[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/meast/06/24/iran.tolerance/art.ayatollah.afp.gi.jpg caption="Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei."]
Middle East Affairs Editor
“Annihilate the rioters,” demanded one of Iran’s fundamentalist clerics during Friday prayer. He believes that the opposition “defied the orders” of Iran’s Supreme Leader, who “rules by God’s design.” Therefore, “they should be punished mercilessly." Either way, his words couldn’t be harsher or more extreme. Some would say those words couldn’t be more un-Islamic.
The word Islam means “surrender.” The entire religion is based on surrendering one’s self, speech, action and thoughts to god. When moderate Muslims hear what this Mullah has called for, they wonder which brand of Islam he is advocating.
The first pillar in Islamic faith is the declaration called “Shahda” that there is no god but Allah and that Mohammed is his prophet.
The first verse of every chapter in the holy Muslim book, the Quran, goes like this, “In the name of God, most merciful, most compassionate.” Devout Muslims start many of their activities or speech with these glorious words.
Where is the compassion in the Iranian mullah’s speech? Where is the Mercy?
He’s directing his wrath at his own people; their only crime was to ask for an honest vote and to insist that their votes counted in a timely presidential election. They are the ones who shouted from their rooftops every night since their demonstrations began, “Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar” –God is Great. They are the ones who were denied their legal right to demonstrate so they had to defy the regime and take to the streets anyway.
They are the Iranian opposition movement, young people, mostly students, many women who were kicked and beaten in the streets; they were shot at, detained and even killed. They were called traitors and terrorists. Despite all that, they kept going out for more show offs with Iranian police and a brutal volunteer militia known as the Basij.
The Iranian regime imposed a crackdown on foreign media which made the story impossible to cover freely. The world ended up with two views of on what’s going on: The government perspective came through the state media, radio, TV, newspapers and websites. The opposition turned itself into a media outlet where everyone with a cell phone became a correspondent. They uploaded their images to video-sharing websites and interacted with the world through social media. They provided raw, unedited picture to the entire world.
Now one cleric vowing to “teach them a lesson” is a sign of more brutality and more bloodshed to come. The only difference is that when it happens, if it happens, it will be behind closed doors. We can’t count on Iranians who turned their cell phones into newsgathering machines and became the story and journalists telling it at the same time.
What tomorrow will bring them is a mystery that no one is there to witness or report on.
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