Shahin Najafi: No fatwa will stop me

Najafi is probably the most incendiary Iranian musician there is. His songs take on issues like sexual freedom, women’s rights, the sanctity of virginity, government corruption, rape in prison, and the rule of mullahs. In the track that earned him the fatwas, Najafi raps over his own beatboxing and calls for the return of the 10th Imam, Ali al-Hadi al-Naghi, over a millennium after his death. It’s unclear how, exactly, his opponents interpreted the song to insult the Imam, but the lyrics bemoan what Najafi sees as the problems of Iranian society: “dissolute men,” “sanctions,” “empty slogans” and women’s lack of sexual choice. He hits one taboo after the other — the cover of the album is a mosque dome shaped as a breast with a gay pride flag flying from the top.

His “first wish,” he says, is for democracy in his country. “But not through war. Not with a bloody revolution.” He says his art for him “is more important than my opposition to the Islamic Republic. But more important than that is my honor. If I see something wrong that is happening in my country, my honor forces me to address it in my art.”

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