In the eyes of Iranian clerics, no one can do right, especially when they’re violating religious taboos. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is no exception, as he’s been under fire from senior clerics after consoling late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez’ grieving mother with a slight hug at her son’s funeral.
“Touching a non-mahram (a woman who is not a close relative) is forbidden under any circumstances, whether shaking hands or touching by the cheek,” said cleric Mohammad Taqi Rahbar, adding that contact with even “an older woman is not allowed … and contrary to the dignity of the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Ahmadinejad’s actions were considered a grievous sin, and this misstep is not one that’s likely to be overlooked.
The criticisms didn’t stop at the embrace — clerics also found fault with his letter to the Venezuelan people and their interim leader, Nicolas Maduro, expressing his condolences for their loss. In the letter, Ahmadinejad described Chavez as a “martyr” who would be resurrected and return to earth with Jesus Christ and Imam Mahdi, a saint that Shiite Muslims hold in high regard.
Ahmadinejad was criticized for his apparent lack of religious knowledge once Iranian clerics got ahold of the letter. The timing couldn’t be any worse — Iran’s presidential elections are a mere three months away, and even though Ahmadinejad himself can’t run due to term limits, he was hoping to enter a protege into the race.