The holy city of Mashhad in northeastern Iran has been officially introduced as the “cultural capital of the Muslim world” for the Asia region for 2017.

In 2011, the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), which is associated with the Organization of Islamic Conference, launched the initiative for three cities to be named each year as such capitals throughout the countries in Asia, the Arab region, and the African region, which house considerable Muslim populations.

On Tuesday, Mashhad was awarded the title by Deputy Director General of the ISESCO Amina al-Hajri at a ceremony attended by ranking Iranian officials and 250 cultural and political figures from 51 world countries.

The other cities bearing the title this year are the Jordanian capital of Amman for the Arab region and the Ugandan capital of Kampala for Africa.

“This is an important day for Mashhad, Islamic Iran, and the world of Islam,” Iran’s Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Reza Salehi Amiri said, addressing the event. “Mashhad can be the focal point for attracting scholars and thinkers and artists.”

Muslims, he said, believed in the same theoretical basics, had one Holy Book, and one Prophet (PBUH).

“We have common enemies inside the world of Islam. They have their own reactionary understanding and perception of this holy religion. They want to portray the religion as a violent one,” the Iranian minister said. “And at the same time, we have external foes, namely the Zionist entity (Israel), which plays a key role in creating disunity in the world of Islam.”

The official concluded by urging unity and convergence toward successfully confronting the sources of enmity to the Islamic world.