In a rare effort to reach out to the West, Iran’s supreme leader released a letter to youngsters in the United States and Europe imploring them to learn about Islam from original sources and not, as he said in a later posting on Twitter, have it “introduced to you by prejudices.”
The Iranian leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, says in the tweet and in the letter, published on his website, that he does not “insist that you accept my or any particular reading of Islam,” but wants to address young people after the attacks in Paris by militants who said they acted in the name of Islam.
“The recent events in France and similar ones in some other Western countries have convinced me to directly talk to you about them,” Mr. Khamenei writes in the letter. The letter was promoted on Twitter, which is blocked in Iran, under the hashtag #Letter4U.
In the letter Mr. Khamenei is clearly concerned about how the attacks might have been used by some in the West to tarnish the image of Islam. That is part of a process that he says started after the disintegration of the Soviet Union and is part of a greater conspiracy to sow discord. “This is a preplanned challenge between Islam and you,” he writes, a 20-year-long effort “to place this great religion in the seat of a horrifying enemy.”
Iran has a long history of political Islam, but the Shiite country is increasingly finding itself at odds with the Sunni militants of the Islamic State. Mr. Khamenei holds the West, and the United States in particular, accountable for the creation of the Islamic State group, and has often accused the Western news media of trying to fan the flames of conflict between Shiites and Sunnis.
He says the West has begun to see the error of its ways but is late in the game. “The histories of the United States and Europe are ashamed of slavery, embarrassed by the colonial period and chagrined at the oppression of people of color and non-Christians,” he writes. “Your researchers and historians are deeply ashamed of the bloodsheds wrought in the name of religion between the Catholics and Protestants or in the name of nationality and ethnicity during the First and Second World Wars.”