Ahmadinejad defends his embattled chief of staff: Reports
Tehran: Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
has backed his chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, who
has come under fire from conservative clerics for remarks
about Islam, media reported on Thursday.
"Mashaie is my chief of staff and I have every confidence
in him. He is a believer, who is faithful to the principles of
the Islamic republic," Ahmadinejad said.
A close relative of the president, Mashaie caused a stir
earlier this month when he told a conference for Iranians
living abroad that there was an "Iranian school" of Islam,
distinct from other schools, which Iranians should "present
to the world" to show the "real nature" of Islam.
His comments provoked a backlash from conservative
politicians and clerics, who accused him of making "pagan"
remarks about religion.
On Monday, Mashaie caused further unease when he told
journalists that "if we want to present the reality of Islam
to the world we should fly the Iranian flag," because "the
Islam of the Iranians is different and enlightening, and
will shape the future."
Hardline cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi condemned
Mashaie's remarks the next day, saying that "those who have
shamefully presented the school of Iran in place of Islam do
not belong to our camp."
And Iran's top general, Hassan Firouzabadi, said
Mashaie's comments were "a crime against national security."