Last Tuesday, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a lightning rod of a fatwa that has since been removed from the web. One “Mr. Verde” at Enduring America (the website’s title is an ironic take on Operation Enduring Freedom) furnishes us with a comprehensive analysis of the fatwa.

Khamenei is claiming that he is a cleric of the highest rank who possesses all the required credentials to hold the position of [Supreme Leader].

    Many Shia clerics and scholars . . . believed in 1989 that Khamenei did not have the required religious credentials to permit him to hold the position of Supreme Leader. Other regime officials have said that Khamenei has the credentials, but such claims were made [only] in political speeches. This time the claim is made in the name of a religious edict and by Khamenei himself.

    Khamenei is claiming that his rule is a direct succession to that of the Prophet and the Shia Imams.

      During recent months, as he has been trying to cope with the fallout of the crisis within the Islamic Republic, Khamenei has repeatedly compared himself to the first Shia Imam and his opponents to the Imam’s enemies. Now he is claiming that he is not only the successor of the Imams, but of the Prophet too. … [Emphasis added.]

      The obvious significance of this fatwa is that Khamenei is saying that his orders must be carried out without failure. [But he] has not been able to demonstrate that he has any real authority in Iran beyond the use of force by his security personnel.

      On Thursday, in a follow-up post at Enduring America, Mr. Verde adds that according to his fatwa, Khameini . . .

      . . . sees no necessity for the constitution and the laws of the land, as he — the rightful successor to the Prophet and the Imams and the leader of the Muslims of the world — can decide whenever he wants what should or should not be done. … If such a fatwa were to stand, then elected officials would become courtiers in Khamenei’s service, not the servants of the people.

      The United States was formed partly in reaction to the idea of a state controlled by a religion, with its inclination to intolerance and tyranny. However, a religion endowed with power is not only destructive to the state, but to itself — or, more to the point, to its worshippers.

      Today we’re witness to the insensitivity that the pope displays, ostensibly in the interest of shoring up the institution of the Catholic church, to the rage and pain of its members over clerical child abuse. Their spiritual lives are left to moulder as local priests are given few tools to work with by the church hierarchy to facilitate healing. Inevitably, the religion’s “brand” is sullied.

      It’s no different with Islam, when Iran’s Supreme Leader countenances the savage repression of the Green Movement (including street shootings, as well as killings and rapes by armed guards in prisons), arming Hezbollah, and, arguably, developing nuclear weapons. The sensibilities of moderate Muslims are hung out to dry, much as they are by the methods of Islamists like al Qaeda, as well as the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban.

      It’s easier to fit a camel through the eye of a needle than it is to find the Islam in Islamism. It’s equally as difficult to locate among the leadership of the Islamic Republic.

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