• Presented at the Brush and Ink: 2018 Xia Jing Shan Academic Seminars, June 2018.
  • Included in Journal of Xia Jing Shan’s Art Issue 7


Lin Cho-I

name of organization, title of the position:

PhD candidate, Department of Education, University of Taipei


Religion, politics, fine arts, Iran, Islam, prohibit music

This paper reflects on integrative issues resulting from religion, politics, and art through examining Iran’s ban on music.

After the 1979 revolution in Iran, some music has been banned from public life, and Western music is particularly forbidden in the country. The purpose of censoring Western music is to prevent spiritual debauchery and to uphold the Islamic ethos. However, the true objective for the government to ban Western music is actually for the regime to maintain control. The Iranian government pays close attention to the orthodoxy of the regime and believes that the censoring of Western music is beneficial in preserving the orthodoxy. However, the effects of the music censorship have been limited, and activities involving Wester popular music have consequently turned underground.

Several issues could be reflected on from Iran’s music censorship. Firstly, art is essentially free, and the value of art is constructed. The condemnation of music is merely a constructed concept and does not hold absolute significance. There are no absolute standards when it comes to art. Secondly, the banning of music in Iran reflects conflicts between spiritual protection and spiritual restriction, and the key with this lies in whether or not the censorship enforcer is compassionate towards those that the ban is being enforced upon and whether a consensus has been developed between the two. Thirdly, the banning of music brings up the conflicting issue with whether art should be controlled by the state or by religion, or it should be a choice that is opened for individual discretion. Since the value of art is constructed by individuals; therefore, art should not be forcibly controlled by any autocratic regime. Fourthly, the banning of music highlights the push and pull between religious ideology and the supremacy of art. However, moral values that are pursued in religion are also a construction. Art should not be confined by such constructed values. And fifth, Iran’s music censorship prompts us to consider the choices between cultural resistance and cultural understanding. Similarities are shared by different cultures, and instead of resisting, different cultures should seek to understand and respect one another.

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