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IRAN: Friday prayer preachers focus on improper women's dress, signalling potential crackdown

May 21, 2010 |  6:28 pm

Tighten your hijab, ladies, and pull on your manteau. The months-long siesta for religious hard-liners in the Islamic Republic of Iran appears to have drawn to a close as two Friday prayer leaders called for a crackdown on the immodest dress of women, potentially laying the groundwork for more harassment of women in public.

The government coordinates on Tuesdays with religious leaders to determine the content of sermons for Friday prayers, ensuring that the same message is spread throughout the country. 

Mantot

In Tehran, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati called for a crackdown on all Iranian woman, beginning with "government employees and students." 

Referring to female students, Jannati said that they may face disciplinary committees if they refuse to abide by the state's interpretation of a uniform Islamic dress code and that the success of their exams may be contingent on their conformity to the moral order.

Jannati said that hospitals and other public centers should also not avoid scrutiny. He praised the Supreme Council for Cultural Revolution, one of the institutions that drove the 1979 Islamic Revolution, for adopting a plan two years ago to enforce chastity and the wearing of the hijab, though it was blocked.

"Those who obstructed this law should be held accountable.... Why haven't you implemented this law yet?"

Jannati's sermon was broadcast on state radio.

Jannati is a force to be reckoned with in Iranian politics. He has been a member of the Guardian Council since 1980 and its chairman since 1988. He also holds seats in the Assembly of Experts and the Expediency Discernment Council, significant government organs.

On Jan. 29, he praised the regime for executing members of the peaceful protest movement that grew out of the contended presidential elections and urged more executions "to please god," as reported by Voice of America.

In Mashhad, the second largest city in Iran, similar cries could be heard by Ayatollah Ahmad Alam-al-Hoda. During his sermon, Alam-al-Hoda connected the issue of immodest dress to foreign influence.  "Badly veiled women and girls are like foot soldiers of the United States. Our enemies intend to pull the rug of religion from under the feet of our youth by spreading bad veil in the society," as reported by Fars News Agency.

Jannati

Ultimately, Alam-al-Hoda said women's dress has an effect on men. "Anytime badly veiled women and girls sport strong makeup to deviate a young man from the right path, the enemy will be pleased with victory. These badly veiled women are knowingly or unknowingly fighting on the enemy's front."  

On Dec. 30, Alam-al-Hoda was the first to publicly proclaim at a pro-government rally in Tehran that opposition leaders should be tried as enemies of God, according to Agence  France -Presse.

With the potential for a fourth round of U.S.-led U.N. sanctions against Iran, today's Friday sermon centered on Iranian women's duty to carry the emblem of the Islamic Republic as it faces  what it perceives to be a siege from the West.

As the temperatures rise in Iran with summer's approach, so do Friday sermons.

Top photo: Two young Iranian women in Esfahan wearing the manteau. Credit: www.hubpages.com.

Lower photo: Ayatollah Jannati delivering his Friday sermon in Tehran. Credit: Fars News Agency.

-- Becky Lee Katz in Beirut

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