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 ... "
Mr. Najafi, your latest song, "Naghi", has caused an uproar. Is it really about the tenth Shia imam?
Shahin Najafi: No. For me it is more of an excuse to talk about completely different things. I criticise Iranian society in the song. It seems as though people are just concentrating on the word "imam".
One of my earlier songs was about the twelfth Shia imam who is supposed to come back and redeem the world. So my new song is, in a way, a continuation of the other one; the narrator is disappointed in the twelfth imam so he asks the tenth imam to save society. But as I say, the story with Naghi was just a pretext.
There is a campaign on Facebook, the "International Campaign for Imam Naghi", that is taking a satirical look at Imam Naghi and is critical of the regime in Tehran. The campaign is a great irritation to the regime. Would you have written a different song had this Facebook page not existed?
Najafi: Most probably, yes. I was interested in some peculiar incidents and developments in Iran last year.
The Iranian regime has criticised and verbally attacked you for your provocative lyrics. Your website was also hacked. You must have known that the song would provoke such reactions and also have consequences for you.
Najafi: I thought there would be some political 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 criticise religion and put down believers.
As far as the fatwa is concerned, I don't think Mr. Safi Golpaygani aimed it at me personally.
What is your situation now? Do you have a plan just in case there is any trouble?
Najafi: Unfortunately, I can't go into any details. But we have taken precautionary measures. We do, after all, live in a country where there are rules and procedures for such predicaments. So there is nothing to worry about. Some of the supporters of the regime want to create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. But everything is okay, and we will continue with our work.
So the German authorities have been informed?
Najafi: We have informed all those who need to know.
Interview conducted by Shahram Ahadi
© Deutsche Welle 2012
Editor: Aingeal Flanagan/Qantara.de