Two men in Iran face prison and flogging after videos of them licking holy shrines circulated online. They licked the shrines in defiance of warnings about Coronavirus.
One of the videos was filmed at the Masumeh shrine in Qom. In that video, a man is shown licking and kissing the gates after saying, "I'm not scared of Coronavirus."
The other video, filmed in Mashad, features a man saying he is there to lick the shrine so that, "the disease can go inside my body and others can visit it with no anxiety."
The videos have gotten millions of views on social media. MP Hasan Nowrozi said that the two men, and others like them, "face two months to two years [in] jail and up to 74 lashes as punishment."
Iranian journalist and activist Masih Alinejad shared the videos online, helping them gain international attention. "Arresting these two people is not enough as the religious centres are still open in Qom and other cities where people are suffering from Coronavirus," she told the BBC.
Iran has seen the worst outbreak of Coronavirus outside of China, since the virus began spreading. Most of the infections in the Middle East, as well as some in Australia and New Zealand, have been tied to Iran.
As the virus spreads, the population of Iran are increasingly doubtful that the government is controlling the outbreak. At least 23 members of parliament and other senior advisors have tested positive for the virus, and a 71-year-old advisor to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has died.
Religious leaders' refusal to close holy sites to contain the outbreak has been a key problem that has helped the virus spread.
Some Iranians are trying to maintain a sense of humor about the situation, however, by sharing cartoons and videos that mock the clerics and the government.
It is terrible that the Iranian government and its religious leaders have chosen religious belief over protecting their populace. But the fact that these leaders are showing the people of Iran how out of touch they are with reality is yet another way that religion is pushing people away in the modern day.
These days, religion shows itself to be its own worst enemy more and more.