Qom’s New Committee on Religious Minorities

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[On Sunday, 26 October 2008, Rooz online service published the following article by Shahram Rafizadeh, at: http://www.roozonline.com/archives/2008/10/post_9741.php.  The article was entitled “Formation of a Committee on Monitories for the Purpose of Combating Other Religions”.  A translation follows.  This report is of considerable significance because it clearly demonstrates that despite all efforts by the regime to portray their opposition to the Baha’i Faith as unrelated to religion and based on their belief that the Baha’is are a corrupt political entity, they know perfectly well that this argument is baseless, which is why they have set up an entire organization to monitor the Baha’i community as a religious minority.  In a piece that I will post tomorrow, I will share a rebuttal to the comments and allegations of the two high-ranking clerics quoted in this report.  Ahang Rabbani.]

The seminary school of Qom has formed a Committee for the purpose of controlling the followers of other religions and sects, and for combating the activities of these religious minorities.  During the latest gathering of the nation’s Friday Prayer Leaders, Hojjatu’l-Islam Muhammad-Hasan Nabavi, the deputy director for Islamic teaching at the seminary school in Qom, introduced this Committee under the theme of “the formation of the Committee on Minorities”, which he indicated consisted of the “activities of various groups combating religious minorities and wayward sects”.

As such, according to the announcement of this deputy director of Qom’s seminary school, the aim of forming a “Committee on Minorities” in that town is to “culturally oppose” religious minorities and to prevent the growth and diffusion of these minorities throughout Iran.

According to a published account on the official website of the seminary school of Qom, Hojjatu’l-Islam Nabavi stated, “In this regard, various sub-committees dealing with Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Baha’ism, Sufism, Ahl-e Haqq, Wahabbism, and New Mysticisms have been launched.  Their work is to prepare a cultural response when they see a conspiracy is being planned.”

He also regarded the mission of the “Committee on Minorities” at Qom’s seminary school as providing surveillance regarding the activities of religious minorities, particularly their teaching and propagation work.  He said, “If these religions and sects begin to teach in opposition to the Shiite creed, or do things that would cause a lessening of Islamic and Shiite principles, we will also launch activities against them.”

This senior cleric from Qom’s seminary did not expand on the nature of conspiracies which in the eye of the Committee on Minorities could be a threat to the nation’s official religion [which is Shiite Islam].  However, he condemned religious minorities for having contacts with groups outside the country and stated, “We will institute cultural opposition against religions and creeds that are supported and promoted by elements outside the country aimed at weakening the Islamic order.”

During the 20th congregation of the nation’s Friday Prayer Leaders, Muhammad-Hasan Nabavi also considered “reducing religious gatherings on religious topics”, and “raising doubts and misgivings in the form and context of philosophical problems”, and “the elimination of clerical control over all religious matters” as among themes promoted by their enemies and warned against secularism saying, “This situation has intensified in recent years.”

In a portion of his speech, he also criticized the fame of artists and performers and connected them to outside enemies. …

Control of Minority Population

Up to the present, the population figures for officially recognized minorities like the Zoroastrians, Christians and Jews, and also minorities like the Baha’is who are considered illegal in Iran, have not been officially promulgated.  However, unofficial sources estimate the population of the Sunnis, who are Iran’s largest minority group, to be 15 million strong.

In his lecture at a recent gathering of the Friday Prayer Leaders, the same speaker, namely, the deputy director of Qom’s seminary school, expressed his regret and worry over the numerical growth of religious minorities and stated, “Unfortunately, in some regions of this Shiite nation, our Shiite community is not growing numerically, and this is a serious threat.”

Hojjatu’l-Islam Nabavi also warned against the activities of the Baha’is and the increase in their population by stating, “Lately, even the Baha’is who in no wise are recognized, have undertaken intensive activities.”

Likewise, addressing his audience, he said, “All religious minorities in Iran have become active, and diverse support for them has raised many questions.”

He also called for much greater opposition to the leaders of religious minorities in the country and criticized the concept of “national and religious unity”.  He said, “We are not opposed to unity, but because of this unity the leaders of seditious creeds have assumed a shelter of security.”

New Teaching Efforts

At the same gathering, Hojjatu’l-Islam Shariffi, one of the new officials at Qom’s seminary school, announced the formation of a specialized research Committee at Qom’s seminary school.  Shariffi, who is named by the official news service of the High Council of the Seminary as “the responsible figure for formation of the research Committee at Qom’s seminary school”, stated that the purpose of this Committee was to increase research activities at the seminary.

However, Muhammad-Hasan Nabavi noted that this new organization had hired expert individuals who will enter online internet sites, which he referred to as “wayward sites”, to protect the official religion of the country.

In the same gathering of the Friday Prayer Leaders, Nabavi emphasized, “Today, internet is one of the most critical tools for teaching, and if it is used properly, it is suitable for spreading religious propaganda.”  He added, “The expert personnel of this new organization will appear on sites that give rise to doubts and are anti-Shiite, and through argumentation they will defeat the opposing parties.”

Hojjatu’l-Islam Nabavi noted their opponents’ disregard for the approved sites and said, “The wayward opponents are not interested in entering religious sites.  They mostly enter sites promoting waywardness.  Therefore, the expert personnel of the seminary’s teaching bureau will enter such unwelcomed sites, and if the site is engaged in raising doubts [i.e. opposing Shiism explicitly or simply promoting any religion in Iran other than Shiism], these expert personnel will enter into argumentation with them.” …

The news of the formation of the Committee on Minorities was announced at a time when, over the last few years, Iran’s minorities have faced increasing pressure, and every day has witnessed new limitations imposed on them.  Since the last winter, for example, two Sunni clerics have been executed in Zahedan on the charge of collaboration with an armed insurgency in that town.  Also, in recent months the editor and several writers of a Sunni internet site in Zaahedan have been arrested.

Moreover, a number of Baha’i leaders in Iran were seized and arrested in the early part of this year, and some Christians have been arrested in various cities or have been interrogated.‏

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