Qom, Iran has always been torn between the past and the present, particularly at the Aalulbayt Global Information Center. Imams are on the 'Net, typing out Web pages of analysis of the Koran and religious edicts into 30 languages.
By way of a a server in Santa Clara, Calif., the world can view www.al-shia.com, the most popular source of Shiite proselytizing in the world. Also here is the international communications hub for Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's leading Shiite cleric, www.sistani.org, and for Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, www.leader.ir.
Until recently, many of Iran's clerics wanted nothing to do with the nation's growing blogging addiction. "Blogging, due to its mundane nature, has the capacity to nurture the spirit of vulgarity ... [and is] a destructive plague," Sayed Reza Shokrollahi, a journalist and literary critic, wrote a few years ago.
Today, hundreds of imams maintain their own blogs.
Grand Ayatollah Yusef Saanei said clerics hope their Internet writings will promote dialogue among faiths and, in his case, advocate a tolerant brand of Islam.
"We are on the Internet because it's one of the best devices to spread your ideas and thoughts and attitudes about the world," he said.
It's nice to be able to find other views of Islam besides the extremism so often portrayed in Western media.