Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is coming under fire from religious clerics in his own country after a picture surfaced that showed the Muslim president embracing Hugo Chavez's' grieving mother.
The reason the picture has caused such a problem for Ahmadinejad is due to Iran's conservative Islamic codes, which forbid a Muslim from touching a member of the opposite sex that is not related.
"Touching a non-mahram (non-relative) is forbidden under any circumstances, whether shaking hands or touching by the cheek," Mohammad Taqi Rahbar, a prominent Iranian cleric, told AFP. Even contact with "an older woman is not allowed ... and contrary to the dignity of the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran," he added.
Iranian papers have been leading the public lashing of Ahmadinejad, which has given clerics from the religious center of Qom a platform from which to voice their disapproval ahead of the country's presidential elections that will be held in June.
Even though the current president is not allowed to run for another term following the nation's constitution, Ahmadinejad has been trying to change that rule in his favor, much to the chagrin of those opposed to him.
Ahmadinejad was also lambasted for his comments regarding Chavez being a "martyr." He claimed the late Venezuelan president will be resurrected alongside Jesus Christ and Imam Mahdi, a revered figure of Shiite Muslims.
The brewing controversy has given his opposition an opportunity to use the situation to draw support way from Ahmadinejad.
"I burst into laughter when I saw Ahmadinejad weeping on the arm of Chavez mother," Abbas Abdi, an activist and columnist with the website Aftabnews.ir, wrote in a recent article.
"If he needed to cry, he should have done so for his countrymen who died," referring to those killed by security forces during protests following Ahmadinejad's controversial re-election in 2009.