Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, March 16, 2018

Rule of perception

When there is rule of law, it's not difficult to know what the rules are. But if the rules are in the minds of a powerful person, who else knows what the rules are?

Tehran’s Mayor Watched a Dance Recital. Now He’s the Ex-Mayor.
A troupe of young dancing girls throwing rose petals may have ended the career of Tehran’s mayor, who suddenly resigned on Wednesday.
“A celebration of indecency,”?

The mayor, Mohammad Ali Najafi, attended a celebration last week amounting to an Islamic version of Mother’s Day. There he encountered six girls dancing in traditional costumes and throwing the rose petals in honor of a female saint.

There is a ban on dancing in public, however, for women in the Islamic republic — and girls older than 9 are regarded as women by clerics, who resist any change in social norms.

Mr. Najafi, a 66-year-old graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who came to lead the capital promising change, did not leave the auditorium when the girls took the stage. A video of the event shows him immersed in paperwork as they twirl around…

[H]ard-liners who saw the video were outraged.

“A celebration of indecency,” the semiofficial Fars news agency wrote of the event.

An influential Friday Prayer leader, Ahmad Alamolhoda, said the dance performance had been planned by enemies set on disgracing the Shiite saint that the event was meant to honor, Fateme Zahra.

Mr. Najafi tried to defend himself. The mayor said that the girls were all younger than 9 and that he regretted that their dance had been a part of the event. But Mr. Alamolhoda was having none of that.

“One cannot argue that these were children,” he said, according to the semiofficial ILNA news agency. “They were young girls who incited arousal. They made the most atrocious movements. This cannot be justified.”…

Mr. Najafi, the first reformist to take on the post since 2005, seemed reined in. His administration did manage to hang billboards across the city honoring famous Iranian women, something unthinkable under the other administrations.

But as often happens in Iranian politics, victory goes to those who most rigidly interpret Islam…

On Wednesday Mr. Najafi handed in his resignation, a City Council member… said Mr. Najafi had resigned because of medical reasons.

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