Ayatollahs Go on the Internet – in 29 Languages

Iran holds an all-time record in the Islamic world for satellite television and radio stations which spew out the propaganda of exported revolution day and night to every corner of the globe.

Now, Tehran is moving forward with a new scheme, disclosed here by DEBKA-Net-Weekly: to make the holy city of Qom the Islamic world’s Internet center.

Hardly a day goes by without some new website sallying forth and churning out frenzied Islamic agitprop aimed at inspiring the masses to launch acts of subversion and terror against the enemies of fundamentalist Shiite Islam.

These days, it is not unusual to see groups of turbaned, robed mullahs crouched over the latest word in computers at the seminaries of Qom. They are working on new programs for disseminating their message to ever-widening circles across the world. Many of Qom’s students – taleb, singular: taleban, plural – may be seen carrying laptops to their desks for noting down the words of wisdom issuing from the mouths of their mentors.

The Iranians are big on institutionalizing every activity. The body in charge of disseminating their brand of Islam and the medressa network is called Hovzeh-Ye Elimyeh-Ye Ghom. In free translation, it is named The Scientific Institutions of Qom – scientific because for Iran’s clerics, their religion is the one and only Science, the ultimate embodiment of all world sciences, so perfect that no new laws may be added.

Each of the medressas of Qom is the domain of a senior ayatollah rated Marja-e Taghlid – a source of emulation.

Their power is measured by the number of disciples who chose them as mentors and infallible guides on questions of religious doctrine. These centers of learning are often richly endowed by donors, who may dedicate one tithe of their earnings or even large family properties to an ayatollah of great renown and his “court.”

The mullahs are now spending the money like water on the latest word on the market for computerizing their operations. Websites have become a status symbol in the community of top-ranking clerics. To get hold of these toys, they have even managed to overcome their revulsion for the digital technology developed in the land of the Great Satan.

They have become sought-after platforms for the ayatollah’s sermons, pious teachings, religious edicts, his airbrushed biography, his schedule of activities and any miscellany that serve to enhance his prestige and therefore expand his following.

The greater his renown and retinue of disciples, the more donations are attracted to broaden the financial base of his seminary center.

So enamored are the ayatollahs of the new medium, that a couple of Farsi websites are not enough; some of the celebrity clerics may own dozens in several languages, the favorites being English, French and Russian or the languages of Muslim world communities, like Pilipino, Indonesian and Chinese dialects, Slavic and African languages and Spanish.

Dozens of polyglot clerics and students man medressah chat rooms around the clock with fast answers to queries on religious issues.

Aware of the Islamic Republic’s newest yardstick for measuring political-religious clout, Iran’s supreme ruler Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei has outrun all the competition with the largest number of Farsi and foreign language websites. They carry his religious and doctrinal opinions, his speeches and political statements, as well as bulletins chronicling his official functions. Khamenei is challenged only by the Grand Ayatollah Fazel Lankarani. His websites appear in 29 languages.

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