(Photo source: Miraflores Press Office / AP)
You see, in Islam, it is an evil thing for a man to touch any woman who is not his relative. I will abstain from delving into the steep irony of the permissibility of men beating or raping their wives for disobedience. Instead, I'd much rather focus on the humanity of a man seemingly bent on destroying others.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn (Rom 12:15). Part and parcel to these actions of rejoicing and mourning, I think, is touching.
When we celebrate our team scoring a touchdown or our favorite player hitting a home run, we high-five those around us, we sometimes even hug....err, man-hug, of course. When we attend weddings and funerals, we hug each other. When we attend graduations, we shake hands and even sometimes bear-hug the graduate. When our close friend hurts, we hug or put a gentle, reassuring hand on a shoulder.
I fully recognize I comment on this from the point of view of one who was born and lives in a Western culture. But in the picture above, we see human touching is not merely a cultural practice/norm, but a human need. While the human touch can not only instill fear and intimidation, it can also calm and reassure. And this is exactly what Mr. Ahmadinejad displays above.
Is Mr. Ahmadinejad any less human or Muslim now that he has defiled himself with the touch of a non-Muslim woman not related to him? Certainly not. But Muslim clerics would suggest that he has erred greatly. The photograph, however, gives me just a smidgen of respect for a man who has not earned much of it. Mr. Ahmadinejad was willing to go against his deeply held customs and beliefs to reach out and touch another human being in great need of others.
It is my prayer that he might one day experience the grace and blessing of the powerful touch of Almighty Yahweh on his own needy soul.