Strong reactions to comments by a cleric in Iran has highlighted the vast gap between the official ideology and the people's notion of a desirable lifestyle.
At the same time, Iranian social media users have been trending the hashtag #LetUsTalk to show their protest to compulsory hijab and religious ideology.
Iranian media on Saturday quoted Tehran's Friday Prayers Imam Kazem Sedighi as having branded family planning and dog walking as examples of "promiscuity and fighting Allah."
The conservative cleric had said in his sermons on Friday, "The three sins of demanding interest on loans, creating insecurity, and loosening the foundations of the institution of family are prevalent in our society. These are tantamount to fighting Allah." He added that "Loosening the foundations of family leads to indecent behavior and debauchery, the examples of which are not observing the Islamic hijab, walking dogs, and avoiding having children."
A woman walking a dog in a Tehran street.
Reformist activist Mostafa Tajzadeh reacted to Sedighi's remark in a tweet: "Anyone who knows Sedighi will not be surprised by his comment about family planning being an example of indecent behavior and debauchery. But why should such a person be appointed as Tehran's Friday Prayer leader…? Don't they see that people are throwing away clerics' turbans off their heads?"
Tajzadeh was alluding to a recent incident when a woman stepped on a cleric's turban after he insulted her and beat her with a stick for not wearing the right Islamic hijab. The video of the incident that went viral on social media.
In comments under a report about Sedighi's remarks, one of the readers of proreform Fararu website wrote:"I agree with you on walking the dog, but bringing up children needs money, which we do not have."
Another reader said: "Just remember that Sedighi is the same man who said a dead body in the morgue looked at him and laughed. Giving a man like this a status such as a Friday Prayers Imam is an insult to religion."
Yet another user replied: "People cannot have children because they have financial problems. You have created these problems. And people probably keep dogs as pets only to show their disapproval and hatred of the [Islamic Republic] government."
Meanwhile, trending the hashtag #LetUsTalk, hundreds of Iranian social media users protested to compulsory hijab and the ideology the government is imposing on them. Many responded to Iranian activist Massih Alinejad's call for posting their picture in hijab next to a picture in their usual outfit.Alinejad has initiated the hashtag by posting two of her own pictures.
She wrote in a tweet: "They told us in Iran that we would be subjected to lashes and imprisonment if we do not wear the hijab, and in the West, when we want to talk about it, they tell us to keep silent as this might be an example of Islamophobia." She told other Iranian women, "Do not remain silent. We have a right to be scared of the Islamists' ideology."
An Iranian woman posted a picture of her childhood in hijab and wrote: "This sad little girl is not the real me. She is what the Islamic Republic wants little girls to be. Another Iranian woman, Azam Bahrami, wrote: "I was punished several times for taking a book with me to the school or for singing a song to my classmates or for the color of my socks or shoes. "
Another woman using the hashtag #LetUsTalk, wrote: "Hijab is not my choice. Nor it is the choice of hundreds of thousands of other Iranian women." Another woman said: "We have been lashed and our human dignity has been undermined for walking hand in hand with someone we love, for being happy, for singing. So, #LetUsTalk about it."