Islamization: The Blurring Line Between Church, State and the Academe

by Silent Sinner

 Protest at Tehran University on December 9, 2007. Photo by ISNA.

Protest at Tehran University on December 9, 2007. Photo by ISNA.

TEHRAN. Iran is set to Islamize humanities studies in universities after supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei charged that Western teachings make students question religion, state news agency IRNA reported on Sunday.

“The Institute for Humanities and Cultural Studies was tasked by the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council to revise the human sciences curriculum,” the agency said.

“In our country a large part of the syllabus… is not in line with our Iranian-Islamic culture. This calls for a revision,” said institute head Hamid Reza Ayatollahi.

He said the body would revise the syllabus “based on the supreme leader’s recommendations.”

During a meeting with academics last week, Khamenei criticised human sciences taught in the Islamic republic’s universities.

“If we teach a copy of what Westerners have said and written to our young people, then we are conveying to them both doubt and disbelief in Islamic principles and in our values,” he said.

“Most human sciences are based on materialistic philosophies that see the human being as an animal,” charged the all-powerful supreme leader.

He said he was “worried” that nearly two million students are currently majoring in human sciences.

Iranian universities are a hotbed of political activism, and suffered massive purges in the wake of the 1979 Islamic revolution during a three-year cultural revolution aimed at Islamising campuses and curricula.

Scores of lecturers were sacked and students ejected after being perceived to be leftist or liberal.

Hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for a purge of liberal and secular academic staff in 2006, a year that saw a number of lecturers forced into early retirement from leading universities.

More than 60 percent of Iran’s 70-million-strong population is aged under 30, and hundreds of thousands of young people poured on to the streets to protest against Ahmadinejad’s disputed June 12 re-election.

The protests, which have since subsided after a heavy crackdown by the authorities, have plunged Iran into its worst internal crisis in three decades.

Exit Question: In a country where the separation of church and state is nothing but an academic concept, is academic freedom so much to ask?

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