Buddha statues have joined Barbie dolls and characters from The Simpsons TV cartoon as banned items in the conservative Muslim nation.
Authorities are confiscating Buddha statues from shops in the Iranian capital, Tehran, to stop the promotion of Buddhism in the country.
Iran has long fought against items, such as Barbie toys, to defuse Western influence, but this appears to be the first time that Iranian authorities are showing an opposition to symbols from the East.
The newspaper quoted Saeed Jaberi Ansari, an official for the protection of Iran’s cultural heritage, as calling the Buddha statues symbols of ‘cultural invasion.’
He said authorities will not permit a specific belief to be promoted through such items. Ansari did not say how many Buddhas had been seized, but that the ‘cleansing’ would continue.
Some Iranians buy Buddha’s statues to decorate their homes and cars. Most are made in China and come from Iranian free-trade zones in the Persian Gulf.
“As I understand, none of the customers cared about Buddhism, they only bought it for decoration,” said Reza Sanaei, a shopkeeper who sells the statues.
A customer, Marjan Arbabi, said she personally did not like the statues. “But my parents have set of five Buddha’s statues at their home simply because they think the statues are beautiful,” she said.
Under the constitution, Christian and Jewish beliefs as well as Zoroastrianism are recognised beside Islam, the official religion of the country. The law, however, says that, in general, the rights of all non-Muslims should be observed.
Some Islamists do not support production of any statue, since they view it as a way to promote idols. In 2010, several statues depicted prominent Iranians, disappeared from Tehran city’s streets and squares.
Their disappearance was blamed on an unnamed group with a strict interpretation of Islam that bans the depiction of the human form in art.
Iran’s ban on Simpsons and Barbie
In 2012, Iran banned The Simpsons dolls in a bid to avoid promoting Western culture. It joins the Barbie dolls on the blacklist. Officials had said that they would ban any doll on which genitalia are distinguishable, as well as dolls of adults. So were toys with speakers that blare out the voices of Western singers, or toy kitchen sets that include glasses for drinking alcoholic beverages.