Iran’s grand ayatollah has issued what many have interpreted to be a fatwa against the rapper Shahin Najafi, who has lived in Germany for the past seven years. In this interview with Shahram Ahadi, Najafi gives his take on the situation
Shahin Najafi is an Iranian rapper who has lived in Germany since 2005. His songs are known to be critical of socio-political developments in his home country. His latest song, “Naghi”, which was named after the tenth imam in Shia Islam, has caused a stir in Iran. The lyrics call on him in a sarcastic and almost obscene way to come back to life and end the catastrophic status quo in Iran. Iran’s 92-year-old Grand Ayatollah Safi Golpaygani said: “If the song contains any insults or indecency towards Imam Naghi, then it is blasphemy, and God knows what to do.” The Iranian press interpreted the statement as a fatwa against Najafi. But a theologian in Tehran on Thursday, 10 May, put the comment into context: “The grand ayatollah has not issued a fatwa. He was answering a question about the defamation of a Shia saint … “
The 31 years old Shahin Najafi, an Iranian rap musician currently living in Germany, has been sentenced to death by a religious decree of Grand Ayatollah Lotfollah Safi-Golpaygani. His is inculpated for insulting the tenth Shiite Imam Naqi. Observers evaluate this decree as lower in rank compared to the Fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989 against the British author Salman Rushdie. The latter had been sentenced to death for blasphemy and accused of offending the prophet Muhammad.
The fatwa was prompted by a request for advice by a number of students and religious representatives of the Shiite communities in Tehran and in the holy Shiite City of Qom. In the official decree, Golpayegani regrets the recent “permanent actions” against the Islamic revolution carried on in the media and on the Internet. The “innocent Imam Naqi” has been insulted and offended through cartoons, jokes and mendacious stories, the document says. It is also added that the only possible punishment for such people could be the one destined to heretics.
In the meanwhile, a second Fatwa has been issued against the musician, this time by Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi. The Grand Ayatollah was asked by Iranian media representatives to provide advice on how the Shiite community should deal with this issue: the innocence of the Imam has been generally perceived as “polluted” in a pervasive figurative and textual way. Ayatollah Shirazi has condemned the act as a shameless public blasphemy against the “innocent Imam”. Such an act committed by a Muslim must be avenged as apostasy, he declared.
Najafi has requested the police’s protection, as there is the possibility that some Muslims belonging to the Shiite community decide to apply the decree. His songs, considered provocative, address in a satirical fashion corruption, violence and sexual oppression in the Islamic Republic.
The Lebanese militant Hezbollah has denounced CNN’s decision to fire a Middle East editor for posting a note on Twitter expressing admiration for the country’s late top Shiite cleric. Octavia Nasr later apologized for her tweet in which she described Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah as “one of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.” But CNN officials said her credibility had been compromised. Hezbollah’s spokesman Ibrahim Moussawi says CNN’s decision amounts to “intellectual terrorism” and reflects the West’s “double standards” in dealing with the Mideast.
Led by Iraqi Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, one of the most revered thinkers in global Shiism, a program called I.M.A.M. deploys scholars and lecturers to help US Shiites integrate into US society. The Dearborn I.M.A.M. group studies sources like the US Federalist Papers, Obama’s “The Audacity of Hope” and Joel Osteen’s books, as well as historical issues like slavery in the US. The program tells Shiites to vote, participate in the census, and hold public office without abandoning their faith.
“We call them Islamic values, but they are universal values,” says Bahar al-Uloom, lecturer for the Shiite student group in Dearborn. “If it’s a principle or act that would help all Americans, all I need to do is speak it in a language that is universal.”