Islamic Marxist

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The People’s Mojahedin has long been a target of name calling. SAVAK, the Shah’s secret police, mischaracterized the resistance organization as “Islamic Marxists” to undermine its support by the Iranian public, which is highly devout. The Shah feared the PMOI because of its potential to mobilize Iranians, particularly young people, against the monarchy.

After the 1979 Revolution, the mullahs – and later the Ministry of Intelligence and Security – continued the fraud in their propaganda, mislabeling the Mojahedin as godless Marxists. Its resort to name calling is on a much larger scale than SAVAK. The mullahs consider the PMOI to be an existential threat and are similarly alarmed by its popularity.

Another name-calling tag employed by the MOIS to vilify the Mojahedin is “cult.” Whenever the MOIS mentions the resistance organization, it nearly always adds the false attribute, hoping by repetition the deception will come to be viewed as the truth.

From its early history, the Mojahedin has been maligned and misbranded by its opponents. Many people know the organization only from the negative propaganda. To set the record straight, this website provides information on the false descriptions of the PMOI perpetrated by SAVAK and the MOIS to damage the organization’s reputation, and presents and overview of the PMOI’s political views and its modern interpretation of Islam.

Islamic Marxist

 The People's Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI) was named after mujahedin militias that fought to protect and restore Iran's constitutional government during the Constitutional Revolution in 1906 to 1911. The mujahedin of the past and present organized to support democracy and freedom for Iran.

The term “Islamic Marxist” was employed by SAVAK, the Shah’s secret police, to disparage political opponents of the monarchy.  As explained by the "Economist" in 1978, the phrase was “in much vogue with the Shah and his subordinates.1 The PMOI was one of many opposition groups falsely tagged with the label. Even clerical members were not immune.  Ayatollah Shariat Madhari was publicly branded as an “Islamic Marxist” after he turned against the Shah in 1978.2

Among the Shah’s political opponents were “leftist students, Western-educated liberals and other dissidents demanding more political freedoms.”3 News articles regularly grouped them together when mentioning political organizations in opposition to the Shah.  It was not uncommon for the  People’s Mujahedin to be listed in the same paragraph as the Tudah Party (Communist Party) and the Marxist People’s Fedayeen, giving the false impression their politics could be similar.

The People’s Mujahedin never referred to itself as Marxist and “intentionally shunned Marxist philosophy in order to protect its religious susceptibilities,” according to Ervand Abrahamian, an historian on Iran.4  Additionally, Abrahamian explained, “The [MEK] has in fact never once used the terms socialist, communist, Marxist or eshteraki [Communist] to describe itself.”5






Ervand Abrahamian, an 

historian on Iran, published a book on the Mojahedin. He said the resistance organization "shunned Marxist philosophy" and never described itself as Marxist.

“As [PMOI leader Massoud] Rajavi admitted years later,” Abrahamian wrote, “the organization avoided the socialist label because such a term conjured up in the public mind images of atheism, materialism, and Westernism.  For exactly the same reasons, the [Shah’s] regime was eager to pin on the [MEK] the label of Islamic-Marxist and Marxist-Muslims.”6

The People’s Mojahedin derives its political positions based on its interpretation of Islam.  The original members of the group spent six years studying Islam, philosophy, history and economics.  From this effort, they formulated a democratic and tolerant interpretation of Islam and a strategy to pave the way for a democratic government to replace the Shah’s dictatorial monarchy.

The PMOI believes Islam is an inherently tolerant and democratic religion and fully compatible with democracy, human rights, and the values of modern-day civilization.  As explained by Mr. Rajavi in 1982:

“The Islam we want is nationalist, democratic, progressive, and not opposed to science or civilization.  We believe that there is no contradiction between modern science and true Islam, and we believe that in Islam there must be no compulsion or dictatorship.”7

After the Shah was deposed, the PMOI worked to establish a democratic government.  Ayatollah Khomeini and other mullahs wanted a fundamentalist theocracy.  The two groups clashed.  Just weeks after the Shah left Iran, the mullahs began to attack the PMOI, directing their Hazbollah gangs, called "club-wielders," to strike PMOI offices, rallies, and supports.  The mullahs also replicated the name-calling propaganda tactic employed by the Shah, mislabeling the PMOI as Marxist.  Mr. Rajavi discussed the false description of the Mojahedin in a 1981 interview:

“Every high school student knows that believing in God, Jesus Christ, and Muhammad is incompatible with the philosophy of Marxism.  But for dictators like Khomeini, ‘Islamic Marxist’ is a very profitable phrase to use against any opposition.  If Jesus Christ and Muhammad were alive and protesting against Khomeini, he would call them Marxists, too.”8

Since the mullahs came to power more than 30 years ago, they have relentlessly attacked the PMOI, mislabeling the organization as Marxist.  As a result, many people have come to believe the falsehood.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  The mujahedin are freedom fighters, named after themujahedin constitutionalists who came to the aid of Iran's first democratic government during the Constitutional Revolution of 1906-11. The PMOI specifically rejected Marxism.  They offer a modern view of Islam and support democracy as the best way to solve Iran’s social and economic problems.


  1. “Time and Oil Run Against the Shah,” The Economist, March 4, 1978
  2. Ibid.
  3. “An AP News Special,” Associated Press, November 9, 1978.
  4. “The Iranian Mojahedin,” Ervand Abrahamian, Yale University Press, 1989.
  5. “The Iranian Mojahedin,” Ervand Abrahamian, Yale University Press, 1989.
  6. “The Iranian Mojahedin,” Ervand Abrahamian, Yale University Press, 1989.
  7. “Mujahidin’s Masud Rajavi: “We are the only real threat to Khomeini,” MERIP Reports, March-April 1982.
  8. “We Are On the Offensive,” Time magazine, September 13, 1981.




Modern Vision Of Islam

Undersecretary of State George Ball said in 1981 that the press had wrongly characterized the PMOI as Marxist and leftists. The PMOI's goal, he stated, was to "replace the current backward Islamic regime [Khomeini and the mullahs] with a modernized Shiite Islam drawing its egalitarian principles from Koranic sources rather than Marx."

U.S. Undersecretary of State George Ball chastised the press in 1981 for misdescribing the PMOI as Marxist. “The sloppy press habit of dismissing the Mujahedeen as ‘leftists’ badly confused the program,” he said. “Massoud Rajavi … is the leader of the movement. Its intention is to replace the current backward Islamic regime [Khomeini’s mullahs] with a modernized Shiite Islam drawing its egalitarian principals from Koranic sources rather than Marx.”1 (emphasis added)

Mr. Rajavi joined the PMOI in 1967 and sat on the original Central Committee. He and other early members of the organization spent years studying Islam, history, philosophy, and economics, seeking to develop a new pathway to restore democracy to Iran.

The three founders of the PMOI were previously members of the Liberation Movement, created by Medhi Bazargain in 1961, to promote “democratic principles enshrined in the fundamental laws of the 1905-09 Constitution” of Iran. After operating for just two years, the group was shut down by the Shah. Bazargain was arrested and sentenced to ten years in prison.

Repeating Bazargain’s footsteps, the PMOI realized, would lead to the same fate. Their intellectual inquiry led to a new vision of Islam, based on a modern interpretation of the Quran and the traditions and teachings of Prophet Muhammad, Shiite Imams, and leaders.

Mr. Rajavi and other original members of the PMOI were “skillful men of ideology,” according to Mehrzad Boroujerdi, an Iranian-American professor at Syracuse University.2 The PMOI’s interpretation of Islam proved to be politically very popular and succeeded, he said, in “exhorting a great many Iranian youth to rediscover Shi’ism and return to the Muslim fold, which they were deserting in large numbers.”3

Rejected Marxism

Syracuse University professor Mehrzad Boroujerdi said the PMOI "remained skeptical of Marxism's philosophy postulates and rejected the latter's cardinal doctrine of historical materialism. They held firm to their beliefs in the existence of God, revelation, afterlife, spirit, expectation, salvation, destiny, and the people's commitment to these intangible principals."

When the PMOI was established in 1965, Marxism enjoyed a large following in developing countries, especially on university campuses. Iran was no exception. The PMOI’s political platform was at odds with the two major Marxist political organizations, the Tudeh Party, the communist group supported by the Soviet Union, and the Fedayeen, a Marxist-Leninist group.

The PMOI argued the restoration of democracy and its modern vision of Islam, as opposed to Marxism, were the best way to remedy Iran’s social and economic ills. It said only Islam was “capable of mobilizing the masses for such a colossal struggle.”4

Mr. Rajavi presented the views of the PMOI in lectures he gave once a week at Sharif University. He contrasted the PMOI’s vision of Islam with Khomeni’s fundamentalist interpretation, at one extreme, and Marxism, at the other extreme. An article in "Le Monde" by Eric Rouleau described the occasion:

“One of the most important events not to be missed in Tehran is the courses on comparatiave philosophy, taught every Friday afternoon by Mr. Massoud Rajavi. Some 10,000 people present their admission cards to listen for three hours to the lectures by the leader of the People’s Mojahedin on Sharif University’s lawn.”5

Rajavi’s lectures were recorded on video cassettes and distributed in 35 cities throughout Iran. They also “were published in paperback and sold by the hundreds of thousands of copies,” Rouleau said.6

The lectures were later combined into a three-volume book titled “Tabyin-e jahan” (Comprehending the World). It presents the PMOI’s beliefs on the nature of existence, humans, history, and epistemology. In the lectures, Bouroujerdi explained, “Rajavi saves his most extensive critical commentary for Marxist materialistic epistemology.”7 Bouroujerdi continued:

"By subjecting the materialistic doctrines of [Aleksandr Ivanocich] Oparin and a host of other orthodox Marxist thinkers to a religious critique the Mojahedin hoped to challenge the more vigorous presence of Marxism within Iranian intellectual circles.”8

Bouroujerdi stated the PMOI “remained skeptical of Marxism’s philosophy postulates and rejected the latter’s cardinal doctrine of historical materialism. They held firm to their beliefs in the existence of God, revelation, afterlife, spirit, expectation, salvation, destiny, and the people’s commitment to these intangible principals.”9

Given the above backdrop, it is clear the PMOI is not, and has never been, a Marxist organization. It politically opposed the Marxists, offering a pro-democratic Muslim alternative.

The mullah’s name-calling propaganda campaign to label the PMOI as Marxist would likely have met limited success in western countries had it not been for the U.S. State Department. To gain the support of Iran's mullahs in freeing American hostages, the Department agreed, as part of a deal, to publicly brand the resistance organization as Marxist.


  1. “Iran’s Bleak Future,” Washington Post, August 19, 1981.
  2.  “Iranian Intellectuals and the West,” by Mehrzad Boroujerdi, Syracuse University Press, New York, 1996
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. “Enemies of the Ayatollahs,” Mohammad Mohaddessin, Zed Books, London, 2004.
  6. Ibid.
  7. “Iranian Intellectuals and the West,” by Mehrzad Boroujerdi, Syracuse University Press, New York, 1996.
  8. Ibid
  9. Ibid



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External Links

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