Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Imagine trying to impose order among Iran's religious zealots

If you think that the authorities here have a hard time getting people to toe the line during the coronavirus outbreak, spare a thought, at least a brief one, for the Iranian authorities.
The COVID-19 epidemic has been grim in Iran, and it has to be said that the country's leaders have not handled it well. Early delays and under-reporting of cases has led to a dire situation, and travelling Iranians were responsible for much of the worldwide spread of the disease. Nearly a thousand Iranians have died thus far, and the official case count is over 16,000, making it the third worst-affected country after China and Italy. But, in reality, the situation there is almost certainly much worse than the authorities are reporting, possibly by an order of magnitude. Some projections envisage several MILLION deaths in the country before the pandemic subsides.
But even when the Iranian leadership does, belatedly, act in a proactive way, it is stymied in its aims by, well, Iranians. A case in point is the recent closure of the popular Iman Reza shrine in Mashhad and the Fatima Masumeh shrine in Qom. Rather than head-shaking resignation, the move has been met by many of the fundamentalist Shiite faithful as an attack on their God-given right to worship where they want. Angry crowds, pushing and shoving and TOUCHING each other, demonstrated outside the shrines, and even tried to break in, before being forcibly dispersed by security forces.
Imagine trying to impose order in such an environment. This what comes of religious views (and I don't mean just Muslim views, but those of any extreme fundamentalist religion) that hold life so lightly, and that sees death as a release to a better place. Indeed, this is what comes when religion is the be-all and end-all of people's lives, and common sense and thoughtfulness goes out of the window.

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