Muslim clerics accuse Iran’s president of breaking Islamic law that forbids touching women outside immediate family By Steve Robson A photo of Iranian President Ahmadinejad hugging Hugo Chavez’s mother at the late Venezuelan leader’s funeral has sparked controversy among conservative Muslim clerics. The image shows Ahmadinejad and Elena Frias de Chavez touching cheeks during a [...]

Sunday Times 2

Ahmadinejad under attack for ‘sinful’ hug

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Muslim clerics accuse Iran’s president of breaking Islamic law that forbids touching women outside immediate family

By Steve Robson

A photo of Iranian President Ahmadinejad hugging Hugo Chavez’s mother at the late Venezuelan leader’s funeral has sparked controversy among conservative Muslim clerics.

Controversy: This photo of President Ahmadinejad closely embracing Elena Frias de Chavez was slammed by religious conservatives in Iran

The image shows Ahmadinejad and Elena Frias de Chavez touching cheeks during a moment of shared grief.

But religious conservatives say his actions are ‘sinful’ under Islamic doctrine which forbids Muslim men from touching women outside their immediate family.

They claim the act insulted Iran’s religious dignity and amounted to ‘haram’ – a term used to describe a religiously forbidden act under Islamic rules.
Mohammad Taghi Rahbar, the Friday prayer leader of Iran’s second city, Isfahan, told Mehr news agency that Mr Ahmadinejad had ‘lost control’.

He added: ‘Shaking hands with a non-mahram (unrelated by family) woman, under any circumstances, whether young or old, is not allowed. Hugging or expressing emotions is improper for the dignity of the president of a country like the Islamic Republic of Iran.’
President Ahmadinejad has already come under fire from conservatives loyal to Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s supreme religious leader, for posting a blog last week in tribute to Hugo Chavez which predicted he would return with Jesus Christ ‘on resurrection day’.
Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a senior Iranian cleric, said: ‘I say directly that he went too far with what he mentioned in his tribute.’
‘The president is well aware that such a tribute will provoke reactions in our religious institutes. He could have sent a diplomatic message with no religious connotations.’

The controversy surrounding the photograph became even more confused when one of Iran’s newspapers accused the Daily Telegraph newspaper of having photoshopped the image ‘amateurishly’.

Another photo claiming to be the original was circulated which showed Ahmadinejad embracing one of Chavez’s uncles.
But it was soon established that in fact this was a fake and the Entekhab news website apologised, blaming a rogue reporter for the error.

Daily Mail, London




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