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Iran's Friday prayers speak of peace and power

Friday sermon in Tehran hails success of NAM summit, speaks of 'endless threats' from Israel and US and the need to defend peace through power

Dina Ezzat in Tehran, Friday 31 Aug 2012
Iran
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei leads Friday prayers, at the Tehran University campus, 19 June 2009 (Photo: AP)
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"Iran is a peace-loving country. In Tehran this week we hosted a summit for the Non-Aligned Movement that called for world peace. But world peace has to be based on equality not on hegemony - hegemony creates wars."
 
Those were the imam's words during Friday prayers at Tehran University this week, as Iran's government prepared to say farewell to delegates from around 120 countries attending a summit aimed at challenging Western attempts to isolate Iran.
 
Overlooking Enghelab (Revolution) Street, the University of Tehran is the resting place of some of those killed during the country's Islamic revolution and its years-long war with Iraq. It is also the venue of the week's major religious event: Friday prayers.
 
Thousands of Tehran residents congregated in the university courtyard earlier today to listen to the two sermons that bookended the prayers. As he spoke, the preacher's words were at time drowned out by the crowd's calls: "Death to America. Death to Israel. Death to whoever is against Iran".
 
The first sermon involved a recital of the history of the Prophet Mohamed and his family, focusing on Imam Ali, the prophet's cousin, whose life and death -- along with those of his two sons Hassan and Hussein -- inspires much of the Muslim Shia faith.
 
This week, with Tehran hosting the 16th Non-Aligned Movement Summit, the sermon highlighted the message of love, tolerance and peace which the preacher said the Prophet brought to the world, and the ideals for which Ali and his sons were sacrificed afterwards.
 
The second sermon, always politically oriented and sometimes presented by Iran's Supreme Guide himself, talked of the need for Iranian people to defend peace through power.
 
This week the imam spoke of the "endless threats" from Israel and the US towards Iran, and the role of the Iranian army in defending the country against any attacks. He mentioned, too, the efforts of the Iranian government to upgrade its missile defence systems to ward off any attack from outside powers aimed at interrupting the progress of Iran's nuclear programme.
 
The crowd repeated its chants against the US and Israel before the prayers began in earnest, the courtyard packed and divided into sections for women and men.
 
Friday prayers were not the only place where Iranian officials hailed the success of the NAM summit.
 
Iran's tightly-vetted newspapers, radio and television also boasted of the state's diplomatic achievement in holding a meeting attended by around two-thirds of UN member states.
 
On Thursday, the Supreme Guide of the Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, opened the gathering with a statement very similar to that made by Friday's preacher.
 
Iran is a peace-loving country, he said, but it would not allow any country to deny its legitimate right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful use.
 
The summit began as the Vienna-based International Agency for Atomic Energy (IAEA) was launching a new 'taskforce' to check on Iran's commitment to the peaceful use of nuclear technology.
 
Khamenei, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinijad, who also addressed the opening session, met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon this week. Ban also took part in the summit despite the protests of Israel and the US.
 
The UN chief told his Iranian interlocutors that Iran needs to do more to prove that its nuclear capacity is strictly for civilian use.
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