Officials are confiscating the statues from shops in the capital, Tehran, to stop the promotion of Buddhism, according to a report in the independent Arman daily.

The Islamic republic has long fought against items such as Barbie toys to block western influence, but this appears to be the first time authorities have shown 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 reportedly said authorities would not permit a specific belief to be promoted through such items. Ansari did not say how many Buddhas had been seized, but said the “cleansing” would continue.