Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a flinty populist in a zip-up jacket whose scathing rhetoric and defiance of Washington are often caricatured in the Western media, has transcended national and religious divides to become a folk hero across the Middle East.
The diminutive, at times inscrutable, president is a wellspring of stinging sound-bites and swagger for Muslims who complain that their leaders are too beholden to or frightened of the Bush administration. Ahmadinejad, who arrived in New York Sunday ahead of a U.N. General Assembly meeting, is an easily marketable commodity:a streetwise politician with nuclear ambitions and an open microphone.
“I like him a lot,” said Mahmoud Ali, a medical student in Cairo. “He’s trying to protect himself and his nation from the dangers around him. He makes me feel proud. He’s a symbol of Islam. He seems the only person capable of taking a stand against Israel and the West. Unfortunately, Egypt has gotten too comfortable with Washington.” [complete article]