Mahmoud Ahmadinejad criticized for hugging Hugo Chavez's mother

Updated March 12, 2013 at 1:35 PM
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A picture of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hugging the grieving mother of Venezuela's late president Hugo Chavez has been a major source of controversy in Iran.

Al Monitor reports that conservative Iranian officials were less than pleased with a photo in which Ahmadinejad is seen embracing Elena Frias, 78, during Chavez's funeral which took place in Caracas on March 8.

In the photo, Frias holds Ahmadinejad's hands and leans her head on his for comfort. Both contacts are strictly off limits in the Shiite denomination of Islam, which follows the idea that physical contact between a man and a non-related woman is prohibited.

Iranian conservative officials have called the president's actions insulting, contradicting with Iranian beliefs and treacherous.

"Such an attitude by a senior official contradicts with our beliefs," MP Mohammed Dahqan said. He also urged the ayatollahs to issue statements condemning the incident.

"If it was anyone other than Ahmadinejad who did so, he would be called a traitor," MP Mohamed Mahdi PorFatemi said.

Many of Ahmadinejad's devout activists looked to convince people the image, which went viral in Arab social networks and websites, had been photoshopped. But the photo's authenticity was later confirmed when video of the incident emerged.

This is the second time the Iranian president has been under fire for his reaction to Chavez's death. Last week, Ahmadinejad was under attack by conservatives when he said Chavez would return with Jesus Christ on resurrection day during his eulogy for the Venezuelan president.

"I say directly that he went too far with what he mentioned in his tribute" Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a senior Iranian cleric said. "The president is well aware that such a tribute will provoke reactions in our religious institutes. He could have sent a diplomatic message with no religious connotations."

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