Tehran’s Friday Prayer Imam today accused the “deviationist” movement led by Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff and political confidant, of attempting to elevate nationalism and eliminate the role of religion in the Islamic Republic.
“There is no doubt that all of us love the Islamic nation. But worshipping Iran minus Islam is a traitorous act in the Islamic Republic,” Hojatoleslam Ahmad Khatami, the influential conservative cleric and today’s Friday Imam said [IRIBNews.ir, 27 May].
In the same sermon, however, the Friday Imam accused the “deviationist” movement of attempting to take advantage of the belief among Shias in Mahdi, the Hidden Imam, and efforts to prepare for his eventual reappearance (“Mahdaviat”) as a tool to advance their political agenda.
“During the Fetne (Green movement) of 2009, some people (Mousavi and Karrubi) hid behind Imam Khomeini’s stature to attack the Islamic Republic. In today’s Fetne, the (deviationists) are using Mahdaviat,” Ahmad Khatami added.
The Friday Imam did not explain the apparent contradiction in his indictment of the “deviationists” that a group determined to eliminate Islam in the Islamic Republic could also be using a belief in the imminent reappearance of the Hidden Imam to their political advantage.
UPDATE: Tehran's Friday Imams for each Friday are handpicked by the office of the supreme leader, and Hojatoleslam Ahmad Khatami (no relation to former president Mohammad Khatami) is regarded to be particularly close to the leader. This update is in response to email inquiries on the importance of Friday Imams.