World

Ahmadinejad under fire for hugging Chavez’s mother

TEHRAN — Iranian clerics have scolded President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for consoling Hugo Chavez’s mother with a hug — a physical contact considered a sin under Iran’s strict Islamic codes.

The rebuke follows a widely published photo showing Ahmadinejad embracing Chavez’s mother at the funeral of the late Venezuelan president in what is seen as taboo-breaking behavior in Iran.

Iranian papers on Tuesday cited clerics from the religious center of Qom who described the hug as ‘‘forbidden,’’ inappropriate behavior, and ‘‘clowning around.’’

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Iran’s Islamic codes prohibit physical contact between unrelated members of the opposite sex.

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The clerics did not spare Ahmadinejad. ‘‘Touching a non-mahram [a woman who is not a close relative] is forbidden under any circumstances, whether shaking hands or touching by the cheek,’’ said one of the clerics, Mohammad Taqi Rahbar, adding that such a contact, even with ‘‘an older woman is not allowed . . . and contrary to the dignity of the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran.’’

Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, a religious leader in Qom, said Ahmadinejad was ‘‘clowning around’’ and his hug shows he failed to ‘‘protect the dignity of his nation and his position.’’

Associated Press