TEHRAN, Iran -- A senior Iranian cleric on Friday 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 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 such parties, including black roses and cakes.
"Unfortunately, divorce parties are being organized as of recently... This is very dangrous. It's a poison for the Islamic civilization and society," Kashani said in his Friday prayer sermon, which was broadcast live on state radio.
"Men and women who hold divorce parties are definitely satanic," he added.
Kashani urged young people to avoid adopting Western practices and to protect their local cultural achievements and traditions.
"Disintegration of family and lechery are related to the disgraceful Western civiliation ... Western-style freedoms are wrong," he said.
The website of Iran's state TV called the emergence of divorce parties in Iran "the latest gift from the West."
The conservative daily Jomhuri-e-Eslami earlier this week said wealthy divorced couples go to a central Tehran street to order black roses, cakes and invitation cards, one of which reads "I don't miss you at all."
The paper said demand for such cards has significantly increased over the past two years.
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.