Shayesteh was not long graduated from the University of Tehran
when on Nov. 4, 1979, 500 students siezed the American embassy
in the capital of Iran.
sympathized with their cause and indirectly supported it, but
refrained from bullying the Americans. Not because it was wrong,
but because he felt that westerners needed to be kept unaware
of the deep hatred Muslims held for them. Mr. Shayesteh, 50, grew
up in northern Iran, along the coast of the Caspian Sea. Once
a Quranic teacher and scholar, Mr. Shayesteh earned a doctorate
in international business in Turkey.
a Christian, converting after he fled Iran, Mr. Shayesteh travels
the world decrying what he considers the dangers of Islam. Last
Sunday, he spoke at Westgate Chapel Christian and Missionary Alliance
Muslims want [westerners] not to have knowledge of Islam,
he said in an interview. Democracy is against the values
of Islam. [Muslims] say that Allah is the ultimate value-maker;
he already has a law and democratic law is not higher than Sharia,
the law of Allah.
last half of the 1970s and into the early 1980s, Mr. Shayesteh
was a member of a group called the Free Islamic Revolutionary
Movement. They set about helping to oust the Shah of Iran and
install the Islamic mullahs.
succeeded, however, the new regime under the Ayatollah Ruhollah
Khomeini turned and went after him.
who denies allegiance to Islam and its founder Mohammed can expect
three outcomes: ostracism, imprisonment, or death, Mr. Shayesteh
do not have a right to reject Islam if you come from [an Islamic]
family, he said.
By 1980, Khomeini
sat at the pinnacle of power in Iran. Mr. Shayesteh became the
chief executive officer of a government department.
In 1981, he
ran for a seat in the interim governments Islamic Parliament.
That got him
into hot water.
He won the
election, but the clerics balked at giving the office to a secularist.
later, he and four others were imprisoned and sentenced to death.
Someone who worked in the high court office saw the order for
Mr. Shayestehs death and interceded, but his fellow detainees
When he was
freed in 1985, Mr. Shayesteh said he was a persona non grata in
Iran. He could not work, and tried but failed to flee to Turkey.
In 1988, he
again attempted to leave the country but was blacklisted and had
to relinquish his passport.
made it to the Turkish border and tried to cross. The border guards
called for soldiers to arrest him, but when they failed to come
after nearly three hours, the guards let him pass.
later his wife, Mary, and three daughters joined him in Istanbul.
decided to go to a local Christian church, where a former business
partner once visited, trying to locate him. That decision started
him toward a life-changing break with Islam and conversion to
Chrisitianity. In 1991, he moved his family to Australia where
his wife also became a Christian.
taught business at the University of Technology at Sydney for
eight years. Recently, however, he was fired when someone complained
about his fervent Christianity.
the loss became an opportunity to begin a mission: teaching westerners
the truth about Islam.
M. Ferguson Tinsley at [email protected]
with permission from Faith