Middle East: Iran, is Khamenei a Monafegh and Fitna?

Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who enjoys the final say on Iran's domestic and foreign policies, has repeatedly labeled any opposition to his rule and policies (including those by Iran's reformists and supporters of the Green movement) as "Fitna" or "Monafeghin".

The term "Fitna" comes from an Arabic verb that means to "seduce, tempt, or lure." Khamenei uses these words to describe those who divide Muslims, endanger Islam, prioritize their own interests over Islamic duties, or those who desire to change the political establishment of the Islamic Republic. "Fitna" is Khamenei's "red line" that no individual should cross.

But if pursuing policies and rhetoric that divide, rather than unify, Muslims is "Fitna" for Khamenei, doesn't his own recent actions, incendiary rhetoric, and remarks make him a "Fitna" and "monafegh" as well?

For example, Khamenei decided to prevent Iranians from performing the Hajj and he seems to be inciting the Muslims to back him to achieve his political ambitions. The he Hajj is supposed to be a symbol of unity between all Muslims.

But why has Khamenei felt the urge to issue such provocative remarks? Geopolitically speaking, Khamenei's actions fall right in his and IRGC's regional hegemonic ambitions as well as their attempts to tip the regional balance of power in their favor. This also suggests that Khamenei gives priority to his political interests over Muslims' holy duties.

On the other hand, religiously speaking, Khamenei does not consider himself to be only the Imam (leader) of the Iranian people or the Shiite community. From his perspective and the modern theory of Shiite theology (velayate faqih), Khamenei views himself as the leader of the Umma (all Muslims). Many Shiite theologians still oppose Khomeini's and Khamenei's perception.

Finally, Khamenei's incendiary remarks also suggest that Iran's increasing application of hard power and bullying is ratcheting up rather than being moderated, most significantly since the United States reached an agreement with Iran on the nuclear program.


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Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is an American political scientist, business advisor, best-selling author, and the president of the International American Council on the Middle East. Harvard-educated, Rafizadeh serves on the advisory board of Harvard International Review. An American citizen, he is originally from Iran and Syria, lived most of his life in Iran and Syria till recently. He is a board member of several significant and influential international and governmental institutions, and he is native speaker of couple of languages including Arabic and Persian. He also speaks English and Dari, and can converse in French, Hebrew.

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