The office of the Supreme Leader seems ready to make good on comments made by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a speech last week. A hard-line deputy from his office announced today that “Western influences” would be purged from universities nation-wide. Here’s more from the LA Times:

Hamid Reza Ayatollahi, head of a government body that oversees universities, announced a plan to revise humanities curricula to bring them more in line with Islamic principles.

“Many of the syllabuses taught to students majoring in humanities are not in line with Iranian and Islamic culture and therefore their revision is a must,” Ayatollahi said in a statement published by Iranian news agencies.

According to Ayatollahi, a committee has been established to facilitate these revisions.

The effort stemmed from a speech last week by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who said that humanities courses result in “disbelief in Islamic and divine teachings” and are mostly based on “materialist philosophical concepts causing misgivings about religious principles.”

However, critics have lashed out at the move, with former President Mohammad Khatami leading the charge.

Critics derided the purge as another in a 30-year series of ill-fated attempts to impose on Iranian society the puritanical values of hard-liners who dominate political life.

“Certain individuals reject liberalism, but their opposition is based on fascism and totalitarianism,” former President Mohammad Khatami, a prominent reformist, said in comments published on his website Sunday. “Assailing an aspect of the Western experience by insisting on a more dangerous and worse view is doomed.”

Purges of “liberal” and “secular” university professors and curricula have become more and more common since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president in 2005.

“It is not first time that human sciences are under attack in Iran,” said Yousef Moalli, an Iranian analyst and lawyer. “In the past years, dozens of professors in political science and law were forced to take early retirement, immigrate abroad or take no-return sabbatical leaves.”

But…

The purge could backfire. In addition to lowering Iran’s educational standards, purging curricula of Western literature and social theory could further alienate the mostly middle-class youth inclined to study humanities and further radicalize a previously apolitical segment of the population dragged into political life by this year’s presidential election.

It has been widely reported that the authorities fear universities becoming points of unity for the impassioned youth, still reeling from the 12 June presidential election.

Posted By Darioush Azizi

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Sign the Petition

 

7,349 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.

Sincerely,

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