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Iran’s 'Guidance Patrols' Stir Controversy

A rise in street confrontations over morals violations raises new questions about Iran's enforcement of morality laws.
Iranian women walk past a mural showing an interpretation of the Statue of Liberty bearing the face of a skull on the wall of the former US embassy in Tehran on September 25, 2013. Leaders from Iran and the United States have not met since the 1979 Islamic Revolution brought often open hostility to their contacts, particularly over Iran's contested nuclear program.  AFP PHOTO/ATTA KENARE        (Photo credit should read ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

IRAN — The Islamic obligation of commanding the proper and negating the improper — which is called "Amr bil ma'ruf wa nahy an al munkar" and even emphasized with these words in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran — appears in the news now and then. According to this Islamic obligation, it is obligatory for each Muslim to instruct others to do things that are considered good according to reason or Islam, and to negate and prevent that which is bad. Although this religious and social obligation is mostly verbal in nature, innumerable cases of harsh and brutal physical confrontations have been reported in the course of executing it, which has been followed by violent responses in recent years by its targets.

Inviting others to good deeds and to refrain from bad deeds is the personal obligation of every Muslim. In this regard, even some governmental and security organs and organizations are also eagerly involved in this sphere of activity. Among them are the Moral Security Police and the Staff for the Revival of Commanding the Proper and Negating the Improper under the supervision of Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the secretary of the Guardian Council of the Constitution.

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