[Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad said in a June 12 television interview that the government has “no role” in the fight against “bad veiling” and social behaviors that are considered un-Islamic and immoral.
“The government has nothing to do with it and doesn’t interfere in it. We consider it insulting when a man and a woman are walking in the streets and they’re asked about their relationship. No one has the right to ask about it,” the Iranian president said.
A hard-line cleric, Ahmad Khatami, who is usually a supporter of Ahmadinejad, accused him of belittling those who have concern for moral chastity. “This wave is being advanced by the great sources of emulation, Friday prayer leaders, parliamentary deputies, and each and every single pious individual. The majority of the people who staged rallies in favor of the hijab are the very same people who voted for the president himself. The least that they expect of him is that he shares their concerns,” Khatami said.
The head of the parliament’s clerical faction, Mohammad Taghi Rahbar, also blasted Ahmadinejad by saying that the Iranian president has given a “green light” to immodest dressing. “Those who voted for you were the fully veiled people. The badly veiled ‘greens’ did not vote for you, so you’d better consider that what pleases god is not pleasing a number of corrupt people,” Rahbar was quoted as saying.
RFE/RL’s Radio Farda quotes another conservative legislator, Ali Motahari, as saying that Ahmadinejad made the comments about the hijab crackdown under the influence of his chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei.
Motahari said that if the government wants to oppose the dress crackdown, it is like opposing “the rule of Islam.” “We actually have to say that in the current period the enforcement of the hijab and chastity plan is being carried out with good programming and it has had a positive effect,” Motahari said, while adding that Ahmadinejad has put his own work under scrutiny by questioning the crackdown, which according to him is being carried out by the Interior Ministry.
The text above is an excerpt from the Persian Letters blog sponsored by the US state media Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; it is reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes. See, also, “Mahmoud & Esfandiar’s Excellent Adventure” (MRZine, 13 August 2009); Jamsheed K. Choksy, “Ahmadinejad Bucks Religious Establishment” (Newsweek Web Exclusive, 11 February 2010); “Mashaei Rocks the Haus” (MRZine, 23 March 2010).