Iran has shut down a national newspaper for allegedly insulting Islam according to reports by Al- Jazeera.
The top Prosecutor of Iran ordered the closure of the newspaper viewed as reformist by authorities on charges of insulting Shia Islam, the brand of Islam officially practiced by Iran.
Iran’s top prosecutor, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri ordered the newspaper Sedayeh Eslahat shut down for “desecrating” the family of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Imam Hussein.
The newspaper had drawn the anger of Iranian authorities when it published an article about a female-to-male gender reassignment surgery with the headline; “Ruqayyah became Mahdi after 22 years” on Thursday.
Ruqayyah was the daughter of revered Imam Hussein and the article was published during Muharram, a holiday in which Shia Muslims mourn the Imam’s death while Mahdi in Shia Islam is the name of the 12th Shia Imam who existed in the 9th century.
According to authorities, the article caused protests on the streets of Iran during the days of sorrow as the holiday is called. Authorities further ordered that the editor of the newspaper should be punished for the publication.
Iran became a conservatively Islamic country after the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled Iran’s constitutional monarchy and replaced the government with rule by Islamic clerics.
Iran practices the Shia brand of Islam which often puts it on a war path with other Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia who practice the Sunni brand of Islam. Both countries believe their brand of Islam to be the authentic version of the religion an argument which underlies regional competition between both countries in the middle-east.
Islamic governments are known to limit press freedom in their countries and Iran is currently ranked 164th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) press freedom index.
Iran had jailed seven Journalists back in August while the courts had ordered them to be flogged publicly over their coverage of protests by the Dervish minority.