The Iranian authorities have reportedly arrested two men for licking the walls and bars of holy shrines in the country to show they are not afraid of COVID-19.
Numerous videos of devotees kissing or licking surfaces at holy sites in Iran, including clips of children being encouraged to do so, have surfaced on social media in the face of a widespread outbreak in the region.
According to local media, efforts to downplay the seriousness of the COVID-19 have been called ‘pro-regime’ and devout Muslims have been seen encouraging children to lick holy shrines.
However, Iran is currently considered the epicentre of the virus in the Middle East with hundreds of new cases confirmed in the capital Tehran alone, according to reports.
Meanwhile, cleric Mohammad Saeedi, representative for the Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei in the city of Qom, appeared to encourage devotees to continue visiting holy sites.
He was quoted by local media as saying: “We consider this holy shrine [The Shrine of Fatima Masumeh in Qom] to be a place of healing. That means people should come here to heal from spiritual and physical diseases.”
However, the police have reportedly arrested two men for licking and kissing Iran’s religious shrines.
One unnamed man made the headlines when he was filmed licking the Fatima Masumeh shrine in Qom while saying: “It is full of coronavirus [COVID-19] here.”
He added: “I am going to lick here to take in all the coronavirus.
“I’m licking this I don’t care whatever happens. I am not scared of coronavirus.”
A second man was arrested for licking the Imam Reza shrine in the city of Mashhad.
In a video of the incident, he is heard saying: “I have come to lick the Imam Reza shrine so that I contract this disease and allow others to visit the shrine with peace of mind.
“There are people who say this shrine spreads the coronavirus, I’m here to lick the tomb so that I can become ill. This way, I remove the viruses.”
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