Qom's Friday Prayer Imam, Abbas Mousavi Motlaq, says some people are unduly warning that the coronavirus outbreak threatens upcoming Muharram religious ceremonies, and commemorating third Shiite Imam in October.
Dismissing coronavirus as a "secular virus," the mid-ranking clergy reiterated, "With its destructive effects coronavirus is trying to lead religious countries astray, and toward atheism."
The Friday Prayer Imam of Qom, the largest center for the Twelver-Shiites seminaries in the world, insisted that coronavirus is "secular," and people should only follow religious experts' instructions for holding Muharram ceremonies.
In recent days, several clerics have criticized the continuation of coronavirus-related restrictions as the Shiites' holy months of Muharram and Safar approach.
This is not the first time religious leaders in Iran have spread strange conspiracy theories about the pandemic. A hardliner cleric claimed in March that "over-rating the threat of the epidemic is a conspiracy by enemies." He added that the coronavirus epidemic is part of "the clash of civilizations" instigated by secular Western powers against Islam and Muslims.
Meanwhile, the state-run Mehr News Agency, MNA, cited the Islamic Republic's Deputy Minister of Health, Reza Malekzadeh, as saying that people should take health recommendations more seriously since the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated in Iran.
In mid-February, officials admitted for the first time that citizens of Qom had been infected with the coronavirus. Still, there have been numerous reports that the Islamic Republic was aware of the pandemic hitting Iran long before the first official case was announced.
Many observers have held Qom-based Chinese Shiite seminary students responsible for spreading the virus and its related deadly disease, COVID-19, in Iran.