No one says you are doomed to a traditional lifestyle when you are a student at a seminary school. There are many seminary students in Iran who engage in modern social activities. At times their foray into the unusual is frowned upon.
One such student, Hadi Hosseini has recently opened up a café, or what he calls a “brew bar”, in his home town: Isfahan in central Iran.
“We usually give our foreign customers a package. This place abounds with tourists because of its proximity to the city’s main tourist spot. The package contains a copy of the letter the Supreme Leader wrote to the European youth. Some time ago a Danish man came here and said he had read the letter already but had some questions about its content. I said I was ready to answer his questions. It took us a cool three hours to go through all his questions,” Hadi said in an interview with bultannews.com.
What follows is the translation of an excerpt of the interview:
You are a seminary student, why this?
Ever since I started studying in university and then in seminary, I have always had a job. I have done marketing, freelance taxi driving, and even journalism. I believe working is a necessity for everyone.
During the war my family was on the move. Once I returned to Isfahan, my wife had a sum. So we decided to start a business. We had several options to choose from, among them a fast-food restaurant, a trade company and or a café. After much thinking and consulting experts, we decided to open this shop.
Why did you choose a café?
I believe seminary clerics must be in contact with people and live among them. The more we reach out to different social strata, the more impact we can have on them. People from all walks of life come here to spend some time. This is the best opportunity for a cleric like me to tell them what they need to hear about Islam. When a customer sees a café owner has religious looks and receives them well, they will probably become a regular and take a liking to what they have to say.
Have you tried to make this place look religious?
No, not at all. As you can see, we have opted for a romantic décor in here. Except for a few photos of famous poets, actors, politicians and thinkers which have given this place a social tinge, no other symbols can be seen in the café. Customers here are not treated based on how they look, whether religious or not.
Have you ever received any training for what you are doing here or you have learned the ropes over time?
Our religion instructs us to do everything based on knowledge and training. Accordingly, before opening this place I started looking for a trainer. I came across a member of the Coffee Association of Europe who had officiated at a final round of a barista competition in Iran. I took two training courses with this man. I am proud to say that we are Isfahan’s first “brew bar”. Very few brew bars are up and running in Iran, and we are one of them.
How was the café received by your friends and acquaintances?
Up to 80 percent of the reactions have been positive and encouraging. I have been flattered by their comments about my venture. Others do not approve of the move and sometimes make sarcastic comments. I am sure these comments are out of concern, so I don’t get offended.