Ebrahim Moosa – Cii News and Agencies | 04 September 2011
New Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has been congratulated for acknowledging all four Khulafa in a speech delivered before his Iranian hosts at last week’s Non Aligned Movement(NAM) Summit in Tehran. Addressing leaders and representatives of 120 countries, Morsi began his presentation by sending peace and blessings on Prophet Mohammed(PBUH), his family and his companions, as well as on the Khalifs Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthmaan and Ali.
As Dina Ezzat notes in al Ahram, Morsi’s references to the ‘family of the Prophet Mohamed(PBUH)’ and the Khalif Ali RA may have been designed to send a positive message to his predominantly Shia hosts. However his unusual utilisation of the platform at an international summit to make reference to the Companions Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman before mentioning Ali would have clearly upset the Iranian leadership whose Shia doctrine abhors the first three Khulafa and sidelines their role in early Muslim history, even censoring their mention in school textbooks.
Morsi’s comments on Syria also ruffled some feathers amongst his audience. He berated the Assad regime and said it was not enough to show sympathy towards the Syrian people, but that the time had come to act upon this sympathy.”Our solidarity with the struggle of the Syrian people against an oppressive regime that has lost its legitimacy is an ethical duty, as it is a political and strategic necessity,” he said, implicitly chiding the Iranians who have been key supporters of the Syrian regime.
Those comments sparked a walkout of the Syrian delegation from the venue with the Foreign Minister Walid al Muallem even alleging that Morsi was “inciting continued bloodshed in Syria”.
Online forums were set ablaze with chatter regarding Morsi’s speech. According to the ‘Sons of Sunnah‘ blog there was not “a single Iranian Sunni forum, Facebook page or Iranian Sunni satellite channel (Wesal, Nour, Kalameh etc.) that missed to thank Morsi and repeat his speech.”
Iranian State Media however came in for criticism over their reporting of Morsi’s comments. Critics said a translator for the Iranian media distorted President Morsi’s speech to make it fit with the Islamic Republic’s official discourse.The official television network did not translate the Egyptian president’s statements critical of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and glossed over his mention of the Khulafa ar Rashidoon. Persian translations also allegedly deliberately falsified parts of Mursi’s speech. Mentions of “Syria” were replaced with “Bahrain” and the term “al-Sahwa al-Islamiya” (Islamic Awakening) was used in place of “Arab Spring.”
With Iranian hopes that the high-profile event would prove that attempts by the West to punish it for its nuclear programme had failed, it is now being asked whether the summit actually backfired on Iran. “For Iranian leaders the image of reality is much more important than the reality itself, and they think that they can create the perception of reality for everyone and escape from what reality entails… The Iranian government thinks [they] can manage public perception and opinion,” Mehdi Khalaji, a senior fellow, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy told Al Jazeera.Ebrahim Moosa, Egypt, Iran, Khulafa ar Rashidoon, Mursi, Sahaba, Shia