President Hassan Rouhani's public battle with hard-line clerics over Iranians' route to heaven is symptomatic of the broader war he faces over his reform efforts.
In the last two weeks, the tit-for-tat exchanges between Iranian PresidentÂ Hassan RouhaniÂ and his hard-line opponents have grabbed the headlines, not only inside Iran but around the world. Triggered by the arrest of six young Iranian men and women who had created a video of themselves dancing to Pharrell WilliamsâÂ hitÂ song âHappy,âÂ Rouhani remarked May 24 in a speech, âDo not interfere so much in peopleâs lives, even out of compassion. â¦ Let people choose their own path to heaven. We cannot send people to heaven by force orÂ a whip.â
According to Al-Monitor, the statements seemed a departure from the paternalistic approach, including the imposition of religious codes of conduct that the Islamic Republic establishment has adopted since its inception. Rouhaniâs comments are less about the philosophical approach toÂ enforcing cultural normsÂ as they are about accepting realities of Iranian society and preserving and expanding his own political base.
Rouhaniâs statements provoked fierce reactions from the conservativeÂ camp. The war of words peaked when the outspoken and ultraconservative senior cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah YazdiÂ stepped in. Addressing Rouhani as âsome individuals with official authorityÂ who wear a turban,â he asked,Â âWhere did you get your religion from? From Feyziyyeh [a seminary school inÂ Qom]Â or England?â
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