Iran is working hard to become the leader of the global jihad. By Ilan Greenberg in the International Herald Tribune, with thanks to Twostellas:
BAKU, Azerbaijan: An article denigrating Islam published early last month in an obscure newspaper here in the capital has led to emotional demonstrations across Azerbaijan and in Iran. A prominent Iranian cleric demanded the death of the two writers of the article, who have been imprisoned in Azerbaijan.
The article blamed Islam for Azerbaijan’s meager development and likened the Prophet Muhammad to a used handkerchief. The ensuing furor echoes the case of the Danish cartoons published in September 2005 that mocked Islam and that, months later, generated protests throughout the Muslim world.
Here, the thunderous rhetoric from village imams and other religious conservatives has sent tremors through the Azeri government and the secular elite of the nation.
“I am for freedom of speech but not the freedom to insult,” said Haji Ilgar, an imam at the Jama Old City Mosque in Baku who is often critical of the government of the secular president, Ilham Aliyev. “The only solution is to take this to the courts.”
Many Azeris see the roots of the trouble in what they consider Iran’s shadowy influence here. The two countries have had an often prickly relationship since Azerbaijan’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Iran is the regional power, and Azerbaijan is an up- and-coming oil state, tucked between Iran and Russia on the Caspian Sea.
Both Iran and Azerbaijan are Shiite, but Azeris fear that Iran wants to destabilize the country by spreading its brand of militant Islam across the border. Iran is struggling to deal with a large minority “” upwards of a third “” of Iran’s 66 million people who are ethnic Azeri, a beleaguered minority that frequently agitates for more rights and cultural autonomy. Iran does not want them to get any ideas from a secular and prospering Azerbaijan, in this view.