//CGCS Media Wire brings you an in depth look at the internal reactions to the controversial YouTube video.
In the West, the discussions surrounding the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims has in part centered on the limits of freedom of speech. In the Islamic Republic of Iran the response has been much different given the religious proclivities of the regime and its public discourse. The sanctity of religious figures in Iran has meant that voices from across the political spectrum and even within civil society have broadly spoken out against the film, which has been subtitled in Farsi on YouTube. The debate inside Iran has in part centered on the culpability of Western governments in perceived outrages toward Muslims, with nearly all prominent voices placing varying degrees of the blame on the West.
Senior political figures speak out
Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei kicked things off last week by condemning the “enemies of Islam” for taking “insane and disgusting action” (referring to the film), saying that “…behind this evil movement are the hostile policies of Zionism, America, and other leaders of the Global Arrogance.” Khamenei portrayed the anti-Islam film as part of a longer “chain” of events perpetrated by the West, which includes Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses and the Danish cartoons among others. This anti-Islam “chain” narrative was subsequently picked up by others and has been widely echoed in the official Iranian media.
Interestingly, in his speech last week Khamenei toned down his usually uncompromising condemnation of the United States by acknowledging the possibility that the anti-Islam film was not a deliberate provocation:
“If American politicians are honest about not being involved in this field [the anti-Islam film], then those who committed this evil crime and their financial backers who saddened the hearts of Muslims should be prosecuted in accordance with the severity of their crime.”
He softened his tone even further at a speech at the Imam Khomeini Naval University, where he acknowledged that the negative perception of the West in many Muslim countries may have led Muslims to prejudge American involvement in creating the film:
“…we are not insisting on proving their involvement in this crime, but the methods of American politicians and some Europeans has made them guilty in the public opinion of nations. They must extract themselves from this great crime not with words but rather with deeds.”
One of the unofficial leaders of the opposition within the Islamic Republic’s political establishment, Reformist ex-president Mohammad Khatami, also condemned the film, linking it to a dangerous pattern:
“This ugly action, whose destructive consequences we are witnessing today, comes from a lack of maturity and fanaticism and easily becomes a tool in the hands of warmongers, forces, and powers who see their illegitimate interests in spreading hate between nations and religions of God.”