A kiss is just a kiss ... unless you're the president of Iran.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of the ultra-conservative Islamic country that last week rounded up hundreds of women for not properly covering up, is accused of indecency for publicly embracing and kissing the hand of a former schoolteacher.
Ahmadinejad was photographed and filmed bowing to kiss the elderly woman's gloved hand and hugging her at a ceremony Tuesday ahead of Iran's teacher's day, prompting charges of indecency by the influential and hard-line Islamic newspaper Hezbollah.
"The Muslim Iranian people have no recollection of such acts contrary to Shariah law during Islamic rule [since the 1979 revolution]," Hezbollah printed on its front page. "This type of indecency progressively has grave consequences, like violating religious and sacred values."
The woman, who was not identified, wore thick black gloves, a headscarf and a long, black coat, meaning Ahmadinejad avoided any skin contact.
Critics, however, charge he violated Shariah law, which forbids a man to have physical contact with a woman with whom he is not related. Penalties vary for such an offense, ranging from stoning to death, usually depending on whether the man or woman is married. Ahmadinejad is married, and has two sons and a daughter.
This is not the first time Ahmadinejad or his administration have come under fire for his treatment of women.
Last year he proposed that women be allowed to attend soccer games, and one of his vice presidents was criticized for watching a woman dance at a ceremony in Turkey.
Two weeks ago, police began a high-profile crackdown to enforce "correct" Islamic dress codes.
In its first few days, the "bad hijab" crackdown netted several hundred young women on the streets of Tehran, with many receiving a warning and several hundred being arrested.
Policewomen dressed in black chadors bundled detainees into buses that had been stationed on street corners in advance, before carting them off to police stations.
Those women were accused of presenting an immodest appearance — allowing their hair to show beneath the obligatory headscarves, wearing short coats that failed to conceal their hips, or wearing tight, revealing jeans and heels.
"These women who appear in public like decadent models, endanger the security and dignity of young men," according to Saed Mortazavi, Tehran's public prosecutor.
Ahmadinejad has not publicly commented on the arrests.
AFP and the Guardian newspaper contributed to this report.