Videos of two men in Iran licking holy shrines circulated online and they could be jailed and flogged for defying coronavirus health warnings.
With more than a million views on Instagram, one video shows a man at the Masumeh shrine in Qom, saying, "I'm not scared of coronavirus," before licking and kissing the gates.
Another man in a different footage licks the rails of a tomb after saying, "I'm here to lick the tomb so that I can fall ill. This way, I've removed the viruses."
According to Iranian MP Hasan Nowrozi, "Those doing such unconventional acts are publishing fake and superstitious news against the officials in the country."
He said they will be imprisoned for 2 years and up to 74 lashes as punishment.
The trending videos of the two men in Qom began making its rounds as Iran continues to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus. COVID-19 has recorded 77 deaths in the Middle Eastern country.
The two men have been arrested for licking one of Iran's holiest Shia.
In one footage, they can be seen lapping at the metal gating containing the tomb of Imam Reza in the pilgrim city of Mashhad, telling the camera they are "eating the virus" so people can visit the site without fear of being infected.
The videos of the pair kissing surfaces at religious sites and persuading children to chime in have caused alarm to authorities.
Qom has suffered the brunt of the outbreak and attracts thousands of pilgrims, but Iran's hardline clerical establishment has refused to shut it down.
Qom is currently the epicenter of the Islamic Republic's COVID-19 outbreak.
Journalist Masih Alinejad shared the video of the disturbing practice, tweeting, "These pro-regime people are licking the shrines & encouraging people to visit them."
The arrest came after the journalist and activist tweeted the footage.
She said imprisoning these two people is not enough as the religious centers are still flocked in Qom and other cities where the epidemic is widespread.
"Iran's authorities are endangering lives of Iranians & the world."
In one video, a man was walking around the main Fatima Masumeh shrine in the city and attacked those who have stopped visiting it, showing himself kissing the walls of the shrine's entrance. He ordered the people, "Stop scaring the people this much with coronavirus... Stop toying with people's beliefs, coronavirus is nothing in the Shia shrines."
These incidents of pilgrims and visitors licking the shrines in defiance of the coronavirus followed the announcement of the representative of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Qom, cleric Mohammad Saeedi, "We consider this holy shrine to be a place of healing. That means people should come here to heal from spiritual and physical diseases."
Iran has closed schools and universities to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, but major Shia shrines remain open.
The holy shrines have been disinfected to protect visitors.
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