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Of Adultery and Earthquakes

by HAMID FAROKHNIA in Tehran

24 Apr 2010 01:099 Comments
azadi-4.jpgHardliners put a sinful spin even on geoscience.

Recently, as Iranians were finally returning to their homes and workplaces after this year's exceptionally long holiday recess, they were treated to one of President Ahmadinejad's trademark "media strikes."

While inspecting an emergency operations center on April 6, Ahmadinejad said, "If, God forbid, something terrible does happen and an earthquake hits Tehran, many of the thoroughfares will be blocked; water, gas, water networks will blow up; and many of us will not be able to report to work to help with the situation." He subsequently requested that 5 million of the city's residents quit Tehran to avert disaster. "I ask all those who have the ability to relocate themselves to do so," he warned ominously.

As for the timing of this startling statement, he said a high-ranking member of the clergy had recently asked him to relay his earthquake fears to the country: "One of the great ulama of Tehran has sent me a message to ask everyone to take this threat quite serious." To back up the assertions, several pro-government papers and news services as well as the sycophantic IRIB, the state broadcasting network, were filled in the ensuing days with horror stories of what might befall the capital in the event of an earthquake. It wasn't immediately clear, even for the regime's most hardcore supporters, what had motivated the volatile president or the nonymous holy man to indulge in such alarmism at this particular moment. After all, it is hardly news to anyone that parts of the country, including Tehran, sit along geological fault lines. The answer wasn't long in coming.

While delivering his weekly address, Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, Tehran's hardline
Friday prayer leader -- the man who replaced Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in the role -- revealed what had caused the strange prognostications. "Adultery causes earthquake," explained Sadeghi. "The incidence of sin has proliferated. Sins -- such as the laxities of some women or the way some young people harass and ogle on street corners or some families don't observe religious values and practices while they are traveling -- have mushroomed," he told millions of television viewers on April 16. "These allurements that some women and some girls apply to themselves outside their homes, the young people who are tempted and turn to promiscuity and commit sin -- all this increases adultery. According to our sacred transmitted texts, this is one reason for the incidence of natural calamities. When sin proliferates, earthquakes become common."

Sedighi then alluded to the authority of the same anonymous holy man who had advised the president on the matter: "One of the servants of God who has received a chalice from the hand of Imam Ali in one of his mystical communions and acquired special knowledge of the Qu'ran, asked me to inform the public that they need to be doing mass repentance. Calamities may be near."

The Mysterious Cleric

Wild speculation about the identity of the unidentified clergyman spread among regime loyalists and the merely curious alike. Was it the hardliners' favorite Grand Ayatollah, Hossein Noori Hamedani? Was it the theoretician of religious violence, the fire-breathing Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi? It turned out that the mysterious cleric was none other than Ayatollah Aziz Khoshvaght, for years the cabinet's anointed "moral teacher" who regularly lectured its members -- including the president -- on how they should lead a virtuous and pious life. Those in the know were also aware that the ayatollah's youngest daughter had married Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's eldest son, Mostafa. Some opposition groups claim that Khoshvaght was connected to the serial murders of intellectuals in the 1990s, but such charges have never been proved. The identification of Khoshvaght as the ayatollah warning about the adulterous etiology of earthquakes was first made by the Neo-Rightist Jahan News. Published by Alireza Zakani, a member of the election committee of the Majles (parliament),

Jahan News has become an important source of information about activities within the government and among the hardliners. Zakani is no neophyte in the conservative firmament. As a war veteran and leader of the student Basij during his university years, he has the requisite hardline credentials. He was an avid supporter of Ahmadinejad until the last election. Zakani broke with the president over differences on personnel and policy matters. Ever since, he has become one of the administration's most trenchant critics. His grilling of Hamid Behbahani during the minister of roads and transportation's confirmation hearings was especially memorable.

Most people have only a vague picture of Khoshvaght's past. Further detail on the ayatollah was furnished by the Azkhabar weblog. (Azkhabar is another important source of news and information about the hardliners. Its publisher sits on the editorial board of the influential far right website RajaNews.) Azkhabar reports that, for years, Khoshvaght has been the prayer leader at Imam Hossein Mojtaba mosque, controlled by the Motalefe Eslami, at the heart of Tehran Bazaar; that he had lobbied intensively on behalf of Ahmadinejad's electoral campaigns; and that he is such a harcore conservative that he had severed his ties with a long-time friend, Ayatollah Mahmood Amjad, who allowed a few Reformists to attend his services.

Fire and Brimstones

Despite the ludicrousness of the earthquake claims, there was little attempt to vigorously debunk them. The position of the reformist outlets is too precarious for them to challenge Ayatollah Khoshvaght's politico-theological prognostications, while the pro-government papers confined themselves to interviewing physicists and geologists to support or critique the statements. The one exception to the rule was Tehran Emrouz, controlled by the city's mayor, Mohammad Ghalibaf. The cold war between the mayor and the president is common knowledge. Like the other presidential candidates in the 2005 race, Ghalibaf did not appreciate being swept away at the polls by massive vote rigging and fraud. Ghalibaf held a much higher rank than Ahmadinejad in the Revolutionary Guards, and he is intimately familiar with the venal, mendacious behavior of the administration. Finally, Ghalibaf's position and conservative bona fides give his media outlets a degree of protection that the reformist papers lack. On June 16 of last year, it was Tehran Emrouz that ran the headline "2.5 million Greens march through Tehran."

On April 19, a Tehran Emrouz editorial by staff writer Ruhollah Tabatabi opened by acknowledging that the Qu'ran alludes to the possibility of natural disasters occurring as a result of divine retribution. But it went on, through pointed observations, to devastate Ayatollah Khoshvaght and Ahmadinejad's hokum claims. Tabatabai noted that, according to the holy text, such calamities as earthquake and storms descend on tribes and nations that have routinely questioned God's existence, wiping them off from the face of the earth. "There is not one incident where a God-fearing and monotheistic nation (presumably like Iran) has suffered such a fate."

If the prevalence of sin is a plausible cause for earthquakes, why was it, he asked, that those nations most plagued by sin, such as the United States and the countries of Europe, avoided large-scale geological catastrophes, while "a pious country like Iran should be held responsible for the sins of a few wayward individuals"?

"One of the missions of the great clerics and spiritual leaders," he added, "is to show the right path of righteousness.... That we should take an event like an earthquake that ordinarily devours everyone and takes more victims among the poor than others as divine retribution is highly questionable.... Wouldn't it cast doubt on the righteousness and validity of Islam and Shi'ism for an earthquake to descend on millions of pious Muslims at the highest bastion of Islam?"

Still Unbowed

As usual, none of the criticism seemed to sway Ahmadinejad from his position. Reinforcing it, he promised to augment the salaries of government employees that relocated by up to 50 percent. As elucidated by a presidential aide, the plan involves breaking up the gargantuan government functions into various regional centers and divisions. For example, administrative functions would be assigned to Parand, 35 miles southwest of Tehran; education would be assigned to Pardis, 25 miles east of the capital. "If I were to report to the relocated minster of education from Pardis to Parand and back," said a bemused school teacher to Tehran Bureau, "that would take me two days minimum given the traffic conditions."

We may never know what motivated Ahmadinejad to highlight Khoshvaght's comments in such a high-profile manner, but judging by the public's utter indifference and his own past record, it will probably soon be forgotten.

Hamid Farokhnia is a staff writer at Iran Labor Report. He covers the capital for Tehran Bureau.

Copyright © 2010 Tehran Bureau

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9 Comments

This is just a hoax. Wait for an underground nuke test. Then, they’ll call it an earthquake and blame it on women cleavages.

Separate women cleavages from the undercover nuclear program by bring back the 80’s anti-nuclear movement in support of the women rights.

Fardosht / April 25, 2010 1:19 AM

BOOBQUAKE!

http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=2939431

Concerned Citizen / April 25, 2010 2:21 AM

Leaving aside the 'Divine' retribution nonsense, these comments have highlighted the very serious issue of a city that lies above a faultine in the earth's crust & therefore putting its population at great risk. Getting 5m Tehranis to leave en masse is unlikely, although increased development & prosperity in other regions could help in reducing migration to a megapolis like Tehran which is obviously needed to ease pressure on its amenities. But more importantly is to build earthquake resistant buildings as the Japanese have done. Tokyo suffers from many tremors but with very few casualties. This could help stimulate the economy and create jobs. Whilst they are at it they could also create nuclear bunkers, Tehranis might need these if Obama puts his threat into practice.

rezvan / April 25, 2010 2:37 PM

Why are the so called leaders of the so called Green Movement silent on this issue?
They either believe this, or they are complicit.

The immediacy of the Almighty's (al-mighty) punishment is the only unusual part of these pronouncements. Religions always blame natural disasters on behavior they see too close to their own for fear of exposure en mass.

The Vatican (jerk-off celibates) has hundreds of decrees banning homosexuality and immodest behavior. Many religious leaders, and even a former president in the US, believed aids was due to homosexuality and that the tsunami in Asia a few years back was some kind of punishment by God because they were not Christian.

Even last year, the earthquake that mildly shook Hawaii was attributed to the "permissive" lifestyle of its inhabitants.

What is more permissive in wearing pink silk robes and sequined slippers and carry a golden phallic symbol in your hand. No, I am not talking about mayans, I am talking about the pope and his entourage. Transplant that to all other religions, and there is a very clear similarity. So, why should the mullahs be expected to be different?

Religion has been the cause of more death and destruction than all natural disasters combined, from Moses to the present. So, no one has a monopoly on being blinded by his book.

Of course, there are those that consider all established superstitious cults, which includes all religions, even budhism, hinduism and zen budhism, as social control mechanisms invented by some clever gang, taking advantage of man's evolutionary aberration, the God gene.

Next time you say "oh, my God", "God damn it", "bless you", etc. stop and think, you are only one little tiny miniscule step away from these morons you are unhappy with.

Ooops, I hear the church bells and there is a rumor that a visage of the Son of God has appeared in a formation of a garbage truck spill. I have to go and say my prayers before they clean it up. I missed the one formed from salt sprays on an underpass support two years ago in Chicago, which the godless mayor had had it washed off with power sprays, and see what happened to them, the worst snow storm in years followed and people froze to death. God save us from itself.

nassim sabba / April 25, 2010 4:52 PM

One thing is certain. God does kill people who don't believe in him/her/ or it.

The irrefutable truth is that as people get older, they start to lose their stanch belief in God and start to question it.

Those who question, usually get cancer, genital herpes, arthritis, become bald, skin rash, etc. depending on the degree of their weakness. If they don't reverse their weakening trend, then the ailments will weaken them to death. God is just.

Then there are those who suddenly realize that there is no God, and they die suddenly too, within instants, by heart attack, or accident, such as a plane crashes (the "hell" with the poor innocent infant in her mother's lap in 15C), the SOB in the row behind them suddenly thought that there is no God and down go everyone with him, into the welcoming, God given cool waters of north Atlantic.

See, God is just, he just doesn't have time to micro-manage every death, sometime it has "collateral damage," such as the rest of the people in an Airbus 320.

That is why you need to get a "worry bead" to keep praying to God in a continuous infinite loop. All religions have worry beads, and their own special prayers. So, get yours and the best of health will be with you. Braid you hair, wear a cross, put on a yarmlke, light a candle. God will certainly change its divine plan for you.

Just don't stop looping that worry bead, especially if you are on the same flight as me. I will be on LT405, to Amsterdam May 17. Thanks, I appreciate your cooperation.

So, you who last summer stared at those boney butts of the female traffic cop in Tehran, you will have the death of 5 million people on your conscious for the rest of eternity, fire, and brimstone, and boiling water, and torture...

Anonymous / April 25, 2010 5:18 PM

There is an abundance of self-appointed moral and religious authorities right here in our own backyard. The author is simply making the point that they have wacky religious leaders in Iran as well -- and people who follow them.

Here is a sample we can quote from no other than the very popular Dr. Falwell:

"I really believe the pagans, the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen."

Then there was Pat Robertson who blamed God for Sharon's heart attack when he said that Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine punishment for "dividing God's land."

How about the son of Rev. Graham who was just described by President Obama as a national treasure, Franklin Graham, who described Islam as a "wicked" and "evil" religion.

Of course, whenever it is convenient to caricature a nation, a group, etc., we like to bring these people out on the stage. If you were to pay attention, these kind of people make outrageous statements on an hourly basis. They are clearly not the mainstream of any nation -- not the US and not Iran.

Jay / April 26, 2010 4:07 AM

The clergy’s earthquake B.S. and Ahmadinejad B.S. about reducing Tehran population is another coordinated effort to reduced the Tehran population in order for goons / basijs to be able to control the future demonstrations. The clergies and Ahmadinejad would love to see the 2.5 millions who demonstrated in past scattered around any shit-land except Tehran.

Dylan / April 26, 2010 8:20 AM

I love American Women, may god be with you forever.
Below is a response to psycho clerical government of Iran. The ball is in your court Mr. clergyman. What's your next move?

"It's rare to have advance warning of a natural disaster, but that's the situation we find ourselves in regarding the impending Boobquake that's set to hit the world on Monday. In response to a Muslim imam who claims that cleavage-bearing women cause earthquakes, the blog Blag Hag has proposed a Boobquake on Monday to test his theory. Here's the call to arms:


On Monday, April 26th, I will wear the most cleavage-showing shirt I own. Yes, the one usually reserved for a night on the town. I encourage other female skeptics to join me and embrace the supposed supernatural power of their breasts. Or short shorts, if that's your preferred form of immodesty. With the power of our scandalous bodies combined, we should surely produce an earthquake. If not, I'm sure Sedighi can come up with a rational explanation for why the ground didn't rumble. And if we really get through to him, maybe it'll be one involving plate tectonics.

More than 132,000 people have RSVPed to Monday's Facebook event and the Post easily found a half-dozen women who are psyched to participate by showing off their goods. In an unrelated note, Monday is also "Take Pictures of Random Women on Your Cell Phone" day."

Dylan / April 26, 2010 8:34 AM

If you have not done so yet, please see this short film (at least PART I about origins of Christianity, Judism ---and Islam) It will absolutely blow you away.


Zeitgeist:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-594683847743189197#

@ Anonymous / April 25, 2010 5:18 PM
Great post!

Ahvaz / April 27, 2010 8:17 PM