Isfahan hardliner MP and head of parliament’s Cultural Commission Hojatoleslam Ahmad Salek has warned against Iran’s growing Sunni population.

Speaking to an audience at the city’s central library, Fars and Mehr news agencies reported that Salek had warned that “Wahhabists are reproducing fast, disguising themselves as [more moderate] Sunnis.”

“As we worry about the danger of a declining number of Shias in Iran, the growing Wahhabist population poses a potential danger just under the surface of our society.”

Conflating Wahhabism — an ultraconservative, orthodox branch of Sunni Islam — with Iran’s Sunni population has been a favorite tactic of Iranian hardliners. Naser Makarem Shirazi, Ahmad Alamolhoda and other clerics close to the regime have had expressed similar opinions.

In recent years, the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and other prominent authorities have called for Iranians to have more children, and, in 2014, parliament voted to pursue a ban on vasectomies. Some hardliners have implicitly suggested that the Leader’s encouragement is a direct response to the country’s Sunnis, who constitute around nine percent of the population.

In the past, Sunni clerics have been quick to respond to such comments. Sunni leader Molavi Abdolhamid Esmail Zehi, the Friday Imam in Zadhedan in Sistan and Baluchistan province, has said “There is no such thing as Wahhabism among the Sunni population. The Sunnis have nothing to do with Wahhabist extremists. Any offense against the life and properties of Shias is inacceptable.”

Zehi also described warnings against the increase in the Sunni population as “strange”. “Such remarks have never been expressed before,” he said, adding that politicians or clergy who spoke out against the increase in the Sunni population, its progress in cultural and academic fields, land purchase and settling in the city of Mashhad and other cities was deeply troubling for Iran’s Sunnis, who were “respectable” and law-abiding.

He added that these comments were out of place “when we believe in Islamic brotherhood between Sunnis and Shias.”

Pointing to the fact that former policies on population control were applied to both Sunnis and Shias, Zehi said: “Unfortunately there are certain people who use such ideas as a way to encourage Shias to have more children; but that is totally wrong. It is wrong because it reinforces religious prejudices. If encouraging people to have more children is the true intention of the authorities, they should carry it out through religious ways, and not by showing concern about the increase in Sunni population.”

He added: “Fortunately, such opinions have no place in the present moderation-oriented government and among moderate principalists. The large majority of people do not approve of such talk. But there is real concern that it can have serious influence on extremists, thereby creating problems for Sunnis.”

 

Read the original article in Persian

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