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06/12/11

Iran: Anxiety Over Infiltration by "Strayers from the Path"

By Bahram Rafiei, Rooz Online

Ayatollah Alam al-Hoda
Alam al-Hoda’s Earlier Support has Turned Direction
As differences between Iran’s leader Ali Khamenei and president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad went public, past supporters of the government became the president’s critics who now warn of the influence of his aides among Revolutionary Guards and particularly the Basij para-military force.

One such former Ahmadinejad supporter is ayatollah Ahmad Alam al-Hoda, the Friday prayer of the city of Mashhad in the province of Khorasan. Recently, he acquired the title of being the supporter of the supreme leader by Basij religious students and clerics in Khorasan and has made cautionary statements to the Basij force. “We face a plot on a daily basis and today it comes from the deviants.” Deviants or strayers from the path are terms used by critics and opponents of Ahmadinejad for the president’s allies and aides who are accused of holding views that are different from those of the supreme leader ayatollah Khamenei and his staunch supporters.

“Till now, the Basijis have not allowed power-mongers to usurp the nation because they have followed the good leadership of the supreme leader. But the deviant group has come to the conclusion that the Basij should be separated from this leadership because if the Basij gains higher political ground it would prevent power-mongers from taking control of everything,” he said.

Al-Hoda is a member of the Assembly of Experts on leadership and recently even received a Basij membership card after being blessed by the force. His warnings and view on the current Iranian political situation are noteworthy because he enjoys a following and represents a view that exists among other clerics. “The upcoming Majlis election is another danger that has been set aside by the political groups.” His warnings call on the Basij members to be alert and vigilant about efforts to change the leadership of the force from Khamenei to others. In the past, al-Hoda criticized those who questioned Ahmadinejad’s messianic claims and prophecies. In the spring of 2008, he publicly supported Ahmadinejad’s claims that the Shiite twelfth imam was managing his administration and the remarks that he made about the role of this imam in running the world, saying, “If we deny Ahmadinejad’s words, then we are basically rejecting the concept of the missing imam.”


Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

In the past, Al-Hoda used to verbally attack the president’s critics who are commonly known as the principlists. “These people [critics of the president] are willing to discard their principles just to criticize the government,” he used to say.

But these supportive remarks changed tone and then direction as differences between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei became the number one issue in the political quarters of the country. Late last year he warned that he did not have to support the president “If power changes Mr. Ahmadinejad and he deviates from the language of religion.”

A similar change is also visible among the commanders of the Revolutionary Guards (the IRGC) and the Basijis. In one of its most recent statements, the Basij called on its rank and file to confront the “deviant force.”

Just last Monday, Mohammad-Reza Naghdi, the commander of the Basij said, “Anyone who knows us and is friends with us will heed to our warnings and counsel.” And without mentioning al-Hoda, he clearly followed the same line of thought when he said, “Basijis are aware of their responsibilities and they pursue the religious notion of advising and counseling of friends, families and mosque goers.”

Head of Iran's Basij Militia Mohammadreza Naghdi
Head of Iran's Basij Militia Mohammadreza Naghdi

On April 30 this year, ayatollah Khamenei’s representative in the Basij also spoke on the subject. Cleric Mohammad Kadkhodai warned that deviant groups were trying to infiltrate the Basij. He also cautioned about the attempts of hypocrite clerics to do the same. “Religious students in Basij must strive to prevent the influence of some clerics who have counter-revolutionary and hypocritical views,” he said. Hypocrites is a term the Iranian regime uses for the Mojahedin Khalq organization that has been in opposition to the regime since the early years of the 1979 revolution when they were physically forced out of their positions inside the regime, forcing them to go underground.

Prior to these remarks, Naghdi too had warned of what he called “plots” that were being hatched against the Basij force and called on the rank and file to be watchful. He said that the future opponents of the regime would have a religious cloak, implying that some religious people and elements would join the opposition and would try to take the Islamic regime in a direction different from that of the vision of ayatollah Khamenei. He said these opponents and infiltrators could come forward with the claim that they were reformers while in fact they opposed what he called the foundations of the revolution.

It should be noted that even prior to the public differences between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei, as demonstrations in Iran grew over the disputed 1979 presidential election, and the Revolutionary Guards along with the Basij embarked on a bloody crackdown of street protestors, the Basij and the IRGC began to lose membership. One response from the IRGC to this trend and loss in membership was the recent announcement by the commander of the force who announced that there were plans to replace the young composition of the force.

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