EARLIER this year Iran’s authorities arrested a score of men who, in separate incidents, claimed to be the Mahdi, a sacred figure of Shia Islam, who was “hidden” by God just over a millennium ago and will return some time to conquer evil on earth.
A website based in Qom, Iran’s holiest city, deemed the men “deviants”, “fortune-tellers” and “petty criminals”, who were exploiting credulous Iranians for alms during the Persian new-year holiday, which fell in mid-March.
Many of the fake messiahs were picked up by security men in the courtyard to the mosque in Jamkaran, a village near Qom, whose reputation as the place of the awaited Mahdi’s advent has been popularised nationwide by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. When he took office in 2005 he gave the mosque $10m.
According to one psychiatrist, there is even a Mahdi-complex:
“Every month we get someone coming in, convinced he is the Mahdi,” she says. “Once a man was saying such outrageous things and talking about himself in the third person that I couldn’t help laughing. He got angry and told me I had ‘bad hijab’ and was disrespecting the ‘Imam of Time’."Bad hijab. Ha.
The rest here.