Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Mursi’s tough speech angers the mullah | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page

London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Beware of your wishes coming true! This is the adage that Iran’s Khomeinist leadership is pondering with regard to Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi. For months, Tehran had beaten the drums in favour of Mursi, first for his election and then as the man who would bring Egypt under the banner of the Khomeinist revolution. Mursi’s attendance at the summit of the Non-aligned movement was to be the return on the political capital that Tehran had invested in the new Egyptian leader.

However, with his speech in Tehran on Thursday, Mursi has drawn a line in the sand against Iran’s hopes of creating an “Islamic Awakening Front” under its leadership.

Iran’s leadership had spent a great deal of energy preparing what “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei had dubbed “the triumph” of Ayatollah Khomeini’s version of Islam.

That version de-emphasises the religious content of Islam and highlights the political role it has often tried to play.

In his opening address at the Tehran summit, Khamenei spelled out that ideology by unleashing a torrent of hate against the American “Great Satan”.

To Khomeini and his successors, the only valid version of Islam as a faith is the Shi’ite one as interpreted by the ayatollah. Sunni Muslims are regarded as “deviants” partly because they venerate the first Caliph of Islam, Abu-Bakr, Omar an Osman.

The Khomeinist discourse develops three other themes.

First, it wants the latest uprisings in the Middle East, described as “the Arab Spring”, to be re-baptised “Islamic Awakening” and, against all logic, linked to Khoeminism in Iran.

Khamenei has created an Islamic Awakening Secretariat in the hope of side-lining the Islamic Conference Organisation.

The second theme is Holocaust denial coupled with calls for the “elimination of Israel” as a “cancerous cell”.

Finally, Tehran demands “unwavering support” for the Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad.

In his speech in Tehran, delivered during a four-hour stopover, Mursi disappointed the Khomeinist leadership on all accounts.

First, the Egyptian leader took care not to allow any dose of anti-Americanism in his speech.

Next, Mursi rejected the label “Islamic Awakening” and insisted that uprisings in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen be described as “Arab Spring”. The uprisings, he insisted, had been for democracy and human dignity, not for strictly religious reasons, let alone Khomeini’s weird version of Islam.

He then turned the knife in the Khomeinists’ wound by asserting that the uprising in Syria was “an extension of Arab Spring” not “an American-Zionist conspiracy” as Khamenei claims.

Khamenei has declared the preservation of the Assad regime as one of Tehran’s key strategic objectives.

Mursi called the Assad regime “oppressive and illegitimate”, throwing Egypt’s support behind the Syrian uprising.

Mursi’s speech contained yet another sting that hurt the Tehran mullahs.

Khamenei had started his inaugural address at the conference by saluting “the Prophet and his descendants”. Mursi responded by saluting “the Prophet and his successors”, naming the four Caliphs (Khulafa al-Rashedin) one by one. The sound of three of those names would send shockwaves down the spines of any mullah who has any.

Not surprisingly, Tehran television interrupted a live broadcast of Mursi’s address by offering advertisement for a gas company.

Very quickly, the Tehran media were mobilised to “doctor” Mursi’s speech, censoring parts of it and brazenly misrepresenting other parts. Instead of Mursi’s direct call for the end of Assad regime, the Tehran media reported the Egyptian leader as supporting the despot of Damascus.

Yesterday, Tehran media could hardly hide its anger against Mursi. In the programme published by the Foreign Ministry in Tehran, Mursi was supposed to go to Khomeini’s tomb to “lay a wreath and pay respects. He didn’t. The Egyptian leader was also supposed to “be received in audience” by the Iranian “Supreme Guide”. The theatrical set-up on such occasions is quite elaborate. Khamenei sits on a high chair while foreign visitors he “receives” are sat on lower chairs. Thus, the “Supreme Guide” is seen on TV looking down at those who have come “to pay respects.” Iranian officials are even worse off. When Khamenei receives them they have to sit on the floor while the “Supreme Guide” looks down at them from his high chair.

Refusing to call on Khamenei, who was sitting in a room at the conference hall a few meters away, Mursi did not play the charade.

Tehran media had promised “surprises” during Mursi’s visit, hinting that he may announce the resumption of diplomatic ties with Tehran. Khomeini had given a fatwa that ties with Egypt not be restored unless Cairo renounced the Camp David accord. Recently, Tehran has ignored Khomeini’s fatwa and hinted that it would be ready for resumption without any conditions. Mursi, however, was not keen.

In the conference hall, sitting right behind Mursi all the time was General Muhammad-Ali Aziz-Jaafari, Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the backbone of the Khomeinist regime. On several occasions the general tires to attract Mursi’s attention. He failed.