Iranian rapper receives death threats over song

Dylan Stableford

An Iranian rapper who lives in Germany says he has received death threats for a song that criticizes Iranian society and, some say, an Islamic Shiite imam.

Shahin Najafi, who sings in Farsi, has faced a backlash since posting online the song, "Naghi," earlier this month.

One website is offering a $100,000 reward for his killing. Iran's official news agency called the song an "affront" against the imam.

"Following the affront by rap singer Shahin Najafi against Imam Hadi (7th Imam of Shias) in a song called 'Naghi,' his apostasy sentence has been issued by Ayatollah Safi Golpayegani," the Fars News Agency said in a statement translated by CNN. "If the song contains any insults or indecency towards Imam Naghi, then it is blasphemy, and God knows what to do."

The 92-year-old Golpayegani, CNN noted, is "the highest-ranking authority in Shiite Islam after prophets and imams." And an "apostate," or someone who forsakes Islam, is "punishable by death under Iranian law."

Najafi has dismissed the threats.

"I thought there would be some political ramifications," Najafi said in an interview with the German website Qantara. "But I didn't think I would upset the regime that much. Now they are taking advantage of the situation and making it look like I was trying to criticize religion and put down believers."

He continued: "As far as the fatwa is concerned, I don't think Mr. Safi Golpayegani aimed it at me personally."

"I criticize Iranian society in the song," Najafi added. "It seems as though people are just concentrating on the word 'imam.'"