Pedestrians and drivers in a Tehran street. FILE PHOTO

Pedestrians and drivers in a Tehran street.

Iran Lawmaker Sets Off Row Over Sunglasses, Musical Instruments

12/15/2021

A lawmaker and cleric has apologized for saying that people who consider musical instruments and sunglasses priorities should leave Iran and reside elsewhere.

After strong reaction to an interview in Didban-e Iran website Friday, Kazem Mousavi said Tuesday his remarks had been distorted and that scarce foreign currency was needed for importing food and other badly-needed goods.

But in the earlier interview Mousavi had not just defended the import bans for economic reasons. The hardline cleric had also said that musical instruments should not be allowed in an Islamic country. It is not clear at all what was the religious source for making such a claim about sunglasses, as many Islamic Republic officials have been seen outdoors wearing sunglasses.

The problem of clerics making up rules as they go along is a source of tensions in Iran. The Quran is often very general on issues of lifestyle, but clerics, especially of the hardline variety, make their own interpretations which they impose on society using their political power in the government.

Mousavi noted that anyone who desired a different lifestyle should leave Iran. The parliament member was criticized on air by Mohamad Delavari, a popular and outspoken presenter on state television (IRIB). "Who has given you the right to make decisions for the people?” Delavari opined. “You have one vote to cast in the parliament. Cast your own vote and leave us to ourselves. You are in no position to decide what is in the country's interest.”

Many others in articles and social media highlighted Mousavi and his associates' interest in music and sunglasses at a time when the country grappled with much bigger problems. Social media users posted hundreds of selfies with sunglasses, holding musical instruments, or both with the hashtag "We are here and not going anywhere."

Such criticism is very rare in the highly-controlled IRIB where everyone is ideologically and politically screened for employment.

Others reminded Mousavi of the few votes he won in parliamentary elections of February 2020, when he was elected on a low turnout after the Guardian Council, the constitutional watchdog, barred several rivals.

"Do you want anyone whose back is breaking under the pressure of inflation to leave Iran too?" asked a commentary in the Asr-e Iran website Monday. "Anyone who was born inside Iran’s borders and has an Iranian birth certificate is an Iranian … Why does Mr Mousavi think he has a higher right than us?”

Despite the view of some religious fundamentalists, Iranian music continues to flourish and young people follow Western pop music.

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