He’s a controversial figure. He has made many a wacky pronouncement in the past. He’s the lightning-rod for most of the opprobrium that currently heads Iran’s way over its alleged plan to gain a nuclear weapons capability – even though, as most commentators seem to miss, he holds quite limited power himself, even as President of the Islamic Republic.
Still, one of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s tasks in that capacity is representing Iran at public events outside the country, including most recently the funeral of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez. You could well imagine that that was an occasion at which the Iranian president truly wanted to be present – not a happy one, to be sure, but one celebrating the life of another political leader with whom he often made common cause in an anti-American capacity.
So he was there, alright. But he got into trouble:
What trouble? After all, all you can see by way of illustration if you click through to the Le Monde “Big Browser Blog” article is Mahmoud tearfully consoling some lady (who turns out to be Hugo Chávez’ mother).
But that’s just it – you don’t touch women in public if you’re a good Muslim! Indeed, some devout Muslim functionaries in the Netherlands (for example) even refuse to shake women’s hands, which can lead to awkward problems when they are supposed to meet with female cabinet ministers. So Ahmadinejad has gotten considerable push-back about this from back home, including angry denunciations from a couple members of the Iranian parliament, one of whom accused the President of “losing control” at the funeral.
The only response so far from the Ahmadinejad side is from his spokesman, who denies that the President embraced Chávez’ mother. I guess it all depends on your definition – calling Bill Clinton!
BTW to give credit where it is due, this Le Monde piece specifically credits a Le Huffington Post* article as its source. Yes, Arianna has expanded her empire there, but also to the UK (no-brainer), Italy, and Spain! Sharp-eyed EuroSavant fans will have noticed by now how I have incorporated pieces from those sources (but not the UK) into my Twitter-stream. Anyway, it says on its site that Le Huffington Post works “in association with the Le Monde Group,” so that sort of borrowing is perfectly alright.
* Special note for francophones and francophiles: Who knew that the “h” in “Huffington” would be aspirated?