In Iran, Both Sides Seek to Carry Islam’s Banner

June 21, 2009

Author: Neil MacFarquhar

Source: The New York Times

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, ended his prayer sermon in tears on Friday, invoking the name of a disappeared Shiite prophet to suggest that his government was besieged by forces of evil out to destroy a legitimate Islamic government.

The opposition leader, Mir Hussein Moussavi, in criticizing the government, demanded the kind of justice promised by the Koran and exhorted his followers to take to their rooftops at night to cry out, “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great.”

In the battle to control Iran’s streets, both the government and the opposition are deploying religious symbols and parables to portray themselves as pursing the ideal of a just Islamic state.

That struggle could prove the main fulcrum in the battle for the hearts and minds of most ordinary Iranians, because the Islamic Revolution, since its inception, has painted itself as battling evil. If the government fails the test of being just, not least by using excessive violence against its citizens, it risks letting the opposition wrap itself in the mantle of Islamic virtue.