President Hassan Rouhani has turned his ‘iftar’ (Ramadan daily fast breaking) banquettes into a regular stage for responding to his opponents and critics.
On Thursday’s iftar ceremony, Rouhani was hosting a group of journalists. Although his speech at the feast was directly addressed to the guests; but it was targeting his adversaries as well, including the conservative media and allies of the Supreme Leader, ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“It is true that criticism is necessary, as salt is necessary for making food but the whole food must not be made with salt…we must tell the people the truth,” Rouhani said.
Claiming that his government has been the target of unprecedented attacks in Iran’s post-revolution history, the president lambasted those who believe being offensive in public discourse is equivalent to being revolutionary. Rouhani asked his opponents and their media to change their tone:
“Why don’t we modify our tone? Why are we unaware of the [proper] ways of talking to the government, the region or the world?”
Rouhani, who is considered a moderate politician, warned, “We are not going to achieve anything through harsh and bitter words. There’s no way other than moderation.”
Consolidating his argument with an Islamic aphorism, he quoted Shi’ite’s first Imam, Ali ibn Abi Talib, as saying, “I do not want companions who insult their enemies.”
Without elaboration or mentioning any names, Rouhani asked, “How could some of us, who call ourselves Ali’s Shi’ites (followers), believe that insulting is a source of pride and being offensive means being revolutionary?”
Using insult as a weapon to scare enemies has always been a popular tool for the leaders of the Islamic Republic.
The founder of the Islamic Republic, ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini was notorious for using undiplomatic terms and making nasty comments. His descriptions for the U.S. included expressions such as “world devouring”, “blood thirsty” and “the Great Satan”.
For him, all Arab leaders were undeserving of the title. He indiscriminately labelled them as “reactionary”, “vagabond” or “America’s servants”.
His successor, ayatollah Khamenei followed suit. In a recent comment on My 27, he called Saudi Arabia’s leaders as “stupid”.
The notorious "Death to America" oft repeated slogan is one of the most controversial manifestations of the offensive language hardliners use in Iran. Many ordinary citizens often criticize this slogan as the symbol of policies keeping the country isolated and economically behind some of its neighbors.
President Rouhani also criticized the role of the media in Iran: “The media is not news creator but truth communicator and this is a heavy responsibility”.
Referring to the media’s key role during the elections and encouraging the people to attend the elections, he added: “The election days are very important for the country and the people decided for their future in those days”.
Rouhani claimed that the high turnout had deterred the U.S. and Iran’s adversaries in the region to plot against the Islamic Republic.
Since his re-election, Rouhani often praises the elections as a way of boosting the mandate he has received. At the same time, while contradicting the Supreme Leader at every opportunity, he continues to use some of the regime’s cliché slogans to perhaps shield himself from any accusations of disloyalty.