A friend stopped by the other day having just come back from Iran. She brought with her a gift of sweets from the Iranian city of Qom. The only English on the box was an address in case I might want to drop in during a future visit to Qom. It reads:
After the Gas Station, Arak Road, Qom, Iran
That address sounded cozy and chummy, like a small town in Iowa. It did not match my image of Qom. When Scott Appleby and I were studying militant fundamentalisms, we isolated Qom as a center of Shi‘a militancy. There are more seminaries there (52 of them) than you would find in Chicago, Boston, New York, San Francisco or other academic-clustering cities in the United States. Qom is a city of more than a million people.