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Sunni Cleric In Iran Accuses Chinese Shiite Students Of Spreading Coronavirus

Molavi Abdolhamid Ismaeelzahi (L), a Sunni theologian and a spiritual leader of the Sunni community in Iran. FILE PHOTO
Molavi Abdolhamid Ismaeelzahi (L), a Sunni theologian and a spiritual leader of the Sunni community in Iran. FILE PHOTO

A Shi'a university-seminary in Iran has lambasted the most senior Sunni cleric in the country for protesting novel coronavirus outbreak in Iran through Chinese Shi'ite religious students based in the city of Qom.

Molavi Abdolhamid Ismaeelzahi, known as the spiritual leader for Iran's Sunni minority, recently circulated a short video on social media charging that Chinese Shi'ite scholars studying at Al-Mustafa International University (MIU) had infected Iran with novel coronavirus.

MIU claims to be an international academic, Islamic, and university-style seminary Institute established in 1979, in Qom, Iran. MIU also maintains that it has foreign branches and affiliate schools in the provinces of Tehran and Alborz. The institution is part of the Islamic Republic’s effort to spread influence in various countries by teaching their political-religious ideology to foreign students.

Qom, second most important religious city in Iran, was the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the country. The virus has spread from Qom to the rest of the country, killing hundreds.

Lambasting Molavi Abdolhamid for the circulation of the video, MIU said in a statement on Sunday, March 15, that the Sunni leader has no evidence to back up his accusation, adding that it expected top religious clerics to be more cautious in their public remarks.

Furthermore, MIU has deplored Abdolhamid for accusing Al-Mustafa International University of brainwashing its non-Iranian students.

"Such accusation is an insult to our non-Iranian graduates," MIU insisted in its statement, adding that Abdolhamid had also been wrong by describing MIU's activities as a movement against a rapprochement between religions.

Abdolhamid had earlier accused MIU of luring Sunnis to convert them to Shi'ism.

Moreover, he had asserted that several non-Iranian MIU students had visited his office saying that they wanted to return to their countries, but MIU had seized their passports.

The International Center for Islamic Sciences and the Organization of Schools and Shi'ite Seminaries outside Iran were integrated into MIU in 2008 and turned it into Iran's most extensive international Shi'a university/seminary.

In its next budget for the new Iranian calendar year (beginning March 21), the Islamic republic government has allocated more than $75 million to MIU.