After the exiled Iranian rapper and rock guitarist Shahin Najafi released a controversial song entitled ‘Imam Naghi’, an Iranian cleric issued a death sentence (fatwa) against him, a news site in the country started a campaign calling for his assassination, and a religious site issued a reward for killing the Iranian musician.
The song ‘Imam Naghi’ is an a cappella rap song which refers extensively to the Tenth Imam, one of the twelve imams that play an important role in the religion of the Shia Muslims in Iran. Shahin Najafi’s song contains a satirical dialogue with this imam and critisises the socio-political development in Iran.
In an interview with the German radio station WDR Funkhaus Europa, Shahin Najafi explained that he cannot see why the song is believed to be offensive to Imam Naghi, the tenth Imam:
“The song refers to an ironical Facebook campaign reminding Shia Muslims of Imam Naghi in 2011. This iman is part of the Shia mythology, but he doesn’t play an important role. The campaign gave me the inspiration. My lyrics call on the imam to return to life and end Iran’s apocalyptic conditions. The lyrics are provocative, but there is no verse, not a single word that insults the religion. I tell him he should not hesitate to do away with the many misfeatures in the country: with oppression and sexual violence, with the trend of cosmetic surgery, and with imported cheap goods from China that are flooding the Iranian market.”
Shahin Najafi, who is very popular among Iranians for his eclectic style, high quality productions and progressive views, is now staying at a secret place in Germany. According to Fars News, a conservative Iranian news agency, a campaign calling for his execution was launched by the religious website Shia-online, which set a 100,000 US dollars reward for killing the Iranian musician.
The news website Asr Iran, which is closely tied to the regime in Tehran, launched an online campaign calling for the hanging of 31-year-old Shahin Najafi. The website stated that the aim of the campaign was to have Najafi condemned for blasphemy, a crime that carries the death penalty in Iran.
The campaign organisers called on all Shi’ites and Muslims in general to find and kill Najafi and “send him to hell,” according to the website.
This happened after a Shia cleric based in the Iranian city of Qom, Ayatollah Safi Golpayegani, issued a death sentence against Shahin Najafi for apostasy, the Persian-language Al Arabiya website reported on 9 May 2012.
The Arabic tv network Al Arabiya dubbed Shahin Najafi as “Salman Rushdie of music”.
Shahin Najafi takes the threats very seriously. He has cancelled his coming European tour and is in despair about the situation.
The ‘Iranian Eminem’
Under pressure from the Iranian government to remove the political messages from his music, Shahin Najafi immigrated to Germany in 2005, and began performing with music groups such as Tapesh-2012 – a team of young artists and producers from Iran, Germany and Great Britain who advocate for democracy, peace and human rights in Iran through cultural activities such as concerts and videos. The producers of Tapesh-2012 work with a number of different singers and rappers to produce and perform politically motivated songs in the Persian language.
Shahin Najafi formed a new rock band, Antikarisma, in January 2010. It consists of four Iranian based in Germany. He has also worked with music groups such as Rapknot Group and Ghogha.
Before 2005, when he was based in Iran, Shahin Najafi worked as an underground artist, and was banned by the authorities from performing in the country. In Iran, his songs and albums are either bought on the black market or downloaded from the Internet. His songs mostly deal with issues such as theocracy, poverty, sexism, censorship, child labour, execution and drug addiction. Many regard him as the ‘Iranian Eminem’. Especially because of his anti-Islamic texts, Shahin Najafi has long been on the top of the dissident blacklist in Iran.
UPDATE 5 June 2012
Rapper Shahin Najafi responds to death threats – with a new song
Last month Iranian clerics and politicians called for the execution of rapper Shahin Najafi after he released the song “Naqi”, invoking Shi’a’s 10th Imam to criticise Iranian politics and society. A pro-regime website offered a large bounty for Najafi’s death, and 40 authors have promised royalties from their books to his killer. Najafi, who lives in Germany, has responded to the threats with a new song, ‘Istadeh Mordan (Our Codewords Are Dying Upright)’.
Latest news on this topic
Google News – continuously updated:
Search: “Shahin Najafi”
Al Arabiya – 9 May 2012:
‘The Salman Rushdie of music? Iran calls for killing of ‘apostate’ rap artist’
Shahin Najafi’s official channels/pages on
Information about Shahin on The Full Wiki:
Around us [our hood]
Just as I opened my eyes, I was already tired of life.
I don’t know what happened, but I grew old while I was young.
They told me I was a lefty, on the wrong path, a not a believer. But when did you answer my questions?
From the day I opened my eyes, there was the war.
In father’s hand there was a gun instead of a pen.
The answer to each of my questions was a rock.
Let me tell the story for once.
You and I both know the pain and the roots.
Let me think I am a human, for once.
Let me think I live in a normal [healthy] society, for once.
Let me forget that I’ve been beaten in the head for 20 years; that I am worthless, dirt, left over.
Let me close my eyes and not see [witness] my sisters gaze, my mothers cry.
Let me close my eyes and say that I am fortunate; that I have a tomorrow and I look forward to it.
You laugh inside if you are pampered in abundance.
But life for us is something else.
Its the moments which have passed in dreams.
The red tears of eyes full of blood.
This is not life, this is convulsing, dying.
Its like waking alive each morning, and dying every night. Its like going after returned checks, dealing with poverty, with all that is unfortunate.
Its like holding your skirt over your head, loosing all the respect in your hood, wanting to die.
You must sell yourself, you need money.
If they beat you in the head, you remain quite.
I told this to many but no one responded.
Around us: its always night, a scary night.
Around us: even death is sick.
Around us: each person is riding many.
Around us: its a collection of measure.
Around us whore is the name for the housewife with no other means for dinner.
Around us [men of] knowledge sit on the sidewalks, its real hard not to feel ashamed of yourself.
Where what it means to be a human is always under question, living like one is very hard.
There is a heavy load on your shoulder; frightening voices occupy your ears.
Murderers are studying at the universities, and students are in prison.
Around us nationality is a broken tableau [piece of stone referring to the Persepolis, etc – broken]; identity is a door which has been closed for 14 centuries [Arab/Islamic invasion and what ensued].
In our hood men are half price; worth less than a dog. Here we are used to being beaten in the head [expression forced to obey].
God laughs, bares witness to this.
Here if you are sad, they suggest suicide as the solution.
Here living is harder than life.
Here living is harder than life.