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IRAN: Ahmadinejad aide provokes clergy with fresh set of provocative remarks

December 10, 2010 |  7:18 am

Iran-mashaeiPresident Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's closest aide and confidante is back it again

Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, the president's chief of staff, is stirring up trouble by challenging the clergy's attitudes toward art and music in unusually harsh and abrasive terms. 

“Some do not feel and understand music, so they declare it haram," or sinful under Islam, the Persian-language Atynews reported him as saying this week.

Mashaei was speaking  to a group of artists at the Four Seasons Museum in the central city of Arak.

He told those assembled that he knew the clergy might accuse him of heresy for his remarks, but he didn't care.

"Some pray so much that they forgot God," he was quoted as saying. "They are submerged in mysticism at the end of which there is no God, but delusion. Then they claim that they have seen the light."

No one's quite sure why Ahmadinejad's camp would want to provoke a fight with the clergy at so sensitive a time. Some analysts have speculated that Ahmadinejad is positioning Mashaei as his successor in the 2013 presidential elections and wants to appeal to the middle class that is alienated from the political system following the violent crackdown against his opponents last year. 

“If we take music out of a movie, there will be no more fun and joy in watching it," he said in comments that appeared aimed at wooing an intelligentsia that despises Ahmadinejad as a boor.  "The taste of the society has changed, thus people prefer foreign brands, just because the cultural need of the people has been neglected."

He added: “If you don’t read Hafiz and Saadi," the beloved the Persian poets of yore, "you will not experience love in your soul."

If a society doesn't value art and music, "then the society will be isolated and depressed. Poetry is the zenith, and as an engineer I admit that engineering is the floor, of the sea of art."

-- Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran

Photo: Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei in a 2008 photo. Credit: European Pressphoto Agency