Desperate, Rafsanjani calls on clergy to save itself

Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani

Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani

Article source: ILNA
Article date: 05 August 2011

Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, Chairman of the Expediency Council and one of the founders of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI), in the context of the upcoming anniversary of the Constitutional Revolution of 1905 called on the Shiite clergy in Iran not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

The Constitutional Revolution, an uprising against the absolutist monarchy of the Qajar dynasty and negative role of Great Britain and Tsarist Russia in Iran, established the Majlis (legislature) under the supervision of the Shiite clergy and secular intellectuals. After the revolution however many Shiite clergymen came to regret the role the religious establishment had played, believing it had undermined both the clergy and Islam.

He then related the clergy’s experience in the Constitutional Revolution to the present, discussing how the “evil plans” of modernizing secular intellectuals undermine the clergy:

“The designers of the evil plans of the Constitution[al Revolution] have returned to the forefront, so that by taking advantage of internal differences and the seemingly value-laden discourse of some they can complete their anti-clergy plot.”

Rafsanjani also curiously appeared to sympathise with the much maligned anti-Constitution clergyman Sheikh Fazlollah Nouri, one of the most universally reviled figures in Iran’s modern history who was hanged for his role in supporting ultra-religious and anti-Constitutional forces.

He then turned his attention to attacking modern Western ideas which he viewed as having supplanted the rightful place of the clergy.

“The Constitution[al Revolution] was the practice of democracy in Iran from Westerner’s textbooks and because it did not take into account differences between cultures, isolated the religion-loving clergy and raised one thousand materialist families and individuals educated abroad to positions of power.”

Editor’s note: Rafsanjani’s speech invited comparisons between the fate of the clergy after the Constitutional Revolution and Iran’s clergy today, whose role in Iranian politics as a special class is under attack by President Mahmoud Amadinejad and key figures in his administration.

Rafsanjani’s comments can be viewed in context of the upcoming 2012 Majlis election which may prove decisive in reshaping Iran’s political landscape. His warnings appear to be appealing to a segment of the clergy in the Principalist faction which may feel threatened by Ahmadinejad’s positions on the clergy.

This strategy however may not prove effective in light of recent developments in Principalist politics. This is evidenced by the recent divisions in the Seven Plus Eight Committee/Principalist Unity Committee, a body seeking to coordinate the Principalist campaign for the Majlis election. These divisions have been brought about by the attempts of some members of the committee to take a Pro-Rafsanjani stance. These attempts were met by the creation of the “Persevering Front of the Islamic Revolution”, which has taken a stridently anti-Rafsanjani position and prevented moves toward reconciliation with him by Principalists. Furthermore, leading clergyman such as Ayatollah Mohammad-Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi have come out in support of the Perseverance Front, showing that his appeal to clerical solidarity has not had the intended effect of rallying clergy around him.