Originally published in the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center’s bulletin, number 153, Februari 5, 2012.
An international conference titled Islamic Awakening and Youths convened in Tehran last week. The two-day conference was attended by over 1,200 participants from 73 countries, including Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Lebanon, Yemen, Bahrain, and the Palestinian Authority. The conference is yet another example of Tehran’s efforts to take advantage of the developments in the Arab world to reinforce its status in the region.
In a speech given to the conference goers, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei defined the uprisings in the Arab world as a prelude to the uprising against “the Zionist network of global tyranny”. He said that, throughout its history, mankind has been through all materialist schools of thought and ideologies, including Marxism, liberal democracy, and secular nationalism. It is now at the threshold of a new era whose major characteristic is that the nations are turning to God. The current century, according to Khamenei, is the century of Islam.
For hundreds of years, he said, enemies of the Islamic commonwealth have attempted to envelop the Muslim nations in a sense of helplessness and inability to defeat the great powers. Now, the Islamic commonwealth has woken up to realize that the Muslim nations can rekindle the power of Islamic civilization.
He noted that the Zionists, the United States, and Western powers feel helpless over the Islamic awakening, and that the feeling is likely to grow from day to day. He warned about the conspiracies and plans of the Muslims’ enemies, aimed to compensate them for the blows they suffered as a result of the uprisings in the Arab world. He called on Muslim youth to remain vigilant and not allow Western powers to take the revolutions they’ve brought away from them.
According to Khamenei, the West is trying to stir up discord among Muslim nations, but the Islamic awakening movement makes no distinction between Shi’ites and Sunnis, and all schools of thought are united on the battlefield. Despite their geographic, historic, and social differences, Muslim nations are united in their struggle against the diabolical control of the Zionists and the Americans, and will not accept the existence of the “Israeli cancerous tumor” (Fars, January 30).
In the inauguration speech, President Ahmadinejad focused once again on attacking Israel and the “Western hegemony”. He claimed that the establishment of the “Zionist regime” in the midst of the Middle East was a Western conspiracy designed to entrench Western control of the region. All problems facing the region’s nation have their source in the Zionist regime and the Western hegemony, and it is because of them that the Arab world has been ruled by dictatorships. They were the ones who supported the dictators, held secret and private meetings with them, and armed them.
Ahmadinejad said that democracy, freedom, and justice will not be established through American and European weapons. There is no justice and no democracy in the United States and Europe, and the only two parties in the United States are puppets ruled by Zionists.
He warned the region’s countries against trusting the West, which aspires to foment division and religious and ethnic conflicts in the region to rescue the “Zionist regime”. Western humanism, liberalism, and capitalism are on the verge of collapse, the president said, and the only worthwhile substitute is the establishment of an Islamic order in accordance with religious faith (Fars, January 29).
In his speech, Ali-Akbar Velayati, the Supreme Leader’s advisor on international affairs, also articulated the view held by regime leaders, according to which the developments in the Arab world are an expression of the decline of the West and the rise of Islam. The Islamic awakening is the Muslims’ answer to hundreds of years of Western colonialism, Velayati said. It is not a recent phenomenon but rather a movement that began 150 years ago thanks to Muslim thinkers and activists, and has now entered a new phase due to the developments in the Arab world, which have their roots in Islamic identity.
In their uprising, the Muslim nations have expressed their presence on the world political scene and called for the elimination of foreign intervention, the revival of their Islamic identity, the solution of their social and economic problems, and the return of the rights of the Muslim nations, particularly the Palestinian people (Mehr, January 29).
An editorial published by the conservative daily Jam-e Jam following the Islamic Awakening and Youths Conference, titled “Tehran, capital of Islamic awakening”, said that Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic revolution, was missed at the conference, which has its roots in the Islamic revolution 34 years ago. The youth conference in Tehran reflects a commitment to a different future for the Islamic world, where young Muslim people acknowledge unity as the most important foundation of the new Islamic culture (Jam-e Jam, January 31).