Waiting for the Rapture in Iran

A lot of ink has been spilled covering Iranian President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad’s call for Israel to be ‘wiped off the map’ and his
balking at EU and US demands for the country to stay its nuclear
program. But there’s been little focus on the reasoning that fuels
his blustering and the domestic support it has earned him. One
common explanation for the president’s popularity is his commitment
to the poor. Another is that his anti-western rhetoric has struck a
chord with the Iranian people.
Scott
Peterson of The Christian Science Monitor
has another
take. He says that every issue Ahmadinejad has taken up ‘is
designed to lay the foundation for the Mahdi’s return.’

The Mahdi is the Islamic messiah prophesized to bring about the
final battle between good and evil. The idea of the imminent
rapture is taking hold in the political atmosphere fostered by
Ahmadinejad. A group calling itself the Bright Future News Agency
has set up a website to broadcast messianic news. There is even a
hotline for people to call in and ask questions about the
end-of-days.

Ahmadinejad seems to be tapping into this religious climate.
It’s estimated that ‘focus on the Mahdi’s imminent return appeals
to 20 percent of Iranians,’ and the president is using his position
to advance the religious cause. His cabinet has reportedly directed
$17 million of the Iranian budget to the Jamkaran mosque in Qom,
‘where the link between devotees and the Mahdi is closest,’
Peterson
writes in a second piece
on Iran’s rapture fervor.

To many Americans, the idea of a president appealing to a
religious base for political gains hits close to home. Evangelical
Christians remain one of President Bush’s most influential power
bases after seeing him through two elections. The issues of
abortion, same-sex marriage, and so-called ‘intelligent design’ can
all be linked to a belief system deeply rooted in religious
fundamentalism. Some have even suggested that the Bush
administration’s policies on Israel and the environment give succor
to those that want the arrival of the end-times hastened.

In spite of obvious differences, the parallel between Bush and
Ahmadinejad is powerful. They are both deeply religious leaders who
make no secret of their devotion. Amir Mohebian, the political
editor of the Iranian newspaper Resalat, quipped, ‘Bush
said: ‘God said to me, attack Afghanistan and attack Iraq.’ The
mentality of Mr. Bush and Mr. Ahmadinejad is the same here — both
think God tells them what to do.’
Bennett Gordon

Go there >>
Waiting
for the Rapture in Iran

Go there too >>
True
Believers Dial Messiah Hotline in Iran

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