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Shi'ite Clerics Disagree With Iran's Supreme Leader

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (file photo)
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (file photo)
PRAGUE -- Several Shi'ite clerics have disagreed with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on the date of Eid al-Fitr, the three-day Islamic celebration that marks the end of Ramadan, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

The completion of the holy fasting month is traditionally heralded by a moon sighting and announced by senior clerics. Jurist and theologian Ahmad Ghabel has told Radio Farda that while the supreme leader "can dictate the end of Ramadan," the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini "would usually defer to the clergy."

Khamenei announced that the fast finished on September 20, while a number of prominent Shi'ite clerics, such as Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, have said the proper date for the ending of Ramadan was September 21. Sunnis and Shi'a often end their month-long fast on different days, but a Shi'ite conflict with the supreme leader over the date is unprecedented in Iran.

The dispute led many Iranians -- namely those that support the "green movement" that backed presidential candidate Mir Hossein Musavi and who continue to protest against the reelection of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad -- to observe one extra day of Ramadan.