Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on Monday that music is "not compatible" with the values of the Islamic republic, and should not be practised or taught in the country.
In some of the most extreme comments by a senior regime figure since the 1979 revolution, Ayatollah Khamenei said: "Although music is halal, promoting and teaching it is not compatible with the highest values of the sacred regime of the Islamic Republic."
His comments came in response to a request for a ruling by a 21-year-old follower of his, who was thinking of starting music lessons, but wanted to know whether they were acceptable according to Islam, the semi-official Fars news agency reported. "It's better that our dear youth spend their valuable time in learning science and essential and useful skills and fill their time with sport and healthy recreations instead of music," he said.
Unlike other clerics in Iran, whose religious rulings are practised by their own followers, Ayatollah Khamenei's views are interpreted as administrative orders for the whole country, which must be obeyed by the government. Last month he issued a controversial fatwa in which he likened his leadership to that of the Prophet Mohammed and obliged all Iranians to obey his orders. Ayatollah Khamenei has rarely expressed his views on music publicly, but he is believed have played a key role in the crackdown on Iran's music scene after the revolution.
After the reformist president Mohammad Khatami took office in 1997, official attitudes toward music and especially pop began to thaw.
After his election in 2005, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cracked down on music. His Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has refused permission for the distribution of thousands of albums. Since last year's disputed elections the authorities have given even fewer permits for public concerts, fearing they could be used by the opposition.
Guardian News Service