Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Challenging the Supreme Leader

"From the reemergence of the old ideology of vilayat-e faqih, many clerics have criticized both Khomeini and his successor Khamenei for two reasons. Firstly, the position of Supreme Leader has been criticized for its active participation in daily political affairs. This contrasts greatly with the quietist views held by the renowned Grand Ayatollah al-Khoei of Iraq, his successor Grand Ayatollah Sistani, and by the well respected Ayatollah Haeri Yazdi – Khomeini’s teacher. Second, the powers held by the Supreme Leader and participation in all aspects of life by a scholar should have been a position solely for the Twelfth Imam. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had to make clear after his election that the country needs to work to hasten the return of the real leader of Iran – the Twelfth Imam. (Nasr, 133) Khoei’s appreciation for a quiet life removed him from being the kind of leader Khomeini became but he still had devout followers who made pilgrimage to Najaf or lived in Iraq.

Khoei was not the only one to challenge the Supreme Leader. Ayatollah Rafsanjani, recognized for his liberal attitude and President of Iran in the 1990s, withdrew funding from the ulema and factions such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah to improve the economic conditions of Iran. Khamenei recognized Rafsanjani’s challenge to the ulema but also realized the desperate economic issue in Iran. (Esposito, 211) The biggest challenge to both Khomeini and Khamenei, however, was Ayatollah Montazeri. Montazeri was placed under house arrest even though he was Khomeini’s right hand man during the Iranian Revolution. In the early years of the revolution, Montazeri gained much approval to be the next Supreme Leader but was forced to resign due to the concern he raised about number of human rights violations in Iran. (Esposito, 211) In essence, both Rafsanjani and Montazeri alluded that by having complete control over all the affairs of the country, the Supreme leader should be held accountable for all the flaws whether political, economical, or social, a feat that could only be accomplished only by the Imams."

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