Abdolkarim İrani is an Iranian refugee. A native of the predominantly-Arab region of Ahvaz in southwest Iran, he was forced to flee after coming to faith in Jesus, and thus converting from Islam to Christianity.
İrani today resides in Istanbul, from where he hosts a regular program on the US-based Aramaic Broadcasting Network (ABN Sat), which describes itself as “a non-denominational ministry committed to presenting the Word of God and its transforming message of Jesus Christ to Arabic, Aramaic, Kurdish and English-speaking people worldwide.”
Israel Today got in touch with İrani through our Jordanian Christian correspondent, Rami Dabbas, and asked him to expound on Iranian attitudes toward Israel, how faith in Jesus altered his views regarding the Jewish people, and whether or not Arab Christians should evangelize their Muslim neighbors.
Israel Today: Israel and Iran were once friends. But the Islamic Republic is now the Jewish state’s most dangerous foe. Growing up in Iran, how were you raised to view Israel?
İrani: From the third grade on, they taught us to hate Israel and not differentiate between Israel and the “Zionists.” [In other words, when Iranian leaders call for uprooting the “Zionist regime” they mean eradicating all Israeli Jews]. We learned to hate the very word Israel. Every Thursday we would raise the Iranian flag in the schoolyard and burn an Israeli flag while yelling “Death to Israel!”
As children, we didn’t even know the reason for this hatred. They brainwashed us from a young age.
When you came to faith in Jesus, did you know that he is a Jew?
Before accepting Christ, I left Islam and became aware of the lies and deceptions of the Islamic clerics, especially the mullahs of Iran. When I read the Bible, I discovered that Jesus was a Jew.
How did becoming a Christian change your attitude toward Israel?
I have undergone a fundamental change, not only toward Israel, but for the whole world. I love everyone with all their colors and beliefs, and I’ll have nothing to do with politics. But I did learn a lot from the Bible about Israel and the Holy Land. Most notably, I learned that this teaching of love and tolerance for all comes from the Jewish people, because Jesus and his disciples were all Jews.
When you witness to Arabs and Iranians today, what do you tell them about Israel and the Jews?
I tell them, as the Bible says, that salvation came from the loving and forgiving Jews. Most of the book that God used to deliver His message was authored by the Jews. The people of Israel are a great people with a long history and honorable civilization. God honored this people with tremendous success, especially in modern times. Many of the inventors who have benefited all mankind are Jews. We must respect and love this great people, as Jesus Christ taught us.
How do average Iranians feel about Israel?
The ordinary Iranians are a good people. The problem is in the government of the mullahs, and the teachings that are imposed on us and our children in schools, starting already from elementary school!
But I would say that today something like 90 percent of average Iranians are now aware of the falsehoods of the mullahs. We saw this manifest in the latest civil uprising following the death of Qassem Soleimani.
Is there hope for the Christians in the Middle East?
Yes. The general public has no problem with Christians, because Christians love everyone and pray for everyone. This is known to the general Middle East population. The problem is the repressiveness of dictatorial Islamic regimes like Iran’s, which do not respect personal freedoms. But we continue to pray that the Lord will save these people.
What happens to a Muslim who becomes a Christian in Iran?
When a Muslim converts to Christianity, or any other religion, and declares his faith publicly, he is typically set upon by a mob, can be imprisoned, and is sometimes sentenced to death.
Should Arab and Iranian Christians evangelize Muslims? Some say this is wrong, because Muslims already worship Allah.
Yes, every Christian must preach to Muslims, but with complete attendance, according to the situation, and this is the commandment of Christ. He said: Go to the whole world and give them good tidings.
Muslims are not worshipping the one true God. A Muslim follows the teachings of Mohammed, claiming that they are from “God.” But Islamic teachings are dangerous for every human being. The teachings of Mohammed are full of hatred that leads to spiritual death, and this is what we are seeing now in Islamic countries.
A Muslim kills his Muslim brother and shouts “Allah is great!” And this has been going on for 1,400 years. The greatest service you provide a Muslim is to liberate him from Islam.