The true leader of Iran uses his religious authority to steer a nation’s course

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is not a very familiar name to most Americans. But it is well known to Iranians. Khamenei, the successor to Ayatollah Khomeini is the real power in Iran, merging both religious authority with secular authority by virtue of his role within an explicitly theocratic state.

NPR has a long article today about how Khamenei’s thinking is shaping the present course of the Iranian state. It summarizes his early influences, his rise to power, how he chooses to use his authority. A particularly interesting bit of the article talks about Khamenei’s unwillingness to allow western thinking and paradigms to be used to undergird programs in Iran. Instead he insists on using purely Islamic based ideas.

There’s a vignette included in the article that gives a sense of Khamenei’s thinking by describing a surprise meeting between him and Bishop John Chane (the Episcopal Bishop of Washington):

“Last year, Chane was attending a conference on religion and politics in Tehran. ‘Out of the blue, somebody came over and said, ‘You’re going to meet the supreme leader. Be out in the hallway in 10 minutes,” he recalls.

Chane and a handful of other Westerners went to meet the leader in a room across town.

‘It had a beautiful Iranian woven Oriental rug. There were chairs along the wall. … And he speaks very softly, so it’s not a matter of sitting around the table, you know, hammering out stuff. It was a very quiet conversation,’ Chane says.

In that quiet voice, Khamenei spoke of his country’s historic involvement with the West.

‘He said it had been hurtful,’ Chane says. ‘It had inhibited its ability to become an independent nation. … It was unwelcomed.'”

Read the full article here.

There’s an interesting related article on the San Francisco Chronicle website that describes how muslim investors have managed to avoid ruin in the financial markets these past few months by their adherence to Islamic investment principles rather than those of western financial institutions.

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