Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Iranian Bob Dylan in trouble over Koran song...

All along the mosquetower...

Mohsen Namjoo is Iran’s most popular, and controversial, musician.

He is known for fusing traditional Persian music with Western styles such as rock, jazz, and blues. He blends the verses of great Iranian poets, such as Hafiz and Rumi, with his own poetry and words.

Many see the 32-year-old Namjoo as a genius -- an avant-garde artist who breaks barriers. Others dismiss him as a lunatic. The fact is that no one can remain indifferent while listening to his songs.

Now, he is facing angry protests over a song that includes verses from the Koran.

His brother says the song was just an experiment not meant to be publicized, but angry Koran experts and religious figures say Namjoo should be punished for what they call an insult to Islam’s holy book.
Abbas Salimi, a well-known Koran expert, was among the first to publicly complain about the song. In a recent complaint letter to Tehran Prosecutor Said Mortazavi, Salimi said that Namjoo had performed verses of the Koran in an insulting way and that he should be punished.

Namjoo is "currently outside the country - and if he's smart he won't be returning any time soon.

Namjoo, said on August 26 in a letter posted on his website that the authorities told him about the dispute last year, but says the written explanation he gave them about the song was never published. Namjoo’s brother, who says he is also the artist’s lawyer, has said that the song is an experiment in blending Arabic music with styles of other nations. He added in a letter published by Iran’s Koranic News Agency that on the day the lyrics were due to be recorded, the Arabic poems meant to be recited had been forgotten at home. Instead, Namjoo recited some verses of the Koran, which he knew by heart.

But Salimi and others are not convinced. And the list of protesters quoted by the Koran News Agency seems to be growing. Salimi has said that instead of “justifying” his action, Namjoo should accept “his mistake,” ask God for forgiveness, and apologize.

The judiciary so far has been silent.

Namjoo has said in the past that he fully respects the laws of the Islamic Republic.