Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei with senior cleric. Undated

Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei with senior cleric. Undated

Tehran Newspaper Calls On Government To Stop Financing Shiite Seminaries


A leading conservative newspaper in Iran has called on the government to cut-off the budget it allocates to Shiite seminaries and by extension to many clerics.

Jomhouri Eslami (Islamic Republic), a newspaper that was established by current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei as its proprietor shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution is now being run and edited by a non-partisan cleric Massih Mohajeri. His political loyalty rests with Khamenei although he has been at times accused by hardliners of supporting reformists and moderate elements.

In his editorial on Sunday, November 21, Jomhouri Eslami has argued that "seminaries have always been independent of governments in Iran and were funded by the people. It was this independence from the government that lent an extraordinary spiritual influence to Shiite clerics."

Writing in a manner critical of Khamenei without annoying him, the daily said that "in recent years" the seminaries have become dependent on the government, and this has harmed the clerics' credibility and undermined the seminaries' independence.

An opulent Shiite seminary in Iran, with much better facilities than government universities.

The editorial is in fact referring to the fact that shortly after Khamenei became Supreme Leader in 1989, he began to feed the seminaries with millions of dollars to purchase their loyalty. And he has been successful in doing so.

Now Jomhouri Eslami suggests that the government should cut-off its hefty budget for the seminaries to put an end to the divide between the seminaries and the people. Mohajeri, who is himself a cleric, insisted in the editorial that he is not against the clergy or seminaries. However, he pointed out that the money put at their disposal has waste on opulent buildings and other activities. "They spend a lot of money for non-religious matters that not only have no benefit for Islam, but are sometimes even against the interests of the Islamic regime," he said.

"Be brave and cut off their budget," the editorial told the government, adding that this is a financially difficult time, and the economy needs such a surgical approach to save the country.

During the past years, regime's critics and some media outlets in Iran as well as some prominent clerics have been criticizing the government for allocating large budgets to the seminaries. Ayatollah Abdollah Javadi-Amoli in January 2019 lashed out at the seminaries for being non-productive.

In the same year, reformist Eslahat News website wrote that the administration of former President Hassan Rouhani "allocated $27 million to seminaries only during the three months between late March and late June 2018."

Later it was revealed by investigative journalists with access to government information that the annual budget allocated to religious institutions including the seminaries was around $500 million per year at least in 2018 and 2019.

Regardless of the hefty budget allocated to powerful seminaries, Javadi-Amoli said that small seminaries offered more knowledge and insight to the people during the years before the government started to allocate million-dollar budgets. He added that luxurious seminaries which look like castles have nothing to offer to the public.

Some critics have charged that Khamenei who lacked the right religious qualifications when he became Supreme Leader and was looked down by senior clerics, has a grudge against the seminaries and has effectively ruined their reputation and those of top clerics by putting them on government payroll.

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