I was raised--let’s say--in an unconventional Iranian family. Blasphemy was never a problem in our house. Even though my father fearlessly had no respect for any kind of religion and my mother’s tolerating religious beliefs never criticized his comments, the family knew whatever said in the house, stays in the house.
In a country where every move and words are watched at school, on the streets or at work to make sure Islam is practiced, one just learns to lead a double life. That’s how I learned to never say my father doesn’t pray, or we have an illegal satellite TV. For example, when I was being interviewed for a competitive high school about my parents religious beliefs, I lied about them being devout Muslims, not because I believed it would increase my chance of getting in, just because that’s how every one lived those days. Ham rang-e-jama’t sho “Be like every one else if you want to survive!”
In those days, any one who had lived in Iran or was familiar with the political and religious repression, in one way or another witnessed or heard of the notorious punishment of questioning religion. So, growing up with a fear of prosecution, I learned it’s normal to live a private life so different from a public life. And never thought I would live to see a day when Iranians would publicly say the things I only heard in private.
This week when an Iranian artist, Shahin Najafi who lives in Germany started an uproar with his song, Naghi, I realized I was wrong in my predictions. Of course, the consequences have followed and a religious figure in Iran has issued a Fatwa of death on the artist. Also, many people were not happy about the song or the CD cover and expressed their opinion very clearly via Farsi blogs and Facebook pages. Yet, this very long due and necessary conversation for any nation who is undergoing change and is hoping to take control of its own destiny, has started among Iranians.
In the song, Naghi, Najafi sings about the social and political problems in Iran. Based on a common Shia tradition of praying to twelve Imams, Najafi asks the tenth Shia Imam, Naghi to do something about the poverty, corruption, nuclear issue, inflation, sanctions and etc. Besides the sexual references in the song such as the words “viagra” or “breasts,” Najafi also refers to the 12th Shia Imam, Mahdi who is believed to be absent and his come back along with Jesus Christ will be the end of world’s violence, wars and injustice. He says now that there is no sight of him, we are looking to Imam Naghi to help us.
Watch the video here
The artist who has explicitly in an interview with BBC Persian says he does not intend to make fun of Islam as much as the hypocrisies of the Iranian society and politics, Ironically complains about the oppression of religion and the Iranian regime (whose legitimacy is religion) to a religious figure of Shia Islam.
The audience might have found the language or the image of the 8th Imam, Reza’s shrine shaped as a woman’s breast offensive. But I also believe what has shocked them is the same realization I came to have. The clear boundary between the private life and the public life is slowly fading in Iran and it could be hard to accept this reality that nothing is holly or dangerous enough to be kept away from the public anymore.By Parisa Saranj, Aslan Media Columnist