In the Media

06/19/09: Anger, arrogance cause quandary in Iran

Anger, arrogance cause quandary in Iran

By Imam Mohammed Ali Elahi

Friday, 06.19.2009, 04:56am- Arab American News

Defeated Iranian presidential candidate Mirhossein Mousavi (C waving) speaks to supporters at a rally in Tehran June 18, 2009. REUTERS

Friday, June 12, 2009 was a dynamic day in the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Thirty years after its establishment under the leadership of Imam Khomeini, the Iranian democracy should inspire the world and especially those still living under dictatorship in the Middle East. Eighty-five percent of Iran's 46 million eligible voters went to the polls in an unprecedented voter turnout.

All four candidates, Ahmadinejad, Mousavi, Karoubi and Rezai, are patriotic Islamic Republic citizens loyal to its Constitution and principles.

Mr. Ahmadinejad has been the president of Iran for the last four years and he is eligible for only 4 more years.

No one should doubt Ahmadinejad's popularity among many Iranians, in particular those in small towns and villages benefiting from some governmental services. Ahmadinejad receives admiration from the Muslim world because he defends Iran's peaceful nuclear energy rights and condemns Israel's injustice against the Palestinians.

Yet many Iranians blame him for Iran's economic problems including the price of food and joblessness. They also consider some of Ahmadinejad's foreign policy statements to be careless and uncalculated.

Opposition candidates mobilized especially in Tehran and other big cities to campaign for new and better economic, social and foreign policy leadership.

The length of lines at the polling stations showed exceptional enthusiasm for voting, making Iran a great example of democracy in the world. But the situation turned painful with the announcement of election results: Ahmadinejad 64.78 per cent; Mousavi 32.26 per cent; Rezai 2.08 per cent; and Karoubi only 0.89 per cent.

Mousavi made complaints of fraud and filed a complaint with Iran's Guardian Council demanding a new election, even though he questioned the neutrality of the Council. The other candidates complain that Ahmadinejad used government resources for his campaign and accuse his government supporters of changing the tallies. They question not only Ahmadinejad's political and economic stewardship but also his moral character, for not only did he insult Mousavi's wife, Zahra Rahnavard, but he also attacked the integrity of the historical hero Ayatollah Rafsanjani. Because the Constitution requires the president to be a man of taqwa (righteousness), proof of presidential dishonesty and vote rigging would undercut his moral legitimacy to continue in office.

Karoubi supporters, constituting a powerful party with 400,000 members and many more sympathizers, expected a result much higher than 1%! They saw a drastic departure from previous election patterns and questioned the accuracy of the final total.

To solve this bitter and growing dispute, which has resulted in ugly clashes pitting Ahmedinejad's civilian and police supporters against Mousavi's student and non-student supporters, Iran's highest religious and political authority, Ayatollah Khamenei, has ordered the Guardian Council to investigate the fraud claims. If done with sincerity and trust with the presence of independent observers, this initiative should satisfy all concerns.

All parties oppose the tension and riots. Mousavi advised his followers to participate in silent rallies, whose participants would only chant "Allahu Akbar." Some anti-Republic elements abused the situation with more negative rallying cries, while extremists responded by attacking the Tehran university dormitory in an unfortunate incident now under investigation by Parliament Speaker Dr. Larijani.

What is going on in Iran is a family conflict. All parties share the same goals: strengthening the Islamic Republic, continuing along the path of the late Imam Khomeini, serving the people of Iran, and setting a good example for the international community. No one wishes to hurt the system but to improve upon it. We can observe how Iran's supreme leader will direct this dispute. In the Iranian democracy even the highest leader should listen to the voice of the street.

With wisdom the Islamic revolution will avoid devolution into domestic violence, divorce and failure, which would cause suffering to all children of this wonderful family.

Government officials will learn unforgettable lessons from this experience and hopefully never again let the spirit of healthy competition turn to angry rioting.

Ahmadinejad should have waited until the election results were official before celebrating victory. Dismissing the demands of the demonstrators as "passions after a soccer match" was unhelpful. Detaining activists including Mohammad Abtahi, Karoubi's campaign director, didn't help either.

Anger and the arrogance of power caused this problem and can't be part of the solution. Win or lose, the president should apologize for his personal attacks. Insulting Ayatollah Rafsanjani, a revolutionary founding father who has been a major pillar of the Republic and who has been a source of hope during the most depressing times of war and weakness, showed not courage but pettiness. The position of presidency is temporary and short, but dignity and the call of human conscience are lasting legacies.

Obama wisely said, "We respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran. I would say to them that the world is watching and inspired by their participation, regardless of what the ultimate outcome of the election was."

I wish Ayatollah Khamanei and the Guardian Council the wisdom to bring the candidates to a sincere reconciliation to be followed by such a wave of joy, brotherhood and cooperation among Iranians of all social classes that Iran will serve as an inspiring example of justice, freedom and peace for the world.

Mohammed Ali Elahi is religious leader of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights.