The rising Sunni population and shrinking Shia population of Iran – From the Ayatollah’s mouth
Since over a decade the number of the Sunnis of Iran are estimated based on out dated figures, most sources (especially Iranian and Shia ones) constantly speak of a Sunni population of 9-10% (in the past the Iranian regime even claimed there were only 4-5% Sunnis in Iran, a claim so ridiculous that even the regime itself stopped repeating it).
Iranian Sunni politicians, scholars, websites and organizations complain about the absence of any official records regarding their community and believe their number is much greater (between 20-25%) than what is usually estimated.
Shaykh Molavi Ismailzehi, a leading Sunni scholar of Zahedan city stated in an interview on Sunnionline.us (official website of the largest Sunni institute of Iran):
“Sunnis in Iran had the current population in past. The Sunnis and some other sources have urged many times that Sunnis in Iran constitute about 25% of the Iranian population. According to our survey from sources we got secretly and some information we got from the Interior Ministry, the percentage of Sunnis’ population is 20%. We used to say so but officials did not accept it. Truth will out. Now they examined and learnt Sunnis are not as few as they used to imagine.”
Demographic changes have become an issue for both sides. Scholars on either side speak about the increase in the Sunni population and usually issue predictions regarding demographic changes in the country. A number of major Shia Ayatollahs have openly warned (and sometimes rebuked) the regime about the steady increase of Iranian Sunnis and the spread of “Wahhabism” and Sunnism amongst many Iranian Shiites.
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.”
Nasser Rafee’i, faculty member of Al-Mustafa Al-Alamiyah University (Shia Hawzah), in a religious gathering, claiming the decline of Shia population and outreach of Sunnis population said: “Clerics have expressed concerns over the issue of population decline.”
Before him, Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi, one of the most influential Shia clerics demanded the formation of a workgroup to deal with the case of ‘Sunnis’ growing population’.
Conflating so called Wahhabism 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.
Iran’s Ministry of Health announced that all family-planning programs and procedures would be suspended. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on women to have more children to boost the country’s population to 150–200 million. Contraceptive policy made sense 20 years ago, he said, but its continuation in later years was wrong. Numerous speculations have been given for this change in policy. Some speculate that the new policy seeks to address the Supreme Leader’s concerns that Iran’s Sunni population is growing much faster than its Shia one (7% growth in Sunni areas compared to 1–1.3% in Shia areas), a known phenomenon in Iran were Shias (who are suprisingly mostly quite secular and often Anti-religious) are known to have on an average way less children than their Sunni countrymen.
The rise of the Sunnis of Iran is neither a myth nor a whishful thinking, it is plain reality, a reality that has caused hysteria in Qom and Tehran.