BANGOR, Maine — A former Muslim who supported the revolution in 1979 that overthrew the Shah of Iran will be in Maine this month to talk about Islam and his conversion to Christianity.
Daniel Shayesteh, 56, will hold daylong seminars and tell his life story on Saturday, Sept. 11, at the Neighborhood Church, 263 Texas Ave., Bangor, and on Sept. 18 at Military Street Baptist Church, 56 Military St., Houlton. He also will speak at other churches next week.
“I will talk about Islam from its roots to its branches,” Shayesteh said Thursday in a telephone interview about the programs. “I will explain the social, political and moral implications of Islam and reveal everything about what the Quran is and what Islam is and what Islam’s approach to non-Muslims is. I was a radical Muslim and teacher of Islam. I want the audience to understand what Islam is to help people combat the threat of radical Muslims and their desire to destroy non-Muslims and the West.”
Shayesteh, who was born in Iran near the Caspian Sea, could recite the Quran in Arabic by the time he was 9, according to information on his website. During the Iranian Revolution, he taught Islam and religious philosophy. He said Thursday that after Ayatollah Khomeini came to power, the cleric reneged on his promise to allow citizens more freedom.
Considered a secularist by Khomeini’s government, Shayesteh was arrested in 1984 with four others, imprisoned and sentenced to death. A year later, he unexpectedly was released but forbidden from working, while his fellow detainees were executed, according to a biography provided by the Neighborhood Church. He escaped to Turkey in 1991. His wife and three daughters, who also now are Christians, joined him a few months later.
“What happened to me and my Islamic brothers in Iran where people were killing each other and there was no freedom and no autonomy caused me to search for answers,” Shayesteh said Thursday. “While I was in a doctoral program in Turkey, I had to read about all religions and I was really amazed by Christian culture and how Christianity shaped Western laws and Western values.”
That led him to join a Christian group in Turkey and to compare the Bible to the Quran, according to his biography. Shayesteh’s testimony about his conversion includes a story of his hearing Jesus’ voice in a dream tell him, “Come out of your father’s old house and live in a new house on the rock of Jesus.”
Shayesteh said Thursday that those who believe Islam is a peaceful religion are misinterpreting the Quran.
“It says hundreds of times to go kill non-Muslims and Christians and Jews,” he said. “Islam is a political religion that aims to rule the world.”
Many Muslims disagree. In London earlier this year, Pakistan-born Sheikh Tahir ul-Qadri condemned terrorism in all its forms, according to a report published in the London Independent. A prominent theologian, ul-Qadri issued a 600-page analysis with many citations from the Quran refuting beliefs that Muslims’ holy book promoted violence and terrorist acts.
“Terrorism is terrorism, violence is violence, and it has no place in Islamic teaching and no justification can be provided for it, or any kind of excuses of ifs and buts,” ul-Qadri said. “The world needs an absolute unconditional, unqualified and total condemnation of terrorism.”
Despite some clerics’ calls for nonviolence, Shayesteh declined Thursday to say where in the United State he now lives because of death threats he has received since his conversion to Christianity.
Shayesteh has spoken in cities large and small. He told an Ohio paper last year during a visit to Zanesville that it was just as important for him to speak in rural areas as in urban settings.
“Our Lord lived in a small city and that small city changed the world,” Shayesteh said last year. “It’s not the small and big, it’s the heart of people. I appreciate every American who loves the Lord and stands up for their country. So, it doesn’t matter where I am, my goal is to create awareness and that awareness should be part of life in small cities and big cities.”
In addition to his daylong programs in Bangor and Houlton, Shayesteh also will speak at:
• 10:30 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 12, Neighborhood Church, 263 Texas Ave., Bangor.
• 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 12, Calvary Baptist Church, 61 State St., Brewer.
• 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 15, Bangor Baptist Church, 1476 Broadway, Bangor.
• 9:45 a.m. Friday, Sept. 17, Greater Houlton Christian Academy chapel, 27 School St., Houlton.
For more information on Shayesteh’s visit to Maine, call 945-9937.
On the Web: www.escapefromdarkness.org