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Iran Educates and Radicalizes Africa through Religion – Dr. Glen Segell

January 1, 2019

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Iran Educates and Radicalizes Africa through Religion

By Glen Segell

Research Fellow, Ezri Center for Iran & Persian Gulf Studies, University of Haifa

Volume 7 (2019), Number 1 (January 2019)

Since its establishment in 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran has made enormous efforts to export its revolution around the world. Iranian diplomats, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and subordinate organs are engaged in spreading this and Shiite Muslim doctrine. [1]

The spread of these in Africa, is in part, through the same manner that Christian Missionaries used during the era of colonialism, through education. [2] As then as now Africans face destruction of their culture, religion and education through continued advancement of foreign culture, religion and language to supplant the traditional African.

There is no doubt that Iran is using the Al-Mustafa International University network as a formidable educational tool to export its revolution and Shiite Muslim doctrine. It was founded in 2007, as Iran’s foremost religious institution with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei as its highest authority. It now has over one hundred branches across the Islamic world, which train foreign clerics and missionaries around the world.

In a speech to students and staff, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei explained Tehran’s mandate to spread ‘pure Islamic thoughts’ and liberate the Islamic nation from ‘the arrogant powers’ hand of oppression and aggression,’ and emphasized the role that Al-Mustafa plays in carrying out this mission. [3] Al-Mustafa explicit goal is also to spread the Iranian regime’s anti-American ideology and promote its self-proclaimed mandate to ‘liberate Palestine’ and ‘eradicate Israel.’ Similarly, the dean of the language and culture department at Al-Mustafa has declared that ‘our goal is the export of revolution.’ [4]

The significance and importance of Africa are apparent. Since 2007, more than 45,000 clerics and Islamic scholars have graduated from Al-Mustafa of which 5,000 were from Africa, and a good portion of them have been hired by the university as teaching staff or missionaries and sent to different countries around the globe. In early 2019 it has more than 40,000 students, half of whom study at campuses across Iran with 5,000 of the totals being from Africa. Of these 5,000 African students, nearly 2,000 study in Iran, some 1,200 of whom learn at the Mashhad campus. [5]

In return for this education, Africans are indoctrinated and encouraged to be radicalized promoting the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary doctrine and to engage in religious wars both locally and elsewhere. In this context, Al-Mustafa works to organize al-Quds rallies in African countries such as Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Uganda. [6] In December 2015, the centers of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria – a pro-Tehran Shiite organization with thousands of members – was attacked and dozens of activists were killed, one of many such events in the Islam- Christian feuds in that state. [7] A senior Al-Mustafa official took great pride in the fact that well-known radicals and terrorists Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia, and Sheikh Zakzaky in Nigeria are fruits of Al-Mustafa’s teachings. [8]

Al-Mustafa acts as a formidable tool for recruiting candidates for the Iranian regime’s activities, including direct participation in Iran’s imperial wars. Since the start of the civil war in Syria and Tehran’s military intervention to save the Bashar Assad regime, there have been numerous reports in the Iranian media about funerals for Al-Mustafa students killed in Syria. In March 2016, one of the university’s directors declared that ‘some of the foreign fighters deployed by Iran and sent to Syria were Al-Mustafa’s students and clerics.’ [9]

The extent of Al-Mustafa’s operations is enormous and widespread. It has seventeen main branches in sub-Saharan Africa and runs some one hundred schools, mosques, and seminaries in thirty African countries. Al-Mustafa’s most important African centers are in Nigeria, a country with several million Shiites, where the university operates five schools and seminaries with nearly one thousand students from Nigeria and neighboring states. [10]

Following in importance in West Africa is Ghana where Al-Mustafa runs the Islamic University College Ghana (IUCG) with nearly one thousand students. Al-Mustafa also has a Shiite seminary in the capital Accra with clerics from Ghana and neighboring countries. In 2015, Al-Mustafa launched the Fatima religious schools for girls in Accra where the Ahl al-Bait Mosque hosts some of its public events. In tandem Iranian diplomatic outreach to Ghana is increasing. In February 2016, the president of Ghana visited Iran and met with Khamenei, signed two memoranda of understanding with the Iranian government and met with Al-Mustafa’s vice president to discuss the university’s activities. [11]

Other Al-Mustafa West African sites include: Cameroon – a branch in Cameroon and two seminaries, one for men and another for women; Guinea – the Ahl al-Bait school; Ivory Coast – the Shiite seminary of Ahl al-Bait and the Zeynab seminary for women; Niger – a branch in the capital city of Niamey; Mali – a branch.; Senegal – a campus in Dakar; and in Sierra Leon – the International Institute of Islamic Studies (IIIS) in the capital city of Freetown and the Imam Hossein Seminary in Makeni. [12]

The Al-Mustafa’s presence in East African countries is noticeable in Tanzania, which operates as a center for neighboring countries. This includes a branch in the capital city of Dar Es-Salaam and a seminary called Imam Sadigh. In central and southern Africa the main centers are: Congo a branch in Kinshasa; Uganda – the Al-Mustafa’s Islamic College; Madagascar – a branch of the university in the capital city of Antananarivo, other affiliated centers include the Imam Sadjad Mosque, the Rasul Akram Mosque and the Islamic Center of Dar al-Quran in the city of Mahajanga; Malawi – a branch in the capital city of Lilongwe; and in South Africa a branch in Johannesburg, which collaborates closely with ICRO’s Islamic Center of Ahl al-Bait in Cape Town. [13]

The Al-Mustafa International University network is just one example of Iran using education to export its Islamic Revolution and Shiite Muslim doctrine. In doing so there is evidence of the ongoing destruction of the traditional culture, religion and education of African states. This might reflect that the Islamic Republic of Iran has succeeded in exporting a form of revolution around Africa. There is a radicalization of the population that are encouraged to engage in religious wars. But as with Christian missionaries, Africa tends to blend and merge their own with the foreign. So there is no indication that Iran has or will succeed in its own Revolution or in converting all Africa to pure Shiite doctrine.

 

Notes:

[1] Michael Axworthy. 2013. Revolutionary Iran: A History of the Islamic Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[2] Kwame Nkrumah. 1974. Neo-colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism. Ghana: Panaf Books.

[3] Hassan Dai. 2016. Al Mustafa University, Iran’s global network of Islamic schools. Iranian American Forum, 12 April 2016.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Al-Mustafa International University, Website at http://en.miu.ac.ir/

[6] Fars News Agency (Tehran), 28 January 2017.

[7] Solomon Timothy Anjide Okoli, and Al Chukwuma. 2017. New Trajectory of Islamic Extremism in Northern Nigeria: A Threat-Import Analysis of Shiite’s Uprising. International Journal of African and Asian Studies, Volume 32, No.1 pp. 41-51.

[8] Gérard Chaliand and Arnaud Blin. 2016. The History of Terrorism: From Antiquity to ISIS. Sacramento: University of California Press.

[9] Ruhollah Tabatabei, ABNA, TV News, 7 March 2016.

[10] Al-Mustafa International University, Website at http://en.miu.ac.ir/

[11] President of Ghana Visited Iran after 37 Years. Alwaght News, 14 February 2016.

http://alwaght.com/en/News/43057/President-of-Ghana-Visited-Iran-after-37-Years

[12] Al-Mustafa International University, Website at http://en.miu.ac.ir/

[13] Ibid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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