MAHMOUD Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, has been attacked by an unlikely alliance of Islamic fundamentalists and film directors for agreeing to a government-funded biopic of the country's first female motor racing champion.
The permit for the film about Laleh Seddigh, who earned worldwide fame by beating male competitors to become Iran's national rally champion in 2005, is due to be issued next week.
It follows a series of meetings between Mr Ahmadinejad and Essy Niknejad, an Iranian-born film director based in the United States.
Bosses in Iran's state-run cinema industry say the project will counter negative Western stereotyping of the country as backward and its women as downtrodden.
Ms Seddigh (35) earned the nickname "the little Schumacher" after her racetrack success turned her into a symbol for the struggles of independent-minded women in Iran's male-dominated theocratic state.
But hardliners say that her story is a perversion of the Islamic republic's religious values and cinema directors question why a €335m budget has been set aside when other films about the country's national and religious identity have been made for far less.
Hossein Shariatmadari, the editor-in-chief of Keyhan newspaper -- widely thought to reflect the views of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader -- called the film's storyline "a patent insult to Iranian Muslim women" that played into the West's hands.
"Is the symbol of Iranian Muslim women a girl who takes part in international rally races?" he wrote in a front-page editorial.
"Is participation in rally racing really a sign of modernity?
"Aren't these symbols exactly the same ones that the US and its allies wish for Iran and didn't the Islamic revolution put an end to this wish?" (©Daily Telegraph, London)