Last night on Glenn Beck’s show, the leader of the American conservative movement undertook to explain to his viewers some of the details and nuances of Iranian Shi’ite Islam, particularly its “Twelver” sect.
Beck’s helper in this task was Joel Rosenberg, a former research assistant to Rush Limbaugh and political adviser to Israeli Likud politicians Binyamin Netanyahu and Natan Sharansky who has written a number of books claiming to show that we are currently living in the End Times. While it’s clear that Rosenberg has spent a lot of time counting words in the Bible, it’s also clear that he’s spent a vanishingly small amount of time studying Twelver Islam:
BECK: So the Ayatollah Khomeini and the revolution of ’79, he said these Twelvers are too crazy for even him. What happened, because is Ahmadinejad the only one? Are there a lot of them? It’s my understanding that the government now is full of these people. Is that true?
ROSENBERG: That’s right. Well, the Ayatollah Khamenei, the current supreme leader was a disciple of the Ayatollah Khomeini and he has been a secret closet Twelver, because he clearly believes the same thing as Ahmadinejad.
Ayatollah Khamenei — “a secret Twelver?” Twelvers “too crazy” for Khomeini? Here’s a news flash for Beck and Rosenberg: Almost all of the clerics in Iran are Twelvers. They are the largest sect of Shi’ism. The idea that Khamenei concealed his Twelverism from Khomeini is complete nonsense — because, like eighty percent of Shi’i Muslims, Khomeini was a Twelver. You know who else is a Twelver? Iraq’s Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani! Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki? Twelver. Maliki’s Da’wa Party? Full of Twelvers. In fact, my friends, there are Twelvers right here in America. I sat next to one on a plane to Seattle a few months ago! I even talked to him! I kid you not!
Of course, the vast majority of Twelvers, like the vast majority of Christians, while they may believe in the Apocalypse, do not believe that it is their duty to trigger it. It’s true that many Iranian leaders, including President Ahmadinejad, believe in the return of the Hidden Imam and the Last Days (many American leaders believe similar things about Jesus Christ.) It’s also true that Ahmadinejad, a pious conservative Muslim, lards his speeches with references to the return of the Hidden Imam, so much so that he was chastised last year by several Iranian scholars, who told him he “would be better off concentrating on Iran’s social problems…than indulging in such mystical rhetoric.” There is no evidence, however, that Iranian policy is guided by a strategy to hasten the Imam’s return.
As for Khamenei’s own beliefs about the End Times, according to Mehdi Khalaji, an Iran analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who spent more than a decade studying Shia theology in the Iranian seminary city of Qom, Ayatollah Khamenei — who, not Ahmadinejad, actually has the final say over Iranian government — is much more concerned with the here and now:
Not one of [Khamenei's] speeches refers to any apocalyptic sign or reveals any special eagerness for the return of the Hidden Imam. As the theory of the guardianship of the jurist requires, the most significant task of the Supreme Leader is to safeguard the regime, even by overruling Islamic law. Therefore, it seems like Khamenei, unlike the Iranian president, does not welcome and military confrontation with the West, the United States, or Israel.
In other words, Rosenberg, who was brought on help Beck and his viewers know what they are talking about, doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Rosenberg pretty clearly does seem to know, however, that Beck is walking the far side of loopy, but he’s also more than happy to help Glenn Beck scare the crap out of the already-frightened sheep who watch Glenn Beck.
Full transcript below.
GLENN BECK: Ok. I want to talk to you about something that nobody seems to ever notice when they talk about Iran. When we’re talking about Iran, we’re talking about people, the leaders that are called Twelvers. They believe in the 12 Imams. This is one spooky dude. Twelvers are so dangerous that the Ayatollah Khomeini killed them at one point because he said they’re crazy. Everyone talked about how Iran launched its most advanced missiles this week, but here is what you should pay attention to. Iran’s president Ahmadinejad, he says this at the end of all major speeches including last Wednesday at the U.N.
He said this:
AHMADINEJAD: The lord of the universe and peace and blessings upon our masters and Prophet Mohammed and his noble companions, hasten the arrival of him and give him good health and victory and make us his followers and those who attest to his rightfulness.”
BECK: Ok, hasten the return of the 12th Imam. That’s not a good idea. Joel, it’s not a good idea to hasten the return of the promised one, because the promised one only comes after the world is washed in blood, right?
JOEL ROSENBERG: that’s right. As I describe in the documentary film, and in the book “Inside the Revolution,” this is a serious theological argument made by Shiite Muslims, not all of them, but certainly Ahmadinejad, that you need to bring chaos, carnage and even genocide into which the Islamic messiah comes and establishes justice and peace.
BECK: so if I can explain this, and correct me if I’m wrong. If you’re a Christian, you know the tribulation will be beyond belief for a long time and then Jesus comes, it would be like a Christian saying, hey, let’s make it suck really hard right now, because then Jesus will come. Not a good idea, but that’s what Ahmadinejad believes. Hasten the return. Let’s just make it as bloody as we can. so when he says, oh, Israel, you’re going to be vaporized, he believes that he is going to be fulfilling prophecy and it’s going to be good for the Islamic world if he does that, right?
ROSENBERG: that’s right. Ahmadinejad’s twisted world, he believes that he is essentially john the Baptist for the coming of the messiah, but you’re right. In this case, to bring the messiah requires launching genocidal wars against the Judeo-Christian world and destroy the Judeo-Christian world and this is why he is using the word “annihilate,” to annihilate the United States and Israel.
BECK: the Twelvers believe and you hear this all the time, that the United States is the anti-Christ, and the little anti-Christ is Israel. That’s because we believe the anti-Christ is a person. They believe the anti-Christ is a force, right?
ROSENBERG: Many Muslims do. There is some division on that.
BECK: I’m talking about the Twelvers, specifically about the Twelvers.
ROSENBERG: the great Satan, yes.
BECK: so the Mahdi, when he comes crawling out of the well, he is supposed to create a global government and persecute the Christians and has them submit or cuts their heads off, right?
BECK: that sounds like fun.
ROSENBERG: in fact, what is more, the Islamic messiah is supposed to come with Jesus. Jesus is the deputy, the lieutenant and forces people to convert or die.
BECK: oh, yeah. He will testify to the Mahdi and say by the way, you guys misunderstood. I’m not the son of god. This is the man right here, correct?
BECK: all right. They seem to me to be a lot likened-times pro prophecy, rumors of war, signs of natural wonders, et cetera, et cetera, and it seems like the same thing that plays out in the book of revelations. Are they connected at all, at least in the minds of the 12ers?
ROSENBERG: it’s a mirror image. there is a lot of similarities, to be sure, but, of course, the difference is that Jesus said in Matthew chapter 24 verse 14, that this good news, that god loves you and will accept you and forgive you and save you, this good news must be preached to the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end shall come, so followers of Jesus Christ think they’re supposed to bring good news an peace and the messages of salvation through the cross before Jesus comes, but the Twelvers believe you bring death, destruction and horror and then the end shall come.
BECK: so the Ayatollah Khomeini and the revolution of ’79, he said these Twelvers are too crazy for even him. What happened, because is Ahmadinejad the only one? Are there a lot of them? It’s my understanding that the government now is full of these people. Is that true?
ROSENBERG: that’s right. Well, the ayatollah Khomeini, the current supreme leader was a disciple of the ayatollah Khomeini and he has been a secret closet Twelvers, because he clearly believes the same thing as Ahmadinejad. Why do we know this? There has been a lot of statements by Khomeini, but the key is how many could have gotten rid of Ahmadinejad if we wanted to? He has pulled back on several key issues over the years, but on this issue, end-times theology, they have given him free rein and now a new term.
BECK: I want to make this clear. I’m not saying these things are true. I am saying our government only seems to take the violence from the crazy Christian and people at tea parties, they take that deadly serious, but they don’t think that people like Ahmadinejad believe in this stuff. it’s important if you’re even going to negotiate to say maybe they are bluffing and maybe they aren’t, but it is important that you understand this, and I don’t think bush understand it, and I don’t think Barack Obama understands it, agree or disagree?
ROSENBERG: I agree with that, and that’s the problem is that Ahmadinejad in that U.N. speech last week was more explicit about his end-times theology than any other time in the last five years that he has been giving these speeches.
BECK: what did he say?
ROSENBERG: he actually gave several paragraphs of describing something called eschatology of having the patience to wait for the coming of the messiah, and he went on at length on this, and moreover on an NBC news interview on Sunday Ann curry did, it was broadcast on an alternate network, but she actually asked Ahmadinejad about this, and he said that he is in direct communications with this Islamic messiah. that’s the first time that I have heard in these last five years him go on the record in this case with an American reporter, though NBC did not actually report the story, but they did broadcast it, but to say that he is in direct communication with this mystical Islamic messiah. That’s why this is important. End-time theology is driving Iranian foreign policy, and the white house, members of congress, certainly the U.N. are not paying attention to this urgency that they have to bring about the end of the day.
BECK: thank you. I was at another network and I remember watching this at the U.N. and hearing that, and hearing the translation just a few years ago, and I went who is the promised one and why should we hasten him? We did our research, and it’s frightening if they people believe it. If they don’t, we sure should learn what they do know and what they don’t know and what they believe and what they don’t, because it would change the way we sit down at the table with them. Very dangerous situation in the Middle East. Yes, we’re falling apart here in the country.