Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Iran's Educational Diplomacy in the Muslim World: Activities of Al-Mustafa International University in Malaysia and Afghanistan

Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Iran's Educational Diplomacy in the Muslim World: Activities of Al-Mustafa International University in Malaysia and Afghanistan

Article excerpt

Introduction

The Islamic Republic of Iran, in the name of exporting the 1979 Revolution, aims to propagate Shia core doctrinal values. The founding fathers of the 1979 Revolution believed that for the country to attain its objective, it needed to occupy a space in the educational sector of the Muslim world. Hence, the Islamic Republic outlined the strategy of educational diplomacy that is sponsoring a host of educational initiatives, such as the establishment of Jami[??]ah al-Mustafa al-[??]alamiyyah or al-Mustafa International University (MIU) with branches across the Muslim world promoting its activities. This paper discusses the role of the MIU in the conduct of the Islamic Republic's educational diplomacy in Malaysia and Afghanistan in line with Iran's aim of promoting Shia core doctrinal values of 'succession' (imamate), and its corollaries of 'waiting' (intizar), 'representation' (vildyat), 'rule of jurisconsult' (vilayat e faqih), and 'dissimulation' (taqiyyah); as well as this country's quest for soft power and greater influence in the politics of the Muslim world. This paper is composed of two parts. First, it discusses the theoretical basis of public diplomacy and the role of the MIU in the Islamic Republic of Iran's policy of promoting the Shia core doctrinal values in the Muslim world. Second, it examines the strategies and activities of the MIU for creating Shia propagandists and sympathizers in Malaysia and Afghanistan. A word of caution is in order. Throughout this paper, the terms 'Irano-Islamic' or 'Islamic' in the country's official documents and Iranian literature refers to the Shia version of Islam and the declared official ideology of the Islamic Republic of Iran. These official documents and literature are based on the view that Shia core doctrinal values and political norms constitute 'true' and 'pure' teachings of Islam.

Educational Diplomacy: Theoretical Consideration

The changing international environment and the advancement of information and communication technology have facilitated the entrance of ordinary citizens into the heart of the political arena. This has put classical foreign policy under extensive pressure to go beyond its traditional state-to-state interaction. (1) States have begun to use 'public diplomacy' as an important and effective element of diplomatic practices. In McDowell's words public diplomacy is the "actions of a government to inform and influence foreign publics." (2) In McDowell's view public diplomacy includes state and non-state "activities that inevitably if not purposefully have an impact on the foreign policy, national security and national interests" (3) of other states. Paul Sharp joins McDowell and argues that public diplomacy is the "process by which direct relations with people in a country are pursued to advance the interest and extend the values of those being represented." (4) McDowell and Sharp's arguments suggest that states employ public diplomacy beyond government to government contacts, and attempt to directly interact with the people of other states.

Joseph Nye in his popular analysis of power divides national power into two types: (1) 'hard power' and (2) 'soft power.' He views hard power in terms of material factors such as military, population, economic resources, etc. However, he associates soft power with intangible factors such as culture, ideas, skills, and attraction. Nye asserts that the "proof of power lies not in resources but in the ability to change the behavior of states." (5) Therefore, he argues, in soft power, the nature of power is co-optive rather than coercive. It may not be misplaced to argue that Nye's analysis of soft power resembles Carr's view of power as "power over opinion" (6) or what Morgenthau referred as control over the minds of others. According to Morgenthau, 'power' may comprise anything from "physical violence to most subtle psychological ties" through which a man establishes control over other men. …

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