Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is under the spotlight once again for another controversial move.
But this move is much “softer” than nuclear war games or the occasional lashing out at Israel or America.
This time, it’s a hug.
Ahmadinejad came under heavy criticism after a picture on Friday showed him embracing a woman at the funeral of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, according to the website of the Iranian parliament reported.
While the identity of the woman who received Ahmadinejad’s apparent act of sympathy was at first unclear, the woman appeared to be Chavez’s mother Elena Frias, according to AFP news agency.
Most of those who criticized the embrace are Iranian conservatives who staunchly supported the president during the Iranian presidential elections held in June 2008.
Iranian MP Mohammed Dehghan said, in an implicit reference to Ahmadinejad, that such an act by a prominent executive official opposes the behavior of a Muslim who is constrained by religious commitments.
Dehghan also criticized the “perverted group” - a term used by Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei’s supporters to describe the circle close to Ahmadinejad - warning of the wide spread of this group in Iran.
He also called on religious scholars to seriously confront Ahmadinejad’s “un-Islamic” acts.
Former MP Hojatoleslam Mohammed Taghi Rahbar, who supported Ahmadinjed during the previous presidential elections, said the president lost control over the situation during the funeral of Chavez.
The Iranian president has previously sparked the conservatives’ outrage after he announced a national day of mourning following the death of Chavez. The move was described as “an illegal precedent.”
Prominent Shiite religious figures have called on Ahmadinejad to be better knowledgeable on his religion. They have also called on him to avoid making statements relevant to religion during the rest of his presidential term, which ends in August, to prevent stirring domestic tensions.
In his eulogy of Chavez, Ahmadinejad said the former “will come again along with Jesus Christ and Al-Imam al-Mahdi to redeem mankind.”
The statement sparked further criticism as some Iranian clerics accused Ahmadinejad of committing a sin by saying that “Chavez’s soul will return and that he will come again after the appearance of the (Hidden) Imam.”