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Iranian press review: Imam sacked after calling state theology 'a bunch of crap'

Meanwhile, rival political factions clash over wasteful spending and Iranians remind Poles of their shared history
Hassan Aghamiri is popular among Iranian youth for giving speeches that contrast with the official interpretation of Islam taught in Shia seminaries and accepted by Iranian authorities (AFP/Illustrative)

Iranians remind Poland of WWII-era hospitality

Tehran was prompt to protest last week following Warsaw’s decision to host an anti-Iran conference initiated by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Ordinary Iranians joined their government in the outrage, taking to social media to condemn Polish politicians and remind them of Iran's hospitality during World War II. At that time, 120,000 Polish refugees fled forced exile in Siberia and sought refuge in cities across Iran.

Narges Kharaghani, an Iranian documentary filmmaker, posted on Twitter a link to the trailer of her film about the exodus of Polish refugees to Iran. In the movie, one of the last remaining refugees recalls her memories of the war.

After World War II, around 300 Polish citizens married Iranians and stayed in Iran.

Ghodratollah Noroozi, the Mayor of Isfahan, also shared photo of a Polish postage stamp commemorating Isfahan as "The City of Polish Children". Isfahan hosted over 2,000 Polish children during World War II, many of them from Jewish families.

“This is not the way, one answers to love,” Noroozi wrote.

Reformists attack conservatives on wasteful spending

A photo of Hossein Shariatmadari - the managing editor of ultra-conservative, state-owned daily Kayhan - with an iMac on his office desk has stirred controversy.

On 14 January, reformist daily Aftab published the photo on its front page along with the headline “A 24-million [toman, approximately $5,700] American product on Shariatmadari’s desk”.

Shariatmadari, who has close ties to Iran’s supreme leader, is known for his anti-US views and his tireless attempts to thwart any deal between Iran and the US.

“The managing editor of Kayhan has always advised people to buy domestic products, and criticised the government for the mismanagement of imported goods,” Aftab wrote. “Now there is a product on his desk that is neither Iranian nor even Korean, but American.”

In recent months, with former officials and businesspersons appearing in court for corruption related cases, Iranian rival politicians do not miss a chance to accuse one another for wasteful spending.

Popular cleric removed for ‘insulting Islamic sanctities’

Hassan Aghamiri, an Iranian imam with 1.6 million followers on Instagram and over 200,000 followers on Telegram, was defrocked by the Special Court for the Clergy for charges including "insulting Islamic sanctities" and "disturbing public opinion".

The court has stripped him of his title permanently and sentenced him to a suspended two-year prison sentence.

Aghamiri is popular among Iranian youth for giving speeches that contrast with the official interpretation of Islam taught in Shia seminaries and accepted by Iranian authorities. His opponents nicknamed him the “Telegram cleric”, while his supporters praise him as a missionary of “God’s love”.

In a controversial speech, he had denounced the ways in which Iran’s official narrative of Islam portrays God. “They have created a god for you who is up there to hang people, to burn them, to force them to drink boiling water,” he said. “This is rubbish, just a bunch of crap they are telling you.”

Aghamiri is not the first Iranian religious figure to be defrocked. Famous clerics such as Hassan Yousefi Ashkevari, Hadi Qabel, Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi, Ahmad Montazeri and Mohammadreza Nekunam have been stripped of their religious positions in recent years, mainly due to their political opposition to Iran’s theocratic governing system. 

* The Iranian press review is a digest of reports in Farsi-language publications that are not independently verified as accurate by Middle East Eye.