Khatami Will Never Touch Another Italian Woman

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad got lucky this week as some Italian blogger posted a photo of reformist former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami shaking some womens' hands. Khatami dismissed the photo as fake, but had to drop out as a potential candidate for the 2009 presidential elections to avoid bringing further scandal to his movement and colleagues.

The Guardian explains that, "[a]lthough Islam generally forbids handshakes between men and women who are not close family relatives, some Shia clerics say it is permitted in certain cases to avoid embarrassment. In Iran, handshakes between men and women have become more common in recent years despite the country's Islamic laws." The pic has angered fundamentalists, some of whom have called for Khatami to be defrocked.

This small event could have a very real effect on history. With Ahmedinejad losing popularity, the presence of a reformer in the 2009 election may have contributed to a deescalation with the U.S. in the coming years. It's a shame Khatami should be punished (and that Iranians should want to punish him) for extending a sign of friendship to some other human beings according to their customs in their country.