[A few days ago, Iran Press Watch published a translation of an article on this subject, which can be found here: http://iranpresswatch.wordpress.com/2008/10/28/qom%e2%80%99s-new-committee-on-religious-minorities/. On Friday, 31 October 2008, Rooz Online published the following follow up: http://www.roozonline.com/english/archives/2008/10/establishment_of_minorities_co.html. Ahang Rabbani.]
In a measure to control people faithful to other religions and denominations, the Qom Theological Center has formed a committee to combat activities of members of religious minorities and schools.
Cleric Mohammad Hassan Nabavi, the center’s public relations deputy, noted, “combating deviant religions and denominations” was the reason behind the establishment of the so-called “Minority Committee” during the latest meeting of Friday prayer leaders from across the nation. According to this Qom Theological Center deputy, the “Minority Committee” was established at the center to undertake “cultural confrontation” of religious minorities and prevent the growth and spread of minority religions in Iran.
According to the unpublished remarks of Nabavi on the official theological center’s website, “In this respect, action groups dealing with Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Bahaism, Sufism, Wahhabism and new spiritual schools have been set up with the duty to culturally confront any conspiracy that is being undertaken.” He added that the responsibility of the “Minority Committee” at the Qom seminary is to monitor the activities of members of religious minorities, especially with respect to their promotion of competing religions or beliefs, noting, “If these religions and denominations advertised against Shiism or acted in a way that undermined the principles of Islam or Shiism, we would become active to confront them.”
This high ranking cleric at the Qom seminary did not expand on the nature of conspiracies that may be regarded by the “Qom Theological Center Minority Committee” as threats to the country’s official religion. However, he accused religious minorities in Iran of communicating with foreigners, adding, “Religions and sects that are supported and empowered by agents outside the country to weaken the centrality of the Islamic regime would be culturally confronted.”
In another part of his speech at the recent gathering of Friday Prayer leaders from across the nation, the Qom seminary’s deputy voiced concern about the growth of religious minorities, noting, “Unfortunately, we have witnessed a population decline in certain Shia areas of the country, and this poses a serious danger.” Cleric Nabavi also warned about the activities of Bahais and their growth in population, adding, “Recently even the Bahais, who are not recognized in any way, have become seriously active.” Mohammad Hassan Nabavi also told the nation’s Friday Prayer leaders, “All of Iran’s sects have become seriously active and multi-faceted support (domestically and from abroad) for them is questionable.”
The Qom Theological Center’s deputy also called for more serious efforts to confront leaders of religious minority groups in Iran, noting, “We are not against unity, but under the guise of unity, leaders of the conspiratorial sects are in safe haven.”
The news of the establishment of a Minority Committee at the Qom seminary is published during a period in which religious minorities find themselves facing increasing pressures and restrictions. Since last winter, at least two Sunni clerics from Zahedan have been executed on charges of cooperating with an armed group in Zahedan and several other Sunni clerics, including the director and several of the writers of the Sunni Online website, the mouthpiece for the Sunni religious seminary in Zahedan have been behind bars for months.
A number of leaders of the Bahai faith have also been under arrest since early this year and some Christians in various cities have either been arrested or are subjected to interrogations.