An Iranian rapper has become “the Salman Rushdie of music” after clerics in the Islamic republic issued fatwas calling him an apostate, which is considered punishable by death under the country’s Sharih law.
Shahin Najafi, a Germany-based Iranian singer, recently released a song with references to Ali al-Hadi al-Naqi, the 10th of the 12 Shiite Muslim Imams, a religious figure highly respected by millions in Iran.
The controversial clip posted on YouTube, watched by hundreds of thousands online, has divided opinions in the country with many finding it offensive and insulting to their beliefs and others defending the song, saying it broke taboos especially in regards to expressing views about religious personalities.
When asked for a religious ruling on the fate of Najafi and his “blasphemous music,” clerics unanimously declared that such a person must be considered an apostate.
According to the semi-official Mehr news agency, Ayatollah Naser Makareme Shirazi, a pro-Iranian regime cleric based in the holy city of Qom with a great deal of influence among Muslims in the country, was the latest person to issue a fatwa in regards to Najafi.
“Any outrage against the infallible imams … and obvious insult against them would make a Muslim an apostate,” he said.
Najafi’s song, called Naqi, is a chronology of events in the past year. Najafi, 31, has rejected claims that he meant to insult people’s religious beliefs, though the song criticizes Iranian society.
“I thought there would be some ramifications. But I didn’t think I would upset the regime that much. Now they are taking advantage of the situation and making it look like I was trying to criticize religion and put down believers,” he told the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle. “For me it is more of an excuse to talk about completely different things. I also criticize Iranian society in the song. It seems as though people are just concentrating on the word ‘imam.’”
Meanwhile, an Iranian religion Web site, Shia-Online.ir, which runs on the regime-controlled .ir domain, has offered a US$100,000 reward for anyone who kills Najafi.