Iran president had 'religious vision' during UN speech
Financial Times, November 28, 2005
By Gareth Smyth and Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran
A leading website in Iran (http://www.baztab.com) has published a transcript and video recording of President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad claiming to have felt "a light" while addressing world leaders at the United Nations in New York in September. Baztab.com a website linked to Mohsen Rezaei, former commander of the Revolutionary Guards said the recording was made in a meeting between the president and Ayatollah Abdollah Javadi-Amoli, one of Iran's leading Shia Muslim clerics.
According to the transcript, Mr Ahmadi-Nejad said someone present at the UN, possibly from his entourage, subsequently told him: "When you began with the words 'In the name of God'… I saw a light coming, surrounding you and protecting you to the end [of the speech]." Mr Ahmadi-Nejad said he sensed a similar presence.
"I felt it myself, too, that suddenly the atmosphere changed and for 27-28 minutes the leaders could not blink," the transcript continues. "I am not exaggerating…because I was looking. All the leaders were puzzled, as if a hand held them and made them sit. They had their eyes and ears open for the message from the Islamic Republic."
Baztab.com quoted little of Ayatollah Javadi-Amoli's reaction to Mr Ahmadi-Nejad's claims, other than his call for officials "to carry out promises and refuse to fool people".
Some clerics are already uneasy at Mr Ahmadi-Nejad's religious beliefs, especially his emphasis on the "missing imam" the Shia leader who entered occultation in 941 and whom Shia believe will return to rule before Judgment Day.
Mr Ahmadi-Nejad referred to the imam during his UN speech and his cabinet has allocated $17m for renovating Jamkaran mosque near the holy city of Qom, which pilgrims believe the imam visits on Tuesdays.
After watching the video on Baztab.com, Akbar Alami, a parliamentary deputy, told the semi-official news agency ILNA he hoped that it was not being distributed by people "close to the president" to make criticism of him "taboo among ordinary people".
The Farda.com website, which is close to Ahmad Tavakoli, a leading fundamentalist deputy, took the opposite view. Noting the availability of DVDs of the meeting, it warned that Mr Ahmadi-Nejad's opponents were behind distribution as "a pretext to insult him".
Mr Alami highlighted the acute sensitivity of the issue by referring to Ali Mohammad Shirazi, a 19th-century Iranian scholar executed by firing squad after first claiming to be the "bab" (gate) to the missing imam and then to be the imam himself.
"The president should not be affected by fake inducement, machinations and praise by people around him," he said. "From time to time, he might be told some nonsense as in New York."