Iran cleric says divorce parties are 'satanic'

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- A senior Iranian cleric has called divorce parties a "satanic" Western import and a "poison" for Islamic society.

Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani, Tehran's Friday prayer leader, was referring to the Western phenomenon of holding parties to celebrate the dissolving of a marriage, a practice that has recently emerged in the Islamic republic.

Kashani told worshippers Friday that marriage is a sacred bond and that Western practices like divorce parties undermine family values.

Iranian media in recent days have reported on extravagant preparations for divorce parties, including black roses and cakes.

According to media reports, Iran saw a 4.6 percent rise in divorce last year. Some 20 percent of Iranian marriages now end in divorce, which is permitted but discouraged under Islamic law.

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