Exclusive: Congress probes Oberlin College prof. with links to Iranian regime

A letter sent to Oberlin wants answers on professor’s ‘apparent leading role in covering up the Iranian regime’s atrocities’

By Benjamin Weinthal | Fox News

Two Republican lawmakers from the Committee of Education and Labor called for an inquiry Wednesday into Oberlin College’s religion studies professor Mohammad Jafar Mahallati due to his reported ties with the world’s worst state-sponsor of terrorism, the Islamic Republic of Iran and his alleged role in the cover-up of a massacre of up to 5,000 Iranian political prisoners, Fox News Digital can exclusively report. 

“Mr. Mahallati’s current association with and his open loyalty to the Iranian regime causes serious national security concerns. It also puts into question Oberlin’s reporting of foreign funding: any omissions from this report would violate section 117of the Higher Education Act, “wrote Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind and Rep Virginia Foxx, R-NC in a letter to Oberlin College President Carmen Twillie Ambar and Oberlin’s Board of Trustees. 

Fox News Digital obtained the three-page letter.  

According to the letter, there are questions “whether the Iranian regime played a role in his [Mahallati] employment at Oberlin and whether federal taxpayer dollars should be provided to a college that goes to such great lengths to protect and defend an Iranian regime affiliate.”


The congressional members’ probe plunged Oberlin College management into new chaos after the college experienced a humiliating legal defeat against the community Gibson’s Bakery following accusations of racism. 

“Just this month Oberlin had to pay $36 million for defaming a local bakery with false accusations of racism.  Oberlin has a track record of politically motivated dishonesty and can’t be trusted to give an honest assessment of Mahallati’s past. Our concerns have nothing to do with academic freedom or unorthodox views—they’re about Mahallati’s past and his apparent leading role in covering up the Iranian regime’s atrocities. I’d like to thank Ranking Member Foxx for her commitment to investigating higher education’s ties to hostile foreign regimes when Republicans retake the majority, “Republican Study Committee Chairman Banks told Fox News Digital. 

The congressional letter stated “Mr. Mahallati’s connections with one of America’s chief adversaries are not a secret. Indeed, Mr. Mahallati served as Iran’s Ambassador to the United Nations from 1987 to 1989. During his tenure, the Iranian government carried out a systematic extermination of political prisoners and other dissidents. While estimates differ on the number of those killed, Human Rights Watch estimated that the deaths range between about 2,800 and 4,500. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Canada’s parliament labeled these mass killings as crimes against humanity.” 

Mahallati denied the 1988 massacre as “nothing but propaganda” and “fake information.”  

Writing in the September 23 issue of the student newspaper Oberlin Review, Dr. Mansour Farhang, a professor of Politics at Bennington College and the Islamic Republic of Iran’s first ambassador to the U.N., slammed Mahallati “as an agent of Iran’s totalitarian theocracy” who refuses to recognize the clerical regime’s mass murder of innocent Iranian political prisoners in 1988.  


Farhang is an opponent of Iran and resigned as ambassador in 1980, because the founder of the Islamic Republic Ruhollah Khomeini refused to release American embassy hostages.

Congresswoman Foxx told Fox News Digital “Oberlin College is plagued by its own ivory tower ignorance and its stark unwillingness to denounce Mohammad Mahallati’s ties to Iran’s maligned regime raises serious concerns over national security and the ideals of an institution receiving millions in U.S. taxpayer dollars. At best, its blind ignorance. At worst, it’s an illustration that Oberlin gives priority to providing academic refuge to a man whose interests are aligned with terrorists instead of rejecting interference from foreign governments. We look forward to their responses to this inquiry.” 

The letter asked Oberlin College to provide the following information within the next two weeks: Mahallti’s course syllabi and whether Oberlin College has “received any funding or in-kind contributions from the Islamic Republic of Iran or from individuals or entities linked to the Islamic Republic of Iran.” 

The investigation into Mahallati seeks to answer “What is the vetting process in place at Oberlin for hiring faculty, and are there additional processes for those closely linked to a hostile foreign regime?” and “What is the funding source for Mr. Mahallati’s endowed professorship, as such a post previously did not exist?” 

Both Banks and Foxx also requested “all documents and financial statements related to his professorship.” 


The last series of questions ask: “What led to the hiring of Mr. Mahallati at Oberlin in 2007? What are the terms and conditions of Mr. Mahallati’s employment at Oberlin?” 

Prior to the allegations that Mahallati played a key role in the cover-up of the mass murder of Iranians, the Islamic studies academic had been dubbed the “Professor of Peace.” His Iranian-American critics call him the “Butcher of Oberlin.” 

Fox News sent press queries to Oberlin College’s President Ambar and the communication department. 

The congressional letter cited Fox News Digital report on Mahallati’s endorsement of an Iranian regime fatwa to assassinate the author Salman Rushdie.  

Iran’s regime issued the fatwa because Rushdie depicted the Muslim prophet Muhammad irreverently.  In August, a 24-year-old man named Hadi Matar, who has posted favorable comments on Iran on social media, stabbed Rushdie in the neck and liver during the author’s speech in Chautauqua, New York. 

When asked about how Mahallati secured citizenship and his endorsement of Tehran’s fatwa to murder Rushdie, a U.S. State Department spokesperson told Fox News Digital “Visa records are confidential under U.S. law; therefore, we cannot discuss the details of individual visa cases.”

The State Department spokesperson added “We’re not going to comment on reports regarding a private citizen’s views, but the United States was clear in our condemnation of incitement to violence against Salman Rushdie. We will continue to vocally defend respect for human rights in Iran and around the world and will work to promote accountability for human rights violations and abuses.”

Fox News Digital reached out to Mahallati for a comment. 

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