Iran or Islam? In Tehran That is the Question

Does Iran have an identity of its own? In fact, could anything called Iran even be imagined outside of Islam?

These are some of the questions raised in a heated debate that has pitted key figures of the Khomeinist establishment in Tehran against one another in what promises to become a massive washing of dirty laundry in public.

The debate was triggered earlier this month during a gathering of some 1,300 Iranian exiles, who had come to Tehran for an “ introductory visit” at the invitation of the government.

The man who raised the issue is Esfandiar Rahim Mashai, a self-styled philosopher who serves as Cabinet Director for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Initially, Ahmadinejad had appointed Mashai as his First Vice President.

Ahmadinejad was forced to backtrack after top figures, including the “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei, publicly said that they would not tolerate Mashai in that position.

However, the change of titles made little difference insofar as Mashai’s power and influence, as Ahamdinejad’s ideological mentor, is concerned.

The two men, who are lifelong friends, are also related because Mashai’s daughter is married to Ahmadinejad’s son.


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