President Hassan Rouhani is under fire from two Grand Ayatollahs angered by his recent comments on Iran’s policies of compulsory hijab and Internet filtering.
Speaking at a meeting with the Minster of Communications and Information Technology January 21, Rouhani reportedly remarked, “Regarding hijab, the Koran addresses men first, forbidding them to look at women in lecherous ways; but, sadly, we go after women and girls, and arrest them for their [improper] hijab."
In surprisingly candid remarks Rouhani had said that "Standing against public demands is against the law and religion." He had also criticized the absence of independent media in the country, lambasting the state controlled outlests.
Rouhani went on to criticize Iran’s policy of blocking and filtering certain social media networks and websites, saying, “Modern technologies have many advantages and limited risks, and we cannot separate people’s lives from developments in technology and communications… We should acknowledge that we have been wrong. Neither blocking nor filtering leads us to where we wish to be."
But during the week two influential religious leaders attacked the president to remind him to be careful when he speaks about the tenets of the Islamic Republic.
Qom based Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi called Rouhani’s comments “against Islamic values.”
"You are the President of the Islamic Republic, not the President of a democratic secular system,” the 91-year-old ayatollah admonished. He also said that if Iran has become a regional power, that is because of its Islamic system.
Meanwhile, another Qom based Ayatollah, Jafar Sobhani, similarly rebuked Rouhani for his comments.
“We leave politics and economics to you, so you should leave religious rulings for the seminary,” said the 89-year-old religious leader.
President Rouhani has issued a statement insisting that his comments were taken out of context.
The government's official news agency (IRNA) published a long essay in Rouhani's defense, describing him as a person who ardently cares about matters of religious faith and subjects deemed sensitive by Iran’s grand ayatollahs.
But the fact is that on a few occasions Rouhani has challenged some of the fundamental principles of the Islamic Republic's ruling system or indirectly the Supreme Leader himself, but his remarks on January 21 can still be considered an unexpected move.