Iranian Rapper Fears for His Life After Fatwa

Wall Street Journal 16 May 2012
By FARNAZ FASSIHI

BEIRUT—Iranian rapper Shahin Najafi expected his song calling on a Shiite saint to save Iran from its current rulers to stir up controversy, but he never imagined it might cost him his life.

He is now being dubbed the Salman Rushdie of music after two influential clerics in Iran issued fatwas—religious edicts—justifying his murder on grounds of blasphemy.

"I am still in disbelief. I'm only 31, with my whole life ahead of me," said Mr. Najafi in an interview from Germany, where he lives and, since last week, has been in hiding under the protection of German police.

Mr. Najafi says he doesn't regret the song and refuses to apologize, arguing that invoking a saint's name is a freedom of expression and not a religious insult. "Each person has to pay a price for what they want. I will never apologize for my art and for speaking the truth about Iran's government," said Mr. Najafi.
Iranian officials haven't commented on the fatwas or denounced them. But the case could present a new public-image problem for Iran ahead of talks next week with the international community in Baghdad over its nuclear program (...)