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September 6, 2009

Iranian authorities to replace humanities curricula in universities with “Islamic materials”

The office of the Supreme Leader seems ready to make good on comments made by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a speech last week. A hard-line deputy from his office announced today that “Western influences” would be purged from universities nation-wide. Here’s more from the LA Times:

Hamid Reza Ayatollahi, head of a government body that oversees universities, announced a plan to revise humanities curricula to bring them more in line with Islamic principles.
“Many of the syllabuses taught to students majoring in humanities are not in line with Iranian and Islamic culture and therefore their revision is a must,” Ayatollahi said in a statement published by Iranian news agencies.

According to Ayatollahi, a committee has been established to facilitate these revisions.

The effort stemmed from a speech last week by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who said that humanities courses result in “disbelief in Islamic and divine teachings” and are mostly based on “materialist philosophical concepts causing misgivings about religious principles.”

However, critics have lashed out at the move, with former President Mohammad Khatami leading the charge.

Critics derided the purge as another in a 30-year series of ill-fated attempts to impose on Iranian society the puritanical values of hard-liners who dominate political life.
“Certain individuals reject liberalism, but their opposition is based on fascism and totalitarianism,” former President Mohammad Khatami, a prominent reformist, said in comments published on his website Sunday. “Assailing an aspect of the Western experience by insisting on a more dangerous and worse view is doomed.”

Purges of “liberal” and “secular” university professors and curricula have become more and more common since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president in 2005.

“It is not first time that human sciences are under attack in Iran,” said Yousef Moalli, an Iranian analyst and lawyer. “In the past years, dozens of professors in political science and law were forced to take early retirement, immigrate abroad or take no-return sabbatical leaves.”


The purge could backfire. In addition to lowering Iran’s educational standards, purging curricula of Western literature and social theory could further alienate the mostly middle-class youth inclined to study humanities and further radicalize a previously apolitical segment of the population dragged into political life by this year’s presidential election.

It has been widely reported that the authorities fear universities becoming points of unity for the impassioned youth, still reeling from the 12 June presidential election.

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