Ahmadinejad's Cultural Priorities

The administration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is using state funds to spread its political and religious ideology and at the same time trying to maintain powerful allies during times of turmoil, critics say.

The authorities have set aside USD $4.5 billion of the $347 billion 2010-11 budget, which took effect on March 21, for cultural matters. But much of it is spent on religious and culturally hardline institutions sympathetic to the administration.

Ever since first becoming president in 2005, Ahmadinejad has made a clear effort to defend religious groups and organizations to a degree previously unknown in the country.

He set out his thinking in a speech to clergy in southern Fars province in 2007, saying, "In the budget of previous administrations, no room was found for religious centers and religious matters. However, we have taken them into consideration in the budget."

The budget for "mosque centers," one of the government's main sources of popular support, has increased to $25 million from $1.6 million in 2005 at the end of the term of reformist president Mohammad Khatami, according to Mohammad Hosseini, the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance.

These centers are known to be bases for the Basij militia, who use them as platforms from which to advance the government's political and religious agenda.

There are no exact figures for the number of mosque centers in Iran, but according to an economist residing in Tehran, ... >>>

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