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Imam Resigns As Prayer Leader After Handing Out Cash To Jobless Workers In Iran

Shojauddin Abtahi, the Friday Prayer Imam of Iranshahr resigned after he distributed cash to day laborers without work. FILE PHOTO

A council overseeing Friday Prayer Imams in the Islamic Republic of Iran has accepted the resignation of Iranshahr's prayer leader, Shojauddin Abtahi, Hawza (seminary) news agency reports.

On Saturday, April 18, a video was published on social media showing the mid-ranking clergy, Abtahi, sitting in a car, and distributing cash among people seeking a daily job in the poor Sistan and Baluchistan province.

Abtahi's driver, who taped the video, had earlier praised the Friday Imam's move as assisting daily workers who had failed to find a job.

The circulation of the video triggered a series of negative reactions on social media. Numerous internet users deplored the move as humiliating workers.

In a note published in the newspaper on Monday, April 20, the editor-in-chief of daily Jomhuri Eslami, denounced the Friday prayer leader’s move as "disrespectful" and "against Sharia", devoid of "moral principles" and far from "human dignity."

The daily is owned by the Islamic Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei but its editor, mid-ranking cleric Massih Mohajeri, has established his position as a moderate, supporting President Hassan Rouhani and his so-called reformist allies.

Distributing money or cash handouts among the deprived classes of the Iranian society, especially during parliamentary elections, has been common in the country.

The move has become so widespread that in August last year, several members of Majles (Islamic parliament) called for the passage of a law banning cash handouts in election campaigns.

In his letter of resignation, the Abtahi insisted that he only intended to assist jobless workers.

Iranshahr, southeast Iran, where Abtahi served as Ayatollah Khamenei's representative, is a mainly Sunni populated city.