The Gospel According to Ahmadinejad
The French paper Le Monde has just published the text of the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's letter to President Bush. Ahmadjinejad's missive skirts the central issue of the Iranian nuclear program and has been met with disdain by both the administration and the mullahs in Tehran.
But in repeatedly calling upon the President to heed the teachings of Jesus, the letter reveals how completely Ahmadinejad misunderstands George W. Bush and his core supporters. As I've written before, the President's evangelical supporters are not so much concerned with bringing the word of Christ to the Middle East as much as they are focused on fulfilling biblical prophecy about the End of Times.
Ahmadinejad's odd and rambling screed does little to unwind the tension between Washington and Tehran. The letter does, however, repeatedly try to emphasize the role of Jesus in the faith traditions of both countries:
"We also believe that Jesus Christ (PBUH) was one of the great prophets of the Almighty. He has been repeatedly praised in the Koran. Jesus (PBUH) has been quoted in Koran as well; [19,36] And surely Allah is my Lord and your Lord, therefore serves Him."
The Iranian president then tries to hold Bush's feet to the fire (so to speak), claiming inconsistencies between Bush's Christian creed and American actions on the ground. "Can one be a follower of Jesus Christ (PBUH), the great Messenger of God," Ahmadinejad asks, and "make 'War on Terror' his slogan?" On American support for Israel, he questions the President, "Is support for this regime in line with the teachings of Jesus Christ (PBUH) or Moses (PBUH) or liberal values?" Regarding Bush's foreign policy, the Iranian president ponders:
"How can theses actions be reconciled with the values outlined at the beginning of this letter and duty to the tradition of Jesus Christ, the Messenger of peace and forgiveness?...Do such actions correspond to the teachings of Christ and the tenets of human rights?"
Perhaps sensing the two nations teetering on the precipice of war, Ahmadinejad asks President Bush how they will be judged in these and the End of Times:
"If prophet Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Ishmael, Joseph or Jesus Christ were with us today, how would they have judged such behaviour? Will we be given a role to play in the promised world, where justice will become universal and Jesus Christ will be present? Will they even accept us?"
Finally, in discussing the "promised world", Ahmadinejad is using language President Bush and his followers can understand. But given the analogous views regarding religious prophecy, second comings and the end of times, such talk is hardly reassuring. As I concluded last week:
While some wait for the arrival of the biblically mandated bovine, the apocalyptic theocracies of Washington and Tehran seem on a collision course. As President Bush's supporters view themselves as "Israel's only safety belt," Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calls for Israel to be "wiped off the map." While the mullahs in Tehran look to the return of the Twelfth Imam to deliver them from evil, President Bush's allies await the Second Coming of Christ to usher in a millennium of peace. With their research institutes and breeding programs, the devout on both sides seek to accelerate the End of Times. And as their positions over the Iranian nuclear program harden, Presidents Bush and Ahmadinejad have more in common than they know.
For more background on eerie similarities between the fundamentalist followers of presidents Bush and Ahmadinejad, see "Iran, Bush and the Second Coming."