Skip to comments.Clerical discontent challenges Iran leader
Posted on 07/08/2009 1:52:21 PM PDT by DGHoodini
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Iran's supreme leader has imposed his will on the streets with security forces that crushed mass protests over the country's disputed election. But he faces an unprecedented level of behind-the-scenes political discontent among the Muslim clerics who form the theological bedrock of the Islamic Republic.
The bitterness could represent a deeper, long-term challenge to the rule of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The outright rejection by some clerics of election results that Khamenei ruled valid breaks a basic taboo against criticizing the man who in the philosophy of the Islamic Revolution literally represents God's rule on earth.
A major question looking ahead will be whether discontented clerics will aggressively push their criticisms behind the scenes, and whether their followers who look to them for spiritual guidance will rally behind the reformist political opposition.Among the nine ayatollahs holding the topmost clerical rank - "marja' taqlid," or a "model for imitation" - only one has congratulated Ahmadinejad on his election victory. Three of them have spoken out overtly against the election and the wave of arrests.
One of them, Grand Ayatollah Youssef Saanei - who normally comments little on political affairs - warned on Friday that "due to the lack of public support, the government may face legal and civil problems and a lack of competency."
The marja's have widespread followings across the country. While some have long been critical of hard-liners, their backing for Iran's Islamic system, headed by Khamenei, is usually deep, making their criticism more resounding. The discontent has also seeped down to lower levels off the thousands of clerics, centered in the holy city of Qom, the heart of the religious establishment.
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