The former dean of Iranian Shiite seminaries abroad says clerics’ popularity has sharply declined as they have lost touch with the people and their priorities.

During recent years as protest demonstrations swept across Iran one of the resounding slogans in demonstrations was "Akhund [Shiite clerics] should get lost!" This is not just a reflection of Iranians’ dissatisfaction with clerical rule, but it also is a reaction to many clerics' religious intolerance of many people's preferred lifestyle, including the way they dress and mingle with the opposite sex.

The former official, Mohammad Reza Nourollahi told Aftab News website: “There are indications that a deep and irreparable divide has appeared between the people and Iranian clerics.” He added that clerics as “the guardians of the people’s ideological life have effectively damaged their own relationship with the people.”

He explained that the people expect clerics to take clear positions about developments in the country. But clerics linked to the government usually keep silent in the face of harsh treatment of the people by government officers, inequality and wrong decisions of government officials.

Referring to recent developments in which clerics supported violence by security forces against women objecting to compulsory hijab, Nourollahian said: “Unfortunately, many Friday prayers imams made meaningless statements about these developments. But Shiite clerics should stand against wrongdoing and deviation, like their predecessors did.”

He said in the past Shiite clerics used to meet people at their homes and maintain good relations with them. They listened to the people’s demands and grievances, but the situation has changed today, and the damage caused to this relationship can be hardly compensated.”

Leading cleric Mohammad Reza Nourollahi speaking with Aftab news in July 2022

Nourollahian warned: “Sooner or later, something terrible is going to happen to many seminaries because people no longer see the clerics as their supporters.”

In recent months government-controlled media has admitted that there is popular resentment against the clergy but as it is characteristic of media in Iran, they blamed foreign countries and their agents rather than clerics' own behavior for the rift.

The Qom Seminary's own news agency, Hawza News, on May 22 quoted senior seminarian Massoud Mohammadi as saying that "The enemies are trying to divide the clerics from the people." He added, "The enemy's propaganda targets the clerics' popularity," however, he did not elaborate on the nature of the propaganda and failed to offer any indication of the clerics' popularity in Iran.

Meanwhile, after many government critics, including some lawmakers, spoke out about the decline of clerics' popularity following protest demonstrations in December 2021, Iranian academic, Ayatollah Mostafa Mohaqeq-Damad, told Mashregh News website that "What can make clerics popular again is their separation from politics."

Mohaqeq-Damad, one of Iran's most prominent apolitical clerics was probably referring to the fact that the presence of the clerics in various government posts has made them targets of resentment as the current economic crisis has worsened in recent months.

Ensaf News webste also quoted cleric Ahmad Heidari as saying: "As the clergy have a lot of power, they will be considered responsible for anything good or bad in the government's performance. Now that the government has partly failed in running the affairs of the state, naturally the people will be unkind toward the clerics. Some may even hate them."

Last week, Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei warned Shiite clerics against running businesses and luxurious lifestyles. "Avoid economic activities!" he said.

Nourollahian also said in his interview with Aftab News: "Once people used to sit and listen to clerics in the atmosphere of spirituality. We hurt the people so badly that they no longer experience that."

Chip Shortage
Talk Show
News/Sport (27)

Share your story

Send your Videos and Photos to us