Iran backlash after top cleric meets reformists

Yazdi is one of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (pictured) appointees to the Guardian Council. (AFP)
Updated 28 October 2018

Iran backlash after top cleric meets reformists

TEHRAN: A hard-line member of Iran’s powerful Guardian Council was facing a backlash on Sunday after criticizing one of the country’s top religious figures for meeting with reformist politicians.
The dispute reflects the diversity of views within Iran’s religious elite and the fact that, well after the 1979 Islamic revolution, some senior Shiite clerics fiercely defend their independence.
The controversy started a fortnight ago when 90-year-old Grand Ayatollah Musa Shobairi Zanjani — considered one of the highest religious authorities and a “marja” (or “source of emulation“) for huge numbers of Shiite Muslims — met with ex-president Mohammad Khatami and other members of the reformist camp.
Khatami was president from 1997 to 2005 but has since fallen foul of the system, especially after supporting mass protests in 2009, and is banned from leaving the country or appearing in official media.
That meeting drew a shocked response from another leading ayatollah, Mohammad Yazdi, who leads an influential conservative clerical association in Qom, regarded as Iran’s religious capital.
Yazdi is one of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s appointees to the Guardian Council, a supervisory body that has a veto over all parliamentary laws.
“Following the publication of pictures on social media of you alongside some problematic individuals who have no respect for the system of the Islamic republic and the supreme leader, I hereby state that this issue has caused concern and upset among followers and in the seminaries,” Yazdi wrote in an open letter published by the Jamaran news site.
“I would like to remind you that your status and respect are tied to your respect for the ruling Islamic system, the leadership and the status of marjas... and take steps to ensure such matters are not repeated again,” he added.
To criticize a grand ayatollah in this way was considered beyond the pale for many observers.
Abbas Salehi, minister of Islamic culture and guidance, tweeted late Saturday: “We must be careful not to weaken the pure marjas under the banner of preserving the system, and not spoil Shiite historical heritage.”
At least one ayatollah resigned from Yazdi’s religious association in protest, while another, Ayatollah Hadavi Tehrani, said the “impolite” letter to Zanjani had caused “sadness and sorrow.”
Responses continued to come from many senior officials and commentators on Sunday.
“We Shiites are proud that our noble marjas have never gotten permission from any power but glorious God and have not been bound by the constraints of any political and economic bodies,” tweeted Elisa Hazrati, a member of parliament and managing director of the reformist Etemad newspaper.

Saudi Arabia, other Middle East countries warn citizens after protests erupt in Lebanon

Updated 55 min 11 sec ago

Saudi Arabia, other Middle East countries warn citizens after protests erupt in Lebanon

  • Saudi Arabia and Egypt called on citizens to avoid protest areas
  • Kuwait’s embassy in Lebanon asked citizens wishing to travel to Lebanon to postpone their plans

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Lebanon called on its citizens to avoid places where protests are taking place in the country on Friday. 

The Kingdom’s embassy in Beirut advised its nationals to take care and to “stay away from places of protest,” Al-Ekhbariya news channel reported. 

Egypt’s embassy in the Lebanese capital Beirut also called on its nationals in the country to avoid protest areas, Egyptian state news agency MENA said.

“The embassy calls on all Egyptian citizens in Lebanon to avoid the areas of gatherings and protests, to be careful in their movements and to abide by the instructions of the Lebanese authorities in this regard,” MENA said.

Meanwhile, Kuwait’s embassy in Lebanon asked citizens wishing to travel to Lebanon to wait because of the current protests and unrest.

“The embassy also calls on citizens currently in Lebanon to take utmost care and stay away from crowds and demonstrations,” the embassy said in its tweet.

Protesters across Lebanon blocked roads with burning tires on Friday and thousands marched in Beirut, calling on the government to resign over an economic crisis.