Discrimination against foreign students in Qom

Reuters

Students hold Iran's flag while attending the anniversary ceremony of Iran's Islamic Revolution at the Khomeini shrine in the Behesht Zahra cemetery, south of Tehran, February 1, 2012.

Article Highlights

  • The competition between the Iranian city of Qom and the Iraqi city of Najaf dates back centuries.

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  • The Islamic Republic prides itself on being a guiding light not only to Shi’ites outside of Iran, but to any Muslims.

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  • Neighbors of Iran often complain that Iranians look down upon them and their cultures. @MRubin1971

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Editor's Note: FMSO’s Operational Environment Watch provides translated selections and analysis from a diverse range of foreign articles and other media that analysts and expert contributors believe will give military and security experts an added dimension to their critical thinking about the Operational Environment.

Source: Mushkal-e Talab-e Kharaji dar Qom” (The Problem of Foreign Students in Qom),” 598.ir, 27 September 2012. 

The competition between the Iranian city of Qom and the Iraqi city of Najaf dates back centuries. Both house prominent Shi‘ite seminaries and host thousands of students. Qom has traditionally been the poorer, less prestigious shrine city; Najaf, after all, hosts the tomb of Imam Ali and attracts millions of religious pilgrims annually. Qom underwent a renaissance after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, however, as it became a center for instruction through the lens of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s theological vision. The concurrent rise of Saddam Hussein in Iraq also made it difficult for many Shi‘ite seminary students from outside Iraq to study in Najaf. Accordingly, the non-Iranian population in Qom expanded greatly.

The Islamic Republic prides itself on being a guiding light not only to Shi‘ites beyond Iran’s borders, but to any Muslims, regardless of sect. Khomeini’s speeches were infused with rhetoric of social justice, and Iranian speakers regularly condemn racism as it occurs in the West. Nevertheless, Iranian society is quite xenophobic. Neighbors of Iran often complain that Iranians look down upon them and their cultures. Iranians consider themselves inheritors of a great empire, which, during pre-Islamic days, was the height of civilization at a time before Turks, Arabs, and Pushtuns had consolidated their states.

This small news item, published in a news summary on the 598.ir news portal, a website affiliated with hardline cleric Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi, suggests that the xenophobia of ordinary Iranian landlords is clashing with the Iranian regime’s desire to be the center of Shi‘ite Islam. When Iranian landlords refuse to rent rooms to non-Iranian students, it is reasonable to assume that many foreign students will leave Iran with a bad taste in their mouths.

 

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