Title

Iran, Hizbullah, Shiite seminary education, and interreligious dialogue: Reflections on some contemporary religious and political currents in Beirut, Lebanon

Document Type

Presentation

Publication Date

1-24-2013

Abstract

During a portion of the summer of 2012, I conducted field research on a book that I am writing, which will examine the influence of Iran and Shiite Islam on various countries and regions in the Middle East, including Lebanon. (There are approximately 160 million Shiite Muslims in the world, with approximately 90% of Iran's population and 40% of Lebanon's population being Shiite.) The Iranian-sponsored Lebanese Shiite group Hizbullah is one of the largest and most influential religious, political, social service, educational, and militant organizations in Lebanon. My Thursday Forum presentation will analyze the work and curriculum of Hawza al-Rasul ("Seminary of the Messenger"), which is one of ten Iranian-sponsored Shiite seminaries (hawzas) in Beirut. The presentation analyzes some of the courses, readings, and orientations of the seminary, while examining the ways in which the content of the seminary's education relates to Shiite seminaries historically and in other parts of the world today. The paper will also discuss the work of an Iranian-sponsored scholarly institute near Beirut which has been a major center of Shiite scholarly work in Lebanon and has sponsored several sessions on Muslim-Christian dialogue. The paper will consider the perspectives of Lebanese Muslims and Christians on these forms of dialogue, and on Iran's and Hizbullah's involvement in Lebanon more generally, while examining the Iranian government's active and expansive engagement in interreligious dialogue, including its cosponsorship of a conference on Muslim-Christian dialogue in June 2012 in Rome, Italy with members of the theology faculty from the University of Saint Thomas in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

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