Ayatollah Ali Khamenei claims the promotion and teaching of the artform is not compatible with country’s sacred regime
By Saeed Kamali Dehghan, www.Guardian.co.uk
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said today that music is “not compatible” with the values of the Islamic republic, and should not be practiced or taught in the country.
In some of the most extreme comments by a senior regime figure since the 1979 revolution, Khamenei said: “Although music is halal, promoting and teaching it is not compatible with the highest values of the sacred regime of the Islamic Republic.”
Khamenei’s comments came in response to a request for a ruling by a 21-year-old follower of his, who was thinking of starting music lessons, but wanted to know if they were acceptable according to Islam, the semi-official Fars news agency reported. “It’s better that our dear youth spend their valuable time in learning science and essential and useful skills and fill their time with sport and healthy recreations instead of music,” he said.
Unlike other clerics in Iran, whose religious rulings are practiced by their own followers, Khamenei’s views are interpreted as administrative orders for the whole country, which must be obeyed by the government. Last month Khamenei issued a controversial fatwa in which he likened his leadership to that of the Prophet Mohammed and obliged all Iranians to obey his orders.
Khamenei has rarely expressed his views on music publicly, but he is believed have played a key role in the crackdown on Iran’s music scene following the revolution. When Khamenei was president, he banned Western-style music, forcing many stars to go into exile.
Houshang Asadi, a former cellmate of Khamenei before the Islamic Revolution said: “He hated the music from the beginning.”
“There were times I sang a song by Banan (a popular vocalist) for him and he told me to avoid music and instead pray to God”, said Asadi, who shared a cell with Khamenei for four months in Moshtarak prison in Tehran in 1976 and stayed friends with him for several years after the revolution. “The only music he liked was revolutionary, and religious anthems,” said Asadi.
After the reformist President Khatami took office in 1997, official attitudes toward music and especially pop began to thaw.
After his election in 2005, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cracked down on music. His ministry of culture and Islamic guidance has refused permission for the distribution of thousands of albums. Since last year’s disputed elections the authorities have given even fewer permits for public concerts, fearing they could be used by the opposition.
Iran has rarely given permission to concerts, as it fears that the opposition might use it as an opportunity to express itself, said Mohammad Reza Shajarian, Iran’s most prolific and popular classical vocalist.
“They are afraid of my concerts because of those moments before the concert is begun, when the whole hall is in silence and darkness when someone suddenly shouts ‘death to dictator’ and everybody accompanies and they are unable to identify that person,” Shajarian said.