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Iran’s Educational Diplomacy in the Muslim World: Activities of Al-Mustafa International University in Malaysia and Afghanistan

Ayatollah Khomeini after the 1979 Revolution contemplated the promotion of Shia core doctrinal values in the Muslim world. A strategy to instill these values in young minds and academic community in the largely Sunni majority Muslim states was needed. Khomeini used ‘exporting revolution’ instead of ‘exporting Shia core values’ to avoid resistance in the Sunni dominant communities. The Islamic Republic of Iran founded al-Mustafa International University (MIU) with branches across the Muslim world. The MIU’s strategy and activities in Malaysia and Afghanistan suggest that it is engaged in proselytizing followers of Sunni theology and recruiting Sunni academia as propagandists and sympathizers of Shiism. In Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic also aims to penetrate policy-making circles.

Iran s Educational Diplomacy in the Muslim World Activities of

Introduction

The Islamic Republic of Iran, in the name of exporting the 1979 Revolution, aims to propagate Shia core doctrinal values. The founding fathers of the 1979 Revolution believed that for the country to attain its objective, it needed to occupy a space in the educational sector of the Muslim world. Hence, the Islamic Republic outlined the strategy of educational diplomacy that is sponsoring a host of educational initiatives, such as the establishment of Jāmicah al-Muṣṭafā al-Cālamīyyah or al-Mustafa International University (MIU) with branches across the Muslim world promoting its activities. This paper discusses the role of the MIU in the conduct of the Islamic Republic’s educational diplomacy in Malaysia and Afghanistan in line with Iran’s aim of promoting Shia core doctrinal values of ‘succession’ (imamate), and its corollaries of ‘waiting’ (intiār), ‘representation’ (vilāyat), ‘rule of jurisconsult’ (vilāyat e faqīh), and ‘dissimulation’ (taqīyyah); as well as this country’s quest for soft power and greater influence in the politics of the Muslim world. This paper is composed of two parts. First, it discusses the theoretical basis of public diplomacy and the role of the MIU in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s policy of promoting the Shia core doctrinal values in the Muslim world. Second, it examines the strategies and activities of the MIU for creating Shia propagandists and sympathizers in Malaysia and Afghanistan. A word of caution is in order. Throughout this paper, the terms ‘Irano-Islamic’ or ‘Islamic’ in the country’s official documents and Iranian literature refers to the Shia version of Islam and the declared official ideology of the Islamic Republic of Iran. These official documents and literature are based on the view that Shia core doctrinal values and political norms constitute ‘true’ and ‘pure’ teachings of Islam.

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