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Clerics seek to whip Iranians into religious shape

This summer, Iranians will once again prepare to confront the state’s forces

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

Published: Updated:

It has been more than a week since a struggle between Iranian President Hassan Rowhani and the country’s ultra-conservatives erupted on how to monitor citizens’ private lives and religious duties.

Social media is abuzz with insight on Rowhani’s approach towards the conservatives. The open dialogue and confrontation has please many ordinary Iranians.

“Some people seriously have nothing better to do,” Rowhani said on May 31 during speech, in reference to his conservative critics. “They have no work, no profession, they are deluded. They are incessantly worried about people’s religion and the afterlife. They know neither what religion is nor what the afterlife is, but they are always worried,” he added.

This is the first reaction to social matters by Rowhani since he assumed presidency last year. It comes as people have started to complain that the president is only focused on Iran’s nuclear file, at the expense of social issues in the country.

Confronting the state’s forces

This summer, Iranians will once again prepare to confront the state’s forces. This time, they will take on the religious squads which roam the streets checking that women are properly veiled and so forth.

They operate in famous shopping centers or crowed areas and are ready to catch and arrest offenders. It has been years since this unfinished battle started and generation after generation has entered into this un-ending confrontation.

Realistically, people don’t like to be forced into what the regime calls a “perfect Islamic society.”

Rowhani has come under fire by famous senior hardliners for saying on May 24 that “one cannot take people to heaven through force.” At the next Friday prayer, a hardline imam fired back, saying those types of comments “straightened the path to hell.”

Taking people to heaven

On May 30, Ayatollah Ahmad AlamAlhoda – an imam in the city of Mashahd – said that the government’s mission is to take people to heaven by the force of the whip.

“The whip is easy, we will stand with all of our might infront of people who want to prevent people from going to heaven.”

It seems the hardliners view the Iranian people as being in need of guardians who will correct their behavior with whips.

Iran is one of the few countries in the world in which the government tells its civilized and educated civilians how to dress and perform their religious duties.

There are special squads to arrest people and punish them, to “correct the offenders,” as Ayatollah Alamalhoda put it.

Not long ago, Iran’s Empress Shah Banou Farah Diba was a world class example of elegance and beauty. Fashion magazines and designers kept watchful eyes on her and so today’s situation is a bitter pill to swallow.

Iranians are taking to social media to mock the hardliners, saying: “If you guys are in heaven, we don’t want to come.”

For his part, Rowhani made it clear that he would not use his administration to promote religious activities. “ A religious government is a very good thing, but a governmental religion, I don’t know, we need to discuss that,” he said.

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Camelia Entekhabi-Fard is a journalist, news commentator and writer who grew up during the Iranian Revolution and wrote for leading reformist newspapers. She is also the author of Camelia: Save Yourself by Telling the Truth - A Memoir of Iran. She lives in New York City and Dubai. She can be found on Twitter: @CameliaFard

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.