For fear of being insulted in public, clerics and seminary students are avoiding their usual garb, a senior Iranian cleric has said.
Mohammad Taghi Fazel Meybodi, a member of the Assembly of the Qom Seminary Scholars and Researchers, said in an interview published on Tuesday that the people in Iran have a negative view of the clergy, and blame them for the current hardships they experience, including high prices and corruption.
"Many clerics who want to go out to do something or go shopping…try not to go in their clerical clothes, because people swear or curse at them" he said.
He added that people don’t trust the clerics anymore because most of those they know work in the government or military organizations.
Many Shiite clerics also work as the propaganda agents of the clerical regime in state media, including the monopolized state television, where they regularly appear in talk shows to instill religious values or defend government policies. Some are also rich, with opulent houses and bodyguards.
Young Shiite clerics studying in seminaries.
He admitted that these types of clerics are paid handsome salaries, “but these are not all the clerics”, he stressed, noting that there are many who live on meager stipends paid by the seminaries.
The Qom seminary has become too politicized, Fazel Meybodi added, describing it as the main reason behind the unpopularity of the clergy in the country. The financial dependence of most seminaries on lavish government handouts has made the clergy obedient, while decades earlier people saw clerics as an independent force in society.
“The economy of our society is sick, and unfortunately every government that comes to power makes promises that remain unfulfilled” he said, highlighting that most of officials who run the country and hold important positions are from the clergy, and this has led to people’s negative views of them.
Last week, a woman in the religious city of Qom was arrested for arguing with a cleric and trampling on his turban after he and another cleric warned her over her hijab.
Earlier in the week, strong reactions to comments by a cleric in Iran highlighted the vast gap between the official ideology and the people's notion of a desirable lifestyle.
Iranian media on Saturday quoted Tehran's Friday Prayers Imam Kazem Sedighi as having branded family planning and dog walkingas examples of "promiscuity and fighting Allah."
Meanwhile, trending the hashtag #LetUsTalk, hundreds of Iranian social media users protested against compulsory hijab and the ideology the government imposes on them.