A prominent Iranian cleric and academic has rejected accusations from students at the Qom Hawza, a leading seminary of traditional Islamic Shiite learning, that the facility is a de facto regime instrument, asserting puzzlingly that people shouldn’t view the representatives of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, as being connected to the government.
Speaking to students there last week, Mohammed Reza Zaeri, a cleric and academic close to the regime, said, “People should not feel that the Qom Hawza has become part of the regime. People should not feel that the clergymen, ideological-political figures or representatives of the Supreme Leader in their neighborhood or town have become government employees because people see these figures, the students at the university, the soldiers in the garrison, see these figures.
People should not feel that they will be harmed or threatened for speaking about something only because it hurts and upsets someone else. As a matter of fact, a clergyman should, as much as possible, be the decent and free person who can stand up in front of all the world’s peoples. The clergyman should, as much as possible, be powerful and not fearful of all the world, let alone being scared of a governor or governor-general. This fact should be accepted. Honestly, when we have acted badly, we should admit and accept this and see where we have performed badly. Let’s face people with sincerity and admit to them yes we have screwed up this, we ruined that, and we made a mistake, so that people will accept that it is not the religion which made a mistake but I [the cleric] who made a mistake, so that people accept that it is not God who made a mistake but it is I [the cleric] who made a mistake. In order for us to not deny the mistakes that the Mullahs have made, we have tied and linked the clerics to the last Imam, the Imam Mahdi, to religion, God, and Prophet, and use all of these to justify our mistakes.