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Qom and Tehran: Two Different Attitudes and Directions | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Two Friday prayers sermons took place on 21 August 2009, one in the holy city of Qom – the religious capital of Iran – and the other in Tehran – the capital of the Islamic Republic of Iran – however these sermons were completely different from each other. When comparing the sermon delivered by Ayatollah Ebrahim Amini in Qom to that delivered by Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati in Tehran, it is clear that they each Ayatollah belongs to a very different trend. In my opinion, what we are witnessing is two very different types of Islam, and there is a wide gap between them.

However first, allow me to introduce you to the two Imam’s mentioned above.

Ahmad Jannati has been a member of the Guardian Council since 1980, and has served as Chairman of the Guardian Council since 1988. Ayatollah Jannati wields a considerable amount of influence because not only is he Chairman of the Guardian Council, he also has seats on the Expediency Discernment Council, and the Assembly of Experts.

Ayatollah Jannati was one of the founders of the Haghani School, which is one of the most influential religious schools of thought in Iran, and which is said to be a major influence on President Ahmadinejad’s ideology. The Haghani School played a major role in Iran following the Islamic Revolution, and many of its followers now occupy positions in the Ministry of Intelligence, the Judiciary, and the Revolutionary Guards.

My friend and parliamentary colleague, Mr. Shah-cheraghi, who studied at the Haghani Seminary prior to the Islamic revolution, once informed me of a conversation that he had with Ali Fallahian, the former Minister of Intelligence, who told him “I thought that if our revolution was victorious, we – as Haghani students – would be the brain of the revolutionary regime, but on the contrary, we are currently acting as its boots [i.e. muscle].”

Obviously, Ayatollah Jannati did not accept any security or military position; however he has been one of the most extremist religious figures over the past three decades, and during the Friday sermon in question, he advised the security forces and the judiciary to arrest opposition figures, Mohammad Khatami, Mehdi Karroubi, and Mir Hossein Mousavi, for being the leaders behind the recent turmoil seen in Iran.

Following the death of Grand Ayatollah Khoei, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani was introduced as the Shiite Marja Taqlid. Jannati responded to this by saying that Ayatollah Sistani had been selected by the BBC and Britain as the next marja.

Due to his extremism, Jannati’s son became a Marxist, and was killed by the Shah’s forces prior to the revolution. And on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan, Ayatollah Jannati announced his desire to see [the reformists] Mousavi and Karroubi placed in jail. Amazingly, one cannot find any articles or books written by the Ayatollah, this means that Jannati’s views can only be found in his speeches and interviews.

On the other hand, there is Ayatollah Ebrahim Amini, who gave the Friday prayers sermon in the holy city of Qom. Amini is also a member of the Assembly of experts. He is older than Jannati, although both men are from Isfahan.

Ayatollah Amini believes that Mousavi and Karroubi not be arrested, and in fact admires them as being closest representations of the Islamic Revolution and the late Ayatollah Khomeini. More than this, he advised the security forces and the judiciary to release the prisoners [arrested during the recent demonstrations], describing them as being “innocent.”

In his Friday prayers sermon in Tehran, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati implied that the reformist leaders, Khatami, Mousavi, and Karroubi, should be arrested in order to end the election dispute and unrest. Ayatollah Ahmed Jannati is the chairman of the Guardian Council and a staunch Ahmadinejad supporter, he described the 12 June election in Iran as the “healthiest” elections held since the 1979 revolution.

In his Friday sermon, Ayatollah Jannati also said that opposing the election results and inciting the post-election unrest was equivalent to “tyranny” against “Islam, the establishment, and the people.” He also called for those responsible for this unrest to be brought to justice, saying “Some were arrested [during the protests] and some were not. Why weren’t the leaders behind this unrest arrested?” adding “the first thing that the judiciary should do is arrest them.”

During this Friday sermon, Ayatollah Jannati said that parallels could be drawn between the recent post-election unrest and the 1952 CIA-sponsored coup which resulted in the democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister, Mohammad Mosaddeq being removed from power.

Ayatollah Jannati told worshippers “They wanted to repeat this coup…people were not politically savvy in 1953. The people did not take to the streets, nobody was martyred and they were therefore subjected to 25 years of tyranny.” He added “However today, people are well aware of the political situation.”

In his Friday sermon, Ayatollah Jannati also urged the newly appointed head of the Judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, to make prosecuting the “leaders of the riots” his first official act.

This call has been backed by other extremist clerics and officials, as well as high-ranking military officers in the Revolutionary Guards. In early August, head of the Revolutionary Guard’s political bureau, Brigadier General Yadollah Javani, said “The question is who were the main plotters and agents of this coup. What role did Khatami, Mousavi, and Karroubi play?”

Whilst previous to this, in July, the General said “Today, nobody is impartial. There are two currents; those who defend and support the revolution and the establishment, and those who are trying to topple it.”

In his Friday prayers speech, Ayatollah Ebrahim Amini, who is the most popular Friday prayer Imam in the holy city of Qom, condemned the government’s use of violence, and called upon the government to release all of the innocent prisoners. Ayatollah Amini also called upon the Ahmadinejad government to begin the process of reconciliation and put an end to its violation of people’s rights.

The striking difference between the Friday sermon which was delivered in the religious capital of Iran, Qom, and the political capital, Tehran, provides further evidence of the deep rift between the religious and political sectors in Iran which have emerged following the 12 June elections. The strong sermon delivered by Ayatollah Amini reportedly caused hard-line supporters of Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi to cancel their planned protest against Grand Ayatollah Saneii, who recently spoke out strongly against Ahmadinejad.

It seems to me that what we are witnessing is a huge rift between the government and the people. Slowly but surely, Qom is making clear that it stands against more violence, and the arrest of the reformists. In spite of significant political pressure being exerted against Qom, it has not sent any message to Ahmadinejad [congratulating him on his re-election]. Moreover, Qom’s religious figures are openly criticizing the government. In my opinion, this is the beginning of the end for despotism in Iran.