Prominent cleric in Iran criticizes government funding for seminars

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A prominent cleric criticizes the dependence of religious centers on state funds with a view to the substantial budget increases for Shiite seminars in Iran next year.

“Seminars have to use the money from people who pay willingly. Seminars have to be independent [from the government]“, Said Ayatollah Mostafa Mohaghegh-Damad, professor of Islamic law at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran, in a speech on a book dedicated to the centenary of the Qom seminar. “Today one of the problems facing the seminary is its dependence on the government.”

The Qom Seminary, which was founded by Sheikh Abdul-Karim Haeri-Yazdi in 1922, is the largest Shiite seminary (hawza) in Iran with over 75,000 students. Before the Islamic Revolution, the seminaries were self-financed, but like many other religious institutions, they now receive huge amounts of money from the government every year.

In his speech, Mohaghegh-Damad, a moderate religious figure and a member of the Iranian Academy of Science, cited examples of prominent Shiite religious leaders who emphasized the importance of the separation of religion and politics.

The budget allocated to the religious institutions in the first draft budget that President Ebrahim Raisi recently submitted to Parliament is noticeably higher than the previous year’s budget – at least where clear figures were established.

For example, the budget proposed for the seminar service center has doubled. The Seminaries Service Center is slated to receive 2.8 trillion rials, more than the 2,157 trillion rials allocated to the Ministry of the Environment and many other government agencies including the Crisis Management Headquarters. The center also receives funds from the Supreme Leader’s office.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei ordered the establishment of the Seminaries Service Center in 1991 to provide housing assistance, health insurance, and similar services to seminary students who are the future clergy and whose loyalty is important to the regime.

Critics complain that the proposed budgets for government agencies and government agencies are in some cases difficult to calculate from what is evident in the draft budget, which is insufficiently detailed.

The government says its draft budget is based on a restrictive monetary policy.

According to the information in the draft law, the budget of the Islamic Propaganda Organization itself increased by 43% to 11.7 trillion riyals compared to the previous year. Many other large and small institutes were also awarded enormous increases of up to 124%.

The budget allocated to Al-Mustafa International University of Qom, the Islamic Propaganda Bureau des Qom Seminary, and the Artistic School of the Islamic Propaganda Organization was not disclosed that year.

Al-Mustafa International University, a state-funded university-style Shiite seminary with branches in many countries, received a budget of nearly 5 trillion rials, or around $ 100 million at the official exchange rate at the time, last year. This is higher than the budget of any university in Iran.

Al-Mustafa University pays hundreds of foreign students from China to Africa and Latin America who come to study and then return to spread the Iranian Shiite teachings in their countries.


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