Amid a serious corovairus crisis in Iran an ultra-conservative ayatollah has condemned the government decision to suspend Friday Prayer gatherings, saying it is God’s command.
Ahmad Alamolhoda, the Friday Prayer Imam of the holy city of Mashhad in northeast Iran, is known for his fundamentalist views and his staunch support for Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
In his written sermon for Friday, Alamolhoda says he has obeyed the government decision not to hold Friday Prayer gatherings, but it is not a “justifiable” order, since cities and the country are not in quarantine and health officials have endorsed holding open air gatherings in Mashhad and other parts of the country.
It is not clear which health officials Alamolhoda was referring to.
The council supervising Friday Prayers decided February 28 to cancel prayer gatherings in 23 provincial capitals to minimize the risk of coronavirus spreading further among the population.
Iran disclosed on February 19 that there are infection cases in the country and soon reports of multiple deaths followed. Currently, Iran has the second highest number of deaths from coronavirus after China.
The government’s official figures show 34 have died and close to 400 are diagnosed with the virus, but a few politicians, journalists and citizens say the real numbers are much higher.
Iran’s clerics have resisted the closure of shrines where thousands of people visit daily, to minimize the risk of an epidemic.