Germany-Based Rapper Fears for Life After Fatwa
Cologne-based rapper Najafi has drawn the wrath of Shiite Muslims after publishing a song that appeared to make fun of the 10th imam. Following a fatwa by an Iranian ayatollah, he has received death threats, and there is a $100,000 bounty on his head. Now he is under police protection but insists he will keep making music. By SPIEGEL Staff
It’s every rapper’s dream: You stick it to the world, not caring what people think or say about you. If they hate you, they should go ahead and diss you, the more the better. No one can tell you what to do. After all, isn’t that what rap is all about?
That dream came true last week for an Iranian rapper living in exile in Cologne. But in the tough reality of life, the dream has turned into a nightmare for Shahin Najafi. Najafi rapped about a man who has been dead 1,143 years: the 10th imam, Ali al-Hadi al-Naqi. He implored the imam to return to modern-day Iran to sort out the regime there. Of course, to a certain extent he also poked fun at the imam — the sort of thing a rapper does in a world that’s becoming more and more difficult to provoke. Najafi also designed an image for YouTube: a dome of a mosque in the shape of a women’s breast, with the nipple at the very top.
He wanted to be provocative. It was rap, after all. The song’s message was hard-hitting and crass.
What he provoked, however, was not the usual outcry on the Internet, but a response from the Grand Ayatollah Lotfollah Safi Golpayegani in the Iranian city of Qom. It was a religious opinion, one that Persian newspapers have turned into headlines, albeit with a few weeks’ delay. The ayatollah expressed himself in broad terms, not even mentioning Najafi by name. But anyone who wants to can easily interpret the ayatollah’s opinion as a call to murder. And that is now Najafi’s problem, because there are many who want to read it that way.