Iran’s Ayatollah Tweeted an Open Letter to Western Youth

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Iran’s Supreme Leader served up an open letter to Western youth on his English-language Twitter account Wednesday afternoon, appealing to them to have an open mind when it comes to Islam, and to stay away from sources he thinks are heretical (think ISIS and Boko Haram). Ayatollah Ali Khamenei directly addressed the Charlie Hebdo cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed, and used hashtags to implore young people to “not to allow offensive depictions against Islam create a gulf between you and the reality.”

In a wide-reaching opening, Khamenei drew an implicit link between the struggles and marginalization of Muslims in the West with that of other minorities facing discrimination. The Ayatollah urged young people to interrogate the reasons behind both offensive portrayals of Islam, and the us-vs.-them mentality promoted by ISIS and its ilk.

The open letter ends on a note of hope — perhaps foreshadowing the end of decades of “clash of civilizations” scholarship on Islam and the West. And it comes after years of back-channel overtures toward Iran’s leadership by President Obama, who made improving relations with the Islamic Republic one of his top priorities early on.