A lengthy and thorough profile of Iran and its leader. Excellent stuff.
Ahmadinejad is a Twelver Shiite and a fervent Mahdist, which means that, in the modern Iranian context, he is the equivalent of a born-again Christian. In the Shia tradition, the Twelfth Imam, or the Mahdi, disappeared in the ninth century, hidden by God. His return, together with that of Jesus Christ, will herald an earthly paradise. (In Islam, Christ is regarded as an early prophet.) This explains Ahmadinejad’s evangelizing allusions to the “promised one” when he has addressed the U.N. General Assembly. His public zeal has earned him criticism from Iranians at home, including senior clerics, one of whom scolded him for appearing to claim a special link to the hidden Imam. At the breakfast I attended, Ahmadinejad referred to the Mahdi as “the perfect man.”
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