As rumors suggest that Ahmad Alamolhoda, a firebrand top Friday Imam, is likely to be replaced, he may have gone one step too far in defending his hardline views.
Alamolhoda said in his sermon on Friday that the regime is no longer powerful enough to stand against women who defy compulsory hijab and [fundamentalist] men and women may need to take the law into their hands.
By this call, Alamolhoda, who is President Ebrahim Raisi’s father-in-law, may have tried to align with the extremists said to be behind the gas attacks on girls' schools in several Iranian cities.
The hardliner cleric opined that the campaign against compulsory hijab has reached a stage in which any institution defending the dress code will be seen as part of the government. Alamolhoda's critics will certainly take his comment as yet another indication of his opposition to what he thinks is the government's "mild" reaction to defiance against the compulsory dress code imposed on Iranian women.
On Thursday, several social media accounts close to clerical circles in Iran suggested that Almolhoda is to be replaced as the Friday Prayers Imam and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's representative in Mashhad. Earlier Alamolhoda was criticized and cautioned by senior members of Khamenei's office about his "too hardline" views that will anger women and fuel protests.
An undated photo showing Ayatollah Alamolhoda (C) with his son-in-law Raisi and Khamenei
One of the tweets on Thursday even named Ayatollah Mohammad-Javad Nezafat-Yazdi as the man who is likely to take over Alamolhoda's position. The tweet said: "Finally, several years of criticism of the controversial Imam in Mashhad worked and Alamolhoda is going to be replaced by Nezafat-Yazdi." The tweet charged that Alamolhoda violated the country's cultural policies, banned concerts and called chaste women who defied the hijab "prostitutes."
On Friday, Alamolhoda harshly criticized those who say that the Islamic regime should not try to offend "the enemies". He later made it clear that by "enemy" he meant the United States, nicknamed by Islamic Republic officials as "the world's arrogant power." He further claimed that Iran's revolution is spreading in the region and "That is why the United States sees the Islamic Republic as its new rival in the region."
He further charged that opposition to compulsory hijab is another tactic by the United States to topple the Islamic regime in Iran. He claimed that a think tank at the Johns Hopkins University in the United States has decided to increase the rate of exchange for US dollar to 600,000 rials, a level the rates reached last week. He even claimed that Mark Dubowitz of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies as the brain behind the “economic war room” against the Islamic Republic.
Alamolhoda's possible replacement from his high positions are likely to further weaken his embattled son-in-law Raisi who is seriously under attack even by his own supporters for failing to save Iran's ailing economy.
Meanwhile, Iranian officials and politicians have said repeatedly that replacing one hardliner by another will not solve the country's problems. In one of the latest cases, Ahmad Alireza Beigi, a lawmaker from Tabriz, has said: "The Islamic Republic is like a vehicle that has run out of fuel but we are trying to replace the driver, hoping this will solve the problem."
Alireza Beigi added: "No change will happen unless we return power to the people." He further said: "First we need to return to the point where we made a mistake. We need to allow the people to see the outcome of their own will in running the affairs of the state."
The lawmaker said elsewhere: "Short-sightedness and limiting people's choices have led to the formation of a government in Iran which lacks the people's support and thus, does not have self-confidence." He reminded that Raisi was placed in a position of power when the Guardian Council's secretary said, "We will have a good election even if the people do not take part in it." He warned: "You cannot expect a good election if you ignore the people. And you saw that Raisi was elected in an election with minimal turnout."