Ahmadinejad Ribbed by Clerics for Hugging Chavez's Grieving Mom

(Image Credit: Miraflores Press Office/AP Photo)

Iranian clerics have slammed conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for "clowning around" when he gave a consoling hug to Hugo Chavez's grieving mother, a violation of the country's strict Islamic rules about touching women.

Iranian media ran photos of Ahmadinejad embracing the woman and crying at Chavez's funeral, raising the ire of the country's powerful clerics who called the hug "forbidden," according to translations by The Associated Press.

Under the laws of Iran, a theocracy governed by religious clerics and Islamic law, touching an unrelated member of the opposite sex is strictly taboo.

"Touching a non-mahram (a woman who is not a close relative) is forbidden under any circumstances, whether shaking hands or touching by the cheek," said Mohammad Taqi Rahbar a cleric from the country's religious center Qom, according to the AP.

Touching a women, even "an older woman is not allowed … and contrary to the dignity of the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran," he said.

Another cleric, Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, Iran's former judiciary chief, called the president's weepy hug "clowning around," which failed to "protect the dignity of his nation and his position."

Ahmadinejad and Chavez were friends and allies thought generally considered pariahs by the United States and much of the international community. After the Venezuelan president's death last week, Ahmadinejad sent a letter of condolence, calling Chavez a martyr and predicting his resurrection.