Dr. Hassan Rouhani, the newly elected Iranian president is alleged to have copied part of his PhD thesis at Glasgow Caledonian University. Rouhani completed both his masters and PhD at the university in the 1990s.
Iranian activists discovered that two passages of Rouhani's PhD thesis, titled 'The Flexibility of Sharia (Islamic Law) with reference to the Iranian experience,' resembles sentences written in a book by Mohamad Hashem Kamali, an Iranian author and the chairman of Iran's International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies.
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Behdad Morshedi, a London-based writer, said the 64-year-old president used the exact same sentences mentioned in Kamali's book, titled, 'Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence.'
"Mr Kamali is closely associated with the regime but his book was published in his own name and the extracts are virtually identical," said Morshedi (a pen name). "We will be submitting a petition calling on the university to cancel the PhD."
Charles McGhee, a spokesman for Glasgow Caledonian University, said they have also received accusations from another activist in the U.S. Pentagon, seeking the 500 page thesis from the university. The university library stated that the thesis mentions Kamali's book in the main body and that the text was cited in the bibliography.
One of the sentences in Kamali's book taken by Rouhani:
"The Koran is not specific on the precise value of its injunctions and it leaves open the possibility that a command in the Koran may sometimes imply an obligation, a recommendation or a mere permissibility."
Officials are unsure whether Rouhani attended the university in-person or completed his course via distance education.
Academics said that if Rouhani is found guilty of plagiarism, then the university should rescind his Ph.D award.
"I do not know if Mr Rouhani has engaged in plagiarism or not. What I do know is Glasgow Caledoninan is not an obvious place for a PhD in a subject dealing with Shia jurisprudence or Iranian politics," said Kaveh Moussavi, an associate fellow at the University of Oxford. "I do not expect any adverse consequences to flow from this episode. It would however be nice to see Mr Rouhani give a press conference in English and let the audience decide for themselves whether his English is at the PhD level."
Rouhani's permission is required for his work to be made public.
He won the presidential election on June 14. He will be officially sworn in on August 4.
"I would like to congratulate our alumnus, Hassan Rouhani, on being elected president of Iran, a truly significant achievement. I hope his period as a scholar at Glasgow Caledonian University will prove beneficial as he assumes office, and I wish him every success as he works towards a positive future for Iran and its people," GCU's principal and vice- chancellor Professor Pamela Gillies said.