A recent letter from members of Iran's political leadership to Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has provoked an angry reaction on the part of certain Egyptian political quarters, including the Muslim Brotherhood group from which Morsi hails.
In a letter to Morsi endorsed by 17 Iranian experts and academics, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reportedly called on the Egyptian president to adopt Iran's 'Guardianship of the Jurist' political system.
The 'Guardianship of the Jurist' system is a Shia-Muslim political theory that holds that Islam gives an Islamic jurist custodianship over the people. Shia Iran adopted the system following its 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The letter, first published in London-based Arabic-language dailies and then cited by a state-run Egyptian newspaper, reportedly urges Morsi to "shrug off foreign pressures to disassociate religion from political, cultural and economic matters."
The letter has triggered an angry reaction in Egypt, with several political figures deeming it "interference in the state's internal affairs."
Ahmed Aref, spokesman for Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, slammed what he described as "Tehran's strategy of slandering and undermining Sunni Islam."
Essam El-Erian, prominent member of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, echoed these sentiments.
"Egypt will never be like Iran, Afghanistan or Pakistan," he said. "Egypt will forever remain free, coherent, independent and tolerant, with its venerable Sunni-Muslim Al-Azhar institution and its independent [Coptic-Orthodox] church."
Iranian representative in Egypt Magbaty Amany, however, stressed that such assertions were 'misleading'. According to Amany, the letter did not make any reference to Khamenei and was not even officially endorsed by Iran's supreme leader.
"The case is different between Egypt and Iran," Amany told Al-Ahram's Arabic-language news website. "Some groups aim to disrupt the restoration of ties between the two countries despite our attempts to establish a common base of mutual benefits."
Amany went on to say that the letter had aimed to present President Morsi with recommendations on how to set up an Islamic state on the Iranian model. He pointed out that Iran, under its current system of governance, had become a regional leader in terms of science, technology and economy.
Iranian political analyst Amir Mousouy also refuted claims that the letter promoted Iran's 'Guardianship of the Jurist' model. Mousouy contended that Iran's supreme leader was merely mentioned in the letter as an exemplar of support for the Palestinian national cause and resistance to "Zionist/US regional hegemony."
Former Egyptian ambassador to Iran Mahmoud Farag, however, asserts that the Iranian academics who endorsed the letter are all members of Iran's religious clique, which fully supports the country's supreme leader.