Prominent Sunni cleric says Chinese students in Qom behind coronavirus outbreak

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The coronavirus outbreak in Iran was caused by Chinese students studying at a religious seminary in the Shia holy city of Qom, Iran’s most prominent Sunni cleric, Molavi Abdul-Hamid, said in a video published on his website Friday.

“It is known that Chinese students studying at Al-Mustafa International University (MIU) brought coronavirus to Iran,” Abdul-Hamid said. Abdul-Hamid is the Friday prayer leader in Zahedan, the capital of the Sunni-populated province of Sistan-Baluchestan.

MIU is a state-funded, Shia seminary based in Qom with almost 40,000 foreign students. MIU purports to be an international academic, Islamic, and university-style seminary institute.

MIU released a statement in response to Abdul-Hamid, criticizing the Sunni cleric and denying that its Chinese students were behind the coronavirus outbreak in Iran.

“Have any officials made any such claims or has any evidence been presented? A religious scholar is expected to be more accurate in expressing himself,” MIU said in a statement.

Mohammad Hossein Bahraini, head of Mashhad’s medical university, was quoted as saying last month that coronavirus spread to Qom through 700 Chinese students studying at MIU.

The university later denied Bahraini had made such remarks.

Qom is an epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Iran and the first city to report cases of the virus.

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