By Dawoud Kringle
Before I get to the meat & potatoes about the subject of this article, I must offer a few caveats.
First, I am a Muslim, and this is an article about Iran. So from time to time, I will speak with a Muslim voice – but perhaps not the voice you expected to hear. Second, I have some very specific ideas about geopolitics that some may find at best, interesting and at worst, disturbing or incomprehensible. Finally, I am going to present some very personal thoughts on a few things related to the subject matter and the editorial context in which this is being presented.
You are doubtless aware of the troubles happening in Iran.
In mid-September, 2022, Mahsa Amini was arrested for allegedly breaching Iran’s strict dress rules for women. This sparked a violent anti-regime movement and protest in the face of a fierce crackdown. This is the biggest challenge for the clerical leadership since the 1979 revolution. There has been no sign of the protests stopping. By the time you read this, the death toll will have surpassed 200.
The latest (as of this writing) protest was sparked by the death of Nasrin Ghadri, a Kurdish student from Marivan, who died Saturday 11/5/22 after being beaten by police. The following day, Iranian security forces opened fire at a protest in Marivan, a town in Kurdistan province, wounding 35 people. Iranian authorities refuse to comment on the cause of her death.
The government of Iran has exacerbated the situation. One example of this is Ghazaleh Chalabi who was shot in the head in Amol on September 21st, 2022. The Iranian security forces who were responsible for this threatened her parents to withhold her body and bury her in an unknown location if they complained about the murder of their daughter. They also threatened to take retaliatory action against Chalabi’s brother if the parents spoke out and even rejected Chalabi’s wish for her organs to be donated because they feared turning her into a martyr.
I am no scholar, but I know enough about the religion of Islam to know that the Islamic Republic of Iran is a contradiction in terms. Like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Taliban of Afghanistan, and others I could mention, their governmental policies, ideologies, and practices bear little to no resemblance to authentic Islam. A casual assessment of Qur’anic verses bears this out. Two examples: “O Messenger of Allah! It is a great Mercy of Allah that you are gentle and kind towards them; for, had you been harsh and hard-hearted, they would all have broken away from you” (3:159), and “There must be no coercion / compulsion in matters of religion” (2:256).
We also have many Hadiths – teachings and biographical accounts of the prophet Muhammad (sas) One example: “Jabir ibn Abdullah reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Beware of committing oppression, for oppression will be darkness on the Day of Resurrection. Beware of greed, for greed ruined those before you. It caused them to shed their blood and to make lawful what was unlawful to them.” (Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2578).
The Iranian government’s oppression of women is a violation of Islamic law. The Shari’ah calls for women – and men! – to dress modestly. But it also calls for an opposition to oppression. The authentic Shari’ah and Islamic community under the Medina model founded by the Prophet Muhammad (sas) contained the world’s first codified legislation that guarantees women’s rights.
I have an acquaintance who is a Sufi from Iran. He told me that when he lived in Mecca, he showed the Saudis photos and other historical evidence that their female ancestors were formidable and free as the wind. They ran their own businesses, inherited property, divorced their husbands, rode animals, wore beautiful clothes and jewelry, carried weapons and could fight like men (This changed when the Wahabbi cult, led by the Saud Dynasty, took control of Arabia in 1932 with the help of the British, who, 16 years later, helped the zionists of Europe conquer Palestine and form the illegal rogue state of Israel). They couldn’t believe it.
Any individual or legislative oppression of women comes from a weakness in masculinity. For whatever reason, when men are not allowed to be men: i.e. when their freedom to pursue their natural inclinations as men are interfered with (directly or indirectly – or through some form of personal insanity), this masculine energy is directed as a backlash against their women. The Taliban are a perfect example of this phenomenon.
The so-called Islamic government of Iran has not only failed to cultivate a proper (and I dare say Islamic) relationship with its own women, this failure has spilled out onto the geopolitical world stage. This puts them in a very vulnerable position. This is not good for them, despite the fact that, regarding international relations, they have some very admissible and legitimate grievances.
One example of this vulnerability is in Iran’s relationship with China. No long-term advantage to anyone except China can come of this. China is Iran’s top import and export market and a critical investor in Iran’s energy and transportation infrastructure. This economic coordination undermines the stability of an already unstable geopolitical region. China’s proliferation of technology supporting Iran’s ballistic missile program, their intelligence sharing and military partnerships pose a threat to U.S. Security, and the US will be forced to respond. However, since nothing good ever came from communism, any kind of deal with the CCP is a devil’s bargain. China is positioning itself to assume a “soft economic warfare” with Iran and conquer their economy, exactly the way they’re doing with much of Europe, Southeast Asia, and Africa. The CCP will inevitably betray its alliance with Iran once it is in a position of power to do so, and Iran will belong to China. The laughable irony of this is that a supposedly “Islamic” government sold out to a communist nation who routinely oppresses its Muslim minorities and is built upon an ideological foundation of atheistic communism.
Bottom line, the government of Iran is just as hypocritical and oppressive as anyone else you can name. And its own people suffer for it for no reason other than that they wished to be treated like human beings. No contradictory conclusion is possible. Personally, I can’t help but wonder what the Iranian government thought was going to happen when they started pulling this shit. Like most politicians, they obviously have a thought process and value system that sane human beings would find bizarre and incomprehensible.
Now, at this point, you are doubtless wondering what my didactic discourses are doing in a music magazine.
The music scene in Iran has been suffering for a century. For a long time, Western classical music had become the sign of bourgeois power. Their own musical traditions were already being driven underground. This at a time when western classical music’s period of primary production was ending (the revolutionary techniques of serialism, 12-tone, and 20th century avant-garde failed to inflame anyone except a small elite and failed to deconstruct the Canon). One incident that was telling was the 1971 Festival of Arts in Shiraz. They had invited Karlheinz Stockhausen to present his music to the people of the city rather than solely to the elitist Tehran Festival audience. He was not well received. Other western musicians who performed at the Festival of Arts in Shiraz included Yehudi Menuhin, John Cage, Iannis Xenakis, as well as Indian musicians such as Pandit Pran Nath and Ravi Shankar) In the end, it didn’t work because the pre-revolution Iranian elite had placed the importance of their own musical traditions in subservience to that of the west. This helped foster a hatred of “decadent” Western music, which was banned after the Revolution of 1978 (ironically, Ayatollah Khomeni was actually fond of Western classical music and of traditional Persian music. In a fatwa he issued in his later life, he had favorable things to say about music provided it was not immoral from an Islamic perspective).
The classical musicians of Iran were driven underground or became expatriates. Eventually, several new forms of music rose from its Persian roots, which had been severed by an unspoken servility to the West and later by the quasi-religious totalitarian reaction against it. It is still fighting to find its place in the world. I fear that it will never regain what it has lost, but it has every opportunity and potential to grow into something new that will build upon its ancient roots.
With this in mind, I would like to present our friend, MFM president Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi (a.k.a. SoSaLa). He is a US citizen of Iranian descent. My American mind can only speculate on the personal depth of his emotional and cultural connection to the events in Iran. With this in mind, I invite you to listen to his piece “Welcome New Iran,” from his album Nu World Trash.
The track grew out of Ladjevardi’s involvement with the Green Movement (an Iranian political movement protesting the oppression of Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollah which began in June 2009). Unlike the Arab Spring, the Green Movement has not been successful. Ladjevardi told me it is his hope that revolution and change can one day liberate the land of his forefathers. The spoken word lyrics are in Farsi, which I do not understand. However, the spirit and essential meaning of the work clearly transcends these linguistic barriers. Ladjevardi found a workable middle ground between the east and the west, and used it to articulate the suffering of his ancestors and their inevitable rise from oppression. He is an object example of the future of Iranian culture – one of many who are here and many to come.
One of two things can happen in Iran. The government of Iran will admit it needs to bring it down a notch and allow its people to live as free humans. If this does not happen, it will collapse into another revolution. But either could bring another kind of extremism; secular extremism. This will be ruinous to the spirit of the Iranian people and the centuries old traditions of Islamic mysticism that is woven into their culture (which neither the Shah nor the Ayatollahs could suppress). They will be like the Saudis who now celebrate Halloween or the Egyptians who recreated the polytheistic rituals of their distant ancestors; all of which is in violation of the spirituality of Tawhid (Islamic monotheism).
If a revolution occurs, Iran will be in a terribly vulnerable position, and may be forced to employ strict measures to safeguard its own internal structure and geopolitical position. It will not matter if the new government is religious or secular; this will be the most immediate problem. Other world powers will be looking for weaknesses. So will those revolutionaries who, like almost all revolutionaries, end up becoming despotic administrators. And their own internal psychological wounds will be unhealed.
The musicians of Iran will need to restructure their way of doing business. An organized body (perhaps a union or something never tried before) to insure musician’s rights will need to be established. Yet this will need to be on guard against the aforementioned political degeneracy that their government (or the succeeding government) will expose itself to. At the same time, it will have to establish its own power. The ultimate irony of this is that power only respects power. But the musician’s and artist’s power must come from a very different motive than those corrupt forces it is standing against.
But this is very necessary. In fact, in a recent phone call with Ladjevardi, he told me he was in touch with some musicians in Iran. They asked him to come to Iran and help establish MFM. He turned them down. The musicians of Iran will need to form their own organization – or maybe form a chapter of MFM. This is in concurrence with the first time that Iranian musicians inside and outside of Iran have been supporting the uprisings either through music or through public condemnation of the regime. As a result many of them left Iran or got arrested.
There has also been a powerful response from the international music, arts, and entertainment community. Iranian singer Shervin Hajipour released the protest song Baraye on Instagram that detailed the anti-regime sentiments and protests in Iran, and the oppressive condition the people of Iran must endure. He put himself at considerable risk in doing so. He was arrested on September 29th and released on bail on October 4th. He may be eligible for a Grammy nomination.
Which brings me to an inevitable conclusion. History shows again and again that there are no political solutions to political problems. Political ideologies (all of which are based on an economic theory of some kind) and the parties that grow on them like a fungus are worthless. The solutions can only be spiritual – and I do not mean the quasi-religious mask that political ambition almost always wears to append a moral justification to its crimes against humanity! It is the philosophers, mystics, scientists, poets, artists, and musicians who find the real solutions others look for. Our vision transcends the stifling diatribes of “leaders” who care only for the sustaining and expansion of their own power. Artists and musicians have tapped into the essence of absolute reality itself, and our craft is one of the few ways to articulate this and make it manifest. Music is the doorway between worlds, and we are the gatekeepers. We touch people’s hearts and souls in a way they can neither achieve nor comprehend.
This is why we are so feared and why those covetous of worldly power oppress, placate, and ridicule us. They are afraid of us.
DooBeeDooBeeDoo NY and MFM send its well wishes and solidarity to the people of Iran. And I pray that Allah guides these great and ancient people to a good life in this world and an honorable place in the hereafter.