- Since Ayatollah Khomeini led the Islamic Revolution in 1979, regime rhetoric has depicted the US as an enemy of Islam.
- A recent speech by Mehdi Mahdavi-Nezhad promotes a new conspiracy, the US is trying to hijack Islam. @MRubin1971
- The Iranian Diaspora in the US numbers several hundred thousand at a minimum.
Editor's Note: FMSO’s Operational Environment Watch provides translated selections and analysis from a diverse range of foreign articles and other media that analysts and expert contributors believe will give military and security experts an added dimension to their critical thinking about the Operational Environment.
Source: Source: “Estrategi-ye doshman tarvij Islam-i Amrika Ast” (“The Enemy’s Strategy is to Promote American Islam”), Fars News Agency. 7 August 2012
Since Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini led the Islamic Revolution in 1979, regime rhetoric has depicted the United States as a “Great Satan” and an enemy of Islam. In this context, the shifting depiction of America’s relationship to Islam, exemplified in a recent speech by Mehdi Mahdavi-Nezhad, a brigadier general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, is important. Rather than depict the United States as opposed to Islam, he promotes an alternative conspiracy about America trying to hijack Islam.
Mahdavi-Nezhad’s comments might be a tacit acknowledgement that ordinary Iranians recognize that the United States is not opposed to Islam. The Iranian diaspora in the United States numbers several hundred thousand at a minimum, even if the Iranian community’s claim that it numbers more than a million in Greater Los Angeles alone is an exaggeration. Most Iranian émigrés in the United States are Muslim, and many maintain contact with relatives back in Iran. With such links between the two communities, Iranian regime propaganda depicting the United States as anti-Islam has fallen increasingly on deaf ears.
Ordinary Iranians living in Iran often refer to “din-i khodiman,” “my personal religion,” in order to acknowledge and define their own religiosity in opposition to state involvement in religious practice. Mahdavi-Nezhad’s discussion of “American Islam” as a plot might represent a tactic to stigmatize those who do not practice Shi‘ism in the manner Iranian hardline clerics would like. As the former paramilitary Basij chief inspector, Mahdavi-Nezhad has made a career not only of military command, but also of promoting religious rigidity.
His reference to American attempts to impose “American Islam” in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey also acknowledges the battle of religious interpretation which is afoot throughout the Middle East, as ordinary citizens embrace religiosity, but not always in the manner in which the Iranian state approves. At the very least, his reference suggests that the Revolutionary Guards interpret the “Arab Spring” and Turkish debate not only in diplomatic and political terms, but also through a religious lens.
Should Mahdavi-Nezhad’s reference to “American Islam” become a staple of the regime’s rhetoric, it might presage a regime attempt to dissuade the dialogue of civilizations initiated by former President Mohammad Khatami and continued by the United Nations. The State Department has often promoted dialogue by sponsoring informal dialogue between American religious leaders and their Middle Eastern counterparts; Mahdavi-Nezhad’s castigation of American Islam as some sort of plot might signal that Iranian clerics participating in any future dialogue could face retribution at home.