The Case of Billionaire Fred Nassiri
Fred Nassiri immigrated to the United States from Iran in 1962 at the age of 20 and went on to become a fashion magnate who is one of America’s largest wholesalers of designer labels. He is now a billionaire, but a billionaire with a difference.
It seems that Nassiri, despite his material success, never stopped searching for the meaning of life. He consulted gurus around the world, studied the Kabalah, and researched the major world philosophies and religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity. All of this culminated in 1987 in his determination to spread peace through music around the world, and in his conversion to Catholicism.
Nassiri, a capable composer, instrumentalist and singer, now owns his own music company, Nassiri Music, which is based along with a number of real estate holdings in Las Vegas. Nassiri uses the record company as a vehicle for his current world tour featuring the title song of his first album, “Love Sees No Color”. He performs this in several languages with children from around the world. His slogan is “only through love can we live as one.” He was allowed to film some of the video for his tour inside the Vatican.
The literature surrounding Fred Nassiri tends to downplay his Catholicism, which I suppose he believes necessary to his message of peace, but this may also stem from his great respect for all the world’s great religious traditions, including his native Islam. This is consistent, for example, with his long-time refusal to return to Iran, even to perform, because of Iran’s official stance of wanting to obliterate Israel. In any case, when asked about his religion, Nassiri states that he is a Catholic but he does not renounce any religion.
I don’t say Muslim is bad. I love Muslim, I love Christian, I love Buddhism because they all want to send the same message, so I do not renounce any religion. I accept all religions. So I am Catholic now, but I also pray with Moslems, I also go to Jewish synagogues. I take a little bit from all those prophets to take me to God. I don’t say mine is better than yours; it’s the same path.
Whatever he may lack in precision, Nassiri is a Catholic and he has close ties to the Franciscans. Recently, through the involvement of the Franciscan convent in Assisi, he was able to meet with the organization Peacey to be awarded their Dove of Peace.
In a diffuse sort of way, all of this is edifying, but one is somewhat uncertain about what it means. The spiritual stakes were raised considerably, however, by a report which Catholic World News picked up from its sources in Rome (see Billionaire Convert Pursues Franciscan Poverty). It seems that Fred Nassiri met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone in early March to announce that he wishes to become a Franciscan: “I bring to the Vatican a testimony of faith and a devotion to the Franciscan cause. All of my wealth is destined to the poor.”
Because I cannot find details of this story anywhere else, I am only cautiously optimistic about its certainty. And then there is the all-important question of follow-through. But Fred Nassiri’s life story is fascinating, and the outcome bears watching.
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