By Amir Taheri, Special to Gulf News
Did the "Hidden Imam" send a flash signal to Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad while he was addressing the United Nations last September? Is the new president assisted by an army of djins and angels?
These and similar questions are now all the rage in Tehran. Designed as part of a campaign of character assassination against Ahmadinejad, they do not come from secularists or atheists who do not believe in the "Hidden Imam" or dijns and angels.
Aimed at portraying the new president as a mentally imbalanced individual suffering from visions and hallucinations, the campaign replaces an earlier one in which Ahmadinejad was presented as a "terrorist and hostage-taker".
The main theme of the campaign is that Iran is now led by a man who believes in "fables like the Hidden Imam" and eschatological and millenarian "superstitions".
"We need a rational approach to politics," says Hashemi Rafsanjani, the businessman-mullah defeated by Ahmadinejad. The implication is that Ahmadinejad, who has asked his ministers to sign pledges to the "Hidden Imam", is acting irrationally.
"We must be guided by logic," adds former president Mohammad Khatami, another mullah and a protégé of Rafsanjani. Again, the implication is that Ahmadinejad is off his rockers.
The truth is that Rafsanjani, Khatami and other mullahs who want to destroy Ahmadinejad's presidency are being less than honest.
The Khomeinist theory of politics is clear: all power belongs to the Almighty and exercised, on His behalf on earth, by 124,000 prophets the last of whom was the Prophet of Islam (PBUH).
After the death of the Prophet, power devolved to 12 of his male descendants through his daughter Fatima.
To those who do not believe in the "Hidden Imam" and the theology it generates, all this may sound unreal. But the system has an internal logic, and is reasonable in its own terms.
The Ptolemaic cosmogony worked well for more than a thousand years not because it was correct in terms of physics.
In the Khomeinist system the most natural thing, for a decision-maker, is to consult the "Hidden Imam" rather than politicians.
Ahmadinejad is simply reasserting the inner logic and internal reasonableness of the system in place in Iran.
He says: in this system power belongs to the "Hidden Imam", and we, as the government, are accountable to him and not to the people.
The problem with mu llahs such as Rafsanjani and Khatami is that they want it both ways. They exploit the concept of the "Hidden Imam" as a tool to control the poor and illiterate masses while they themselves regard it as an old wives' tale.
In other words, Hyundai for Rafsanjani, Hegel for Khatami and "Hidden Imam" for poor sods in the slums.
The Hyundai and Hegel mullahs of Tehran are not the only clerics who believe religion is for the poor sods.
Europe is full of so-called Christian priests who publicly state that Christ is a metaphorical device.
A recent bishop of Liverpool, whose bedside reading is Das Kapital rather than the New Testament, says that he does not even believe in God.
Religion without God, Christianity without Christ, and duodeciman Shiaism without the "Hidden Imam" represent nothing but lifeless, synthetic and ultimately futile exercises.
Rather than mocking Ahmadinejad, mullahs such as Rafsanjani and Khatami should come to grips with their inner contradictions.
They have every right not to believe in the "Hidden Imam". In that case they should shed their clerical robes, and re-enter the field as secular politicians.
In other words they should adopt the slogan: democracy, not theocracy!
What they and other two-faced mullahs are not morally authorised to do is to play on two tables, one religious the other secular, at once. Such behaviour is best known as a double-cross. Ahmadinejad, in his gauche way, is trying to expose that.
Iranian author Amir Taheri was editor-in-chief of Kayhan, the most important newspaper during the reign of Shah Reza Pahlavi, and is a member of Benador Associates.