saying prayer is an individual issue, but they paid no attention to my words,” he recalls.
The brainwashing sessions were started to convince Jaberi to perform the rituals. “I was forced to attend brainwashing sessions twice a week,” he said. “Not only one commander, but several commanders were supposed to manipulate me, each of them from an aspect.”
Finally, Jaberi began saying prayer but only when commanders could watch him. However, criticism started again. They would say, “We see your changes, and this is good progress but why don’t you say your prayer with your peers?” (Congregational Prayer)
Again, he resisted but he failed. He joined the congregational prayer every night because he did not want to undergo those hectic manipulation sessions once more. “Rajavi’s cult of personality does not care about your personal Individual desires.” Jaberi writes. “They impose their religion which is not a religion. It is a dictatorship.”