Published: 13:00 GMT Standard Time - Wednesday 16 November 2011
Call for “Islamic power-bloc” by Iran’s supreme leader
Country/Region: Iran, Middle East and North Africa
Iran’s supreme leader has called on the world’s Muslim-majority nations to form an “international Islamic power-bloc”, laying down an ominous challenge to Western powers.
In a message to more than 2.5 million Hajj pilgrims in Saudi Arabia on 5 November, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said that Islamic countries should “make the most of [the] opportunity” created by the Arab Spring, as well as the anti-capitalist movement across the world.
He said that Islam has become the guiding principle of the Arab uprisings despite the efforts of secular rulers to curtail the influence of religion in their countries. And pointing to the victory of the Islamist Ennahda Party in Tunisia's recent elections, he predicted similar outcomes elsewhere: "Without doubt, free elections in any Islamic country will hardly result in anything except what happened in Tunisia."
Heralding a global power shift and issuing an ominous challenge to Western powers, the Ayatollah said that “the West, the United States and Zionism are weaker than ever before", adding:
During the last decades, arrogant powers, led by the United States, had reduced regional states to a state of subjugation through their political and security ploys… But now, they are the primary target of disgust and hatred of the region's nations.
He urged the entire umma (Islamic nation) and especially the revolutionary nations to "continuity of their stance and avoidance of slackness in their resolve" and "vigilance against the plots of arrogant international powers".
The Ayatollah’s comments will raise alarm among Christians in the Middle East and North Africa, who are often associated with the West and are already feeling vulnerable and insecure as a result of the Arab Spring, which has seen Islamist groups growing in power and influence. There has, for example, been an increase in anti-Christian attacks in Egypt since the revolution, and at least 100,000 Christians have emigrated from the country as a result of the aggressive tactics of hard-line Muslims.
The Ayatollah did advise the revolutionary nations to maintain "national unity and official recognition of sectarian, tribal and ethnic differences" as "a precondition for future success", but his own country, Iran, is hardly a model of this. Christians there face regular and severe harassment from the authorities, who are trying to clamp down on the growing house church movement of converts from Islam, as well as the traditional churches.
If the Arab Spring movement were to develop into an “Islamic power-bloc”, Christians would surely be in increasing danger across the region.