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St. John's University The Torch January 05, 2006

Editorial: Iran's Ban of Western Music: Just a Taste of What's To Come

By Anthony Kraljic

While many governments in Asia have worked towards westernizing their nations, Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has done just the opposite. As a matter of fact, he has made it a point to end any foreign relations with the West, especially the United States.

Ahmadinejad, who was elected to office only five months ago as the sixth president of Iran, is known in Iranian politics as being an Islamic radical and was identified by many of the victims of the 1979 Hostage crisis as being among those involved despite claims that he was not.

As a major part of his agenda, Ahmadinejad revived a decree of the 1979 Islamic Revolution that bans Western music from all radio and television stations in Iran. Times Online, an online newspaper in the United Kingdom, even quotes Iran’s new president as saying, “Thanks to the blood of the martyrs, a new Islamic revolution has arisen and the Islamic revolution…will, if God wills, cut off the roots of injustice in the world. The wave of the Islamic revolution will soon reach the entire world.”

In addition to being president, Ahmadinejad is also the head of Iran's Supreme Cultural Revolutionary Council, which made the ruling in October to ban Western music. The ruling, however, was not officially put into affect until recently when the president ordered the enactment. According to www.grammy.com, this order means that the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting “must execute the decree and prepare a report on its implementation within six months.” In addition, this recent ban also includes the censorship of film content. The council has even gone as far as calling all Western music indecent.

How is this music indecent?

Of course, it is understandable that the Islamic government in Iran would deem untalented and lip-synching singers who use sex as a sole means of getting rich as inappropriate, but to ban music of performers such as George Michael, Eric Clapton, the Eagles, the Beatles, Kenny G, and other artists like these whose music was once welcomed on Iran’s radio stations before this ruling, is puzzling. Music was outlawed as anti Islamic by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini after the 1979 revolution, but this did not stop light classical music to creep its way back onto Iran’s radio and television networks, especially when the revolution was finally beginning to wind down. According to www.grammy.com, “some public concerts reappeared in the late 1980s.”

Ironically, during this time in which the ruling was passed, music, films, and clothing from the West were still being sold openly in the streets of Tehran, as well as in the rest of Iran, and people actually bought such merchandise even while the current president was mayor of the capital city. Hip-hop could even be heard blaring from car radios and from music stores.

Why did he allow this in his city?

This explosion of Western music in Iran several years after Khomeini’s revolution ended was a harking back to the eight years of the reformist rule of Iran’s previous president. For eight years Iranians lived in relative freedom with no censorship. It was during this time in which Babak Riahipour, an Iranian guitarist, started his career and had many of his songs played on the state radio and television. Now, according to www.grammy.com, he complains that the Iranian government’s ruling under Ahmadinejad “shows a lack of knowledge and experience.”

Iran’s black market is most likely going to continue selling bootleg copies of music, DVD’s, and videos that was banned by the government.

So, why even waste time creating such a law?

Iran’s Supreme Cultural Revolutionary Council explains on their Web site, www.globalsecurity.org,  that the “supervision of content from films, TV series and their voice-overs is emphasized in order to support spiritual cinema and to eliminate trite and violence.” This council also issued a ban on any foreign film that promotes the United States or any Western country.

That being said, it is hard to understand why a majority of Iranians even voted for this man as their president. The Bush administration automatically claims that the election was fixed, but the real reason behind Ahmadinejad’s election could be that the people that were enjoying such freedoms were not the real majority. During his campaign for presidency on a platform reverting to outlandishly ultraconservative principles brought about by the revolution of 1979, Ahmadinejad promised, according to www.grammy.com, “to confront what he called the Western cultural invasion and promote Islamic values.” In addition, he stated that the state of Israel should be taken entirely off the map and dismisses the Nazi Holocaust as a myth. He even went as far as stating that the creation of Israel was an anti-Semitic act on the part of European leaders and that establishing Israel in the middle of a region of Muslim countries was their way of completing the mass genocide of the Jews.

Although he is not yet as dangerous as Saddam Hussein was in Iraq, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is someone that can be as influential in changing the Middle East in a negative way, making Iran a nation that the Bush administration should watch out for, especially after United States troops finally leave Iraq. This is because the Islamic fundamentalist ideals prevalent in Iran could eventually spill into neighboring Iraq, a nation that is just beginning to build up a democracy, but is still too weak to withstand outside forces.

The banning of western music is just the beginning.

 


Copyright 2006, The Torch