Sistani and some of the clergy even in Qom see their role differently – as spiritual guides only. Was Francis comfortable with Sistani on this score? The different situation at Tehran and Baghdad must have been part of the minutes prepared for Francis.
In 1979, the Shah was liberated and the Ayatullahs invaded Tehran. Ayatollah Khomeini, who was evacuated from Najaf to the suburb of Neauphle-le-Chateau on the outskirts of Paris, was flown to Tehran that year. Why does this complex trapeze work?
In the mid-70s, US communist parties were coming out of their ears in Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Chile, why, even in Afghanistan. Post-Shah vigor in Iran would cause Persian Communist parties, Tudeh and Mujahedin e khalq to the surface of the subsurface. The Ayatullahs, the mosques filled with their cadets, kicked the communists. The Ayatullahs would not be friends with the Americans appearing only when the siege of the U.S. embassy in Tehran lasted 444 days, a shame on a scale that the Americans had never seen.
1979 also marked the year in which Saddam Hussein established himself in Baghdad. Neither the Ayatullahs nor Saddam were friends of the U.S., but each could be lured to seek U.S. help against the other. This was in response to U.S. officials like Martin Indyk, a former ambassador to Israel, who designed a two-legged weapon – arming the two and making them fight. The monkey policy between two cats lasted eight long years.
In addition to the point for the Pope, the post-9/11 post-war effects on Iraq, Syria, Libya would lead to millions of people looking for places in Europe that, in this issue, fighting xenophobia at home, outrageous external unrest, leading to very alphabetical politics. Two of the world’s top religious leaders must have commented on this appalling movement. True, they are religious leaders who were not talking about politics, but ramping up politics of identity nothing but religious ideas.
Islamic terror, for example, has been cited as a reason for the rise of Islamophobia by politicians such as, say, Marine Le Pen in France. Examples like this can be found all over Europe and other parts of the world. What was wrong was a one-sided focus in the media on Islamic terror, inciting a Muslim feeling of helplessness and anger, as there was no room for his opinion.
Some of these Sistani must have spoken during their conversation. I hope he reminded the Pope that the first act of taking over forces was to destroy the National Museum, the vast repository of materials, books, scrolls representing one of the great river civilizations of the world.
Perhaps it is something of a hyperbole that his meeting with Sistani, full of peaceful intentions, put back the Jehad or the crusade launched in 1095 by one of the people who preceded by Pope Urban II.
The Pope in the eleventh century was fortified by Muslim ownership of the holy lands. Also, within a hundred years of the death of the Prophet Mohammad, Muslims had established their rule over Spain and beyond. The pace of Muslim spread remained unchanged. On the other hand, Pope Francis’ s visit gives a gentle touch to those who have been beaten and kidnapped, after crouching on the side of the wheel of the civilized giant for too long, a cry long from the days of Pope Urban.
(The writer is a former journalist and reporter. Comments are personal)