Iran’s first lady says her husband’s much advertised praying at the Kremlin during his meeting with the Russian president “revealed the meaning of spirituality”.
“The President’s conduct at Kremlin Palace revealed the meaning of spirituality. His prayer highlights his government’s spiritual dialogue,” Jamileh Alamolhoda told female seminary students at Al-Zahra University of the religious city of Qom. She added that the Iranian media should “properly elucidate such moves”.
Iranian media Wednesday published a photo showing President Ebrahim Raisi standing to prayer on his own in the Kremlin where he was meeting with the Russian President Vladimir Putin, apparently during their three-hour meeting.
The photo has been used extensively in what appears to be a publicity campaign for Raisi amid public criticism of his government’s efforts to expand relations with Russia and China. Among Iranians the names of both countries are associated with communism and atheism.
Critics who have been saying that the Islamic Republic is ready “to sell Iran” to Russia and China just to ensure its survival, attacked Raisi’s prayer as a political show, while he went to Moscow “to beg for help.”
A drawing by an Iranian cartoonist showing Raisi praying in the Kremlin.
Raisi on Thursday also met with head of the Council of Russian Muftis, Ravil Einoddin, officially representing Russia’s Muslims in Moscow. According to Iranian media, Einoddin referred to the picture showing Raisi praying at the Kremlin and hailed his prayer as “super symbolic and outstanding”.
According to the website of Iran’s President, Einoddin told Raisi that someone from Finland sent him a message about the picture showing Raisi’s prayer. “The Iranian president’s prayer ‘brought blessings to the Kremlin’,” the presidential website quoted Einoddin as saying.
The quotes from Einoddin have been widely circulated by Raisi supporters on social media, who called his act “a very important political and diplomatic message”. They have also mentioned the “first prayer” at the Kremlin by the former Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Qods Force commander Ghasem Soleimani during one of his visits to Moscow, which they say paved the way for Raisi’s feat.
Quoting several social media post exalting Raisi’s display of faith at the Kremlin, Iran’s state-run television IRIB in a report Thursday said Raisi’s religious gesture in the middle of his meeting with the Russian president has sparked “tens of political analyses”.
Yet others have mentioned a letter in 1989 that Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, sent to then-Soviet-leader Mikhail Gorbachev. In the letter he advised the Russian leader to study Islam and predicted the end of communism.
“None of the former Soviet leaders could imagine the representative of the most important religious ideology [in the world] would one day stand to prayer in the Kremlin Palace and to flaunt “political Islam” to the world,” Mehdi Andarziyan, an “America and Zionism researcher” according to his profile, tweeted.
Publisher Farhad Fallah shared a photo of Raisi’s prayer and an image in a Spanish language book that depicts Soleimani’s prayer at the Kremlin. “Soleimani’s prayer at the Kremlin is now a model for children in Latin America. These scenes may be ordinary to us but for others they are educational,” he wrote.
Another Raisi supporter said on Twitter that the publication of the photo by Iranian authorities bore the message that “the thinking once formed on the basis of atheism” has been defeated. “God willing, after the annihilation of liberalism, some day soon, we will hold Friday prayers at the White House,” he promised.
In a Telegram post Thursday, conservative journalist Mohammad Mohajeri said finding fault with performing religious duties is wrong, but the publication of the photo was “a sign of inexperience and maladroitness of the government media team and “very novice-like”.