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Rouhani Maneuvers To Avoid Hardliners’ Blow After Controversial Remarks

Iranian President Hassan Rohani (C) sits next to Minister of Economy during a meeting with members of the ministry, in Tehran, January 8, 2018

Hardline clerics at the Qom Seminary have lashed out at Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani for allegedly saying in a January 8 address that Muslim saints can be criticized.

Rouhani has responded to the allegation, which could be perceived as an insult to Muslim saints, believed to be beyond criticism.

In his reply to clerics’ letter Rouhani said that his political rivals have distorted the remarks he had made in a meeting with the officials of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Finance.

Hardline clerics have further “strictly advised” Rouhani to avoid discussing ideological issues instead of trying to solve the nation’s financial problems.

The clerics’ letter quotes Rouhani as saying in remarks also available on his official website that followers of the prophet and the imams criticized them in some instances.

Rouhani’s office replied that he meant people could criticize Islamic government officials, and not the saints.

Tasnim news agency, on Sunday characterized Rouhani’s reply as a sort of backtracking from his position.

Releasing a video of Rouhani making the remarks, Tasnim insisted that a review of what Rouhani had said showed that clerics did not get it wrong.

Iranian officials routinely backtrack from their controversial positions when they face pressure or damning accusations by political rivals. President Rouhani is no exception.

Since the start of Rouhani’s second term as President, hardliners have redoubled their efforts to undermine his authority by questioning his expertise in Islamic ideology and his administration’s capability to solve the financial and economic problems Iranians face.

Meanwhile, hardline clerics know that questioning Rouhani’s Islamic ideological credentials would reduce his chance of taking over as Iran Supreme Leader once Ayatollah Khamenei is no longer around.