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Iran's Clerics Increasingly Worried As People Adopt Western Lifestyles

File - Iranian female football fans wave their national flags as they cheer for their national team during a screening of the Russia 2018 World Cup Group B football match between Iran and Spain in Azadi stadium in the capital Tehran, June 20, 2018

Iran's traditional clerics see smaller families, empowered women and global lifestyles as threats that cross political borders, but they find it hard to confront modern changes with their outdated tools and methods.

The Chairman of Iran's Islamic Propagation Organization says there are nearly 100,000 religious associations active in Iran "to solve modern day's problems," but still calls for more of the same.

Mohammad Qomi, chairs the Islamic Propagation Organization, which operates under Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's supervision, as a parallel body to the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry which is a part of the Rouhani administration.

Qomi, 39, who is the youngest cleric ever appointed by Khamenei to head the Organization, is now tasked with offering modern solutions for the problems of one of the most conservative and fundamentalist Islamic regimes in the Middle East.

Iranians are seen behind Christmas decorations as they walk ouside a shop in Tehran, 22Dec2015
Iranians are seen behind Christmas decorations as they walk ouside a shop in Tehran, 22Dec2015

Speaking at a conference of his officers in the religious associations at a mosque in Qom on Friday August 9, Qomi said he was tasked to address Khamenei's concerns about the changing lifestyle of Iranians.

One of these concerns repeatedly expressed by the Supreme Leader is encouraging Iranian families to have more children. This comes while Iran is in deep trouble trying to feed its current population of 83 million.

Qomi, who was appointed to the post almost a year ago, said that that the associations should attempt to propagate Islam "in family settings," however, he did not say why Islam needs to be propagated in a religious government that carries the title of Islamic Republic.

Reports on the Iranian state TV indicate a decline in religious beliefs among Iranians in recent years. Meanwhile religious website Rasa News reports that a decline in religious beliefs among Iranian youth has led to a meaningful drop in the number of marriages in Iran.

Hardliner cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi has also expressed concern over the weakening of religious beliefs among Iranian youths.

In recent years, Khamenei has been increasingly concerned about what he has perceived as a change in young Iranians' lifestyle as the outcome of "enemy's plots." He said in September 2016 that "The enemies have infiltrated the country and have been networking using sexual attractions to make Iranian youths think in the same way that Americans think."

The chairman of the Islamic Propagation Organization on Friday attributed the change in Iranians' lifestyle to "the invasion of Iranian society by liberalist plots." He charged that "There are NGO's in Iran that propagate rearing children based on Freud's ideas and work on empowerment of women like Western women," adding that this has disrupted “the balance” in the Iranian society.

He also said that this was proof of "Western influence and infiltration" in Iran.

However, Iran's answer to the modern crisis is overtly traditional: Increasing the number of Islamic associations.

The statistics offered by the organization less than two years ago indicated there were more than 19,000 religious associations, 162 religious cultural centers and 715 eulogists preaching Islamic Republic values only in the greater Tehran.

The state subsidizes these groups and seminaries with hundreds of million of dollars annually. A conservative ayatollah said this week government outlays for religious groups have been slashed due to economic crisis made worse by U.S. sanctions

Meanwhile, Iran's state TV airs several programs on several dozen channels, featuring young clerics, who insist that something is wrong, as they perceive, about young Iranians' lifestyle, but do not offer any solution other than segregation between young men and women, forgetting that segregation goes against bringing about any rise, right or wrong, in the number of population. It takes two to tango.