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Senior Iranian Cleric Refuses To Meet With Culture Minister

By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL

Senior Qom-based hard-line Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has refused to meet with Iranian Culture Minister Ali Jannati to demonstrate his disapproval of the ministry's policies, deemed too liberal by hard-liners.

Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi

In a statement issued on November 18, Makarem Shirazi's office said the senior ayatollah had "major objections" to some of the books that have been published, and also to some movies and music that have been released.

Publishers have said that Iran's tough censoring of books has slightly eased since the 2013 coming to power of self-proclaimed moderate President Hassan Rohani.

"In case of change, [the ayatollah] will not only meet with [Jannati], but he will also praise and thank him. [Otherwise] meeting him would be a sign of approval," the statement said.

Makarem Shirazi's office issued the statement a few days after the Culture Ministry claimed that Jannati had not been able to meet the ayatollah during last week's trip to Qom due to the cleric's "illness."

Jannati had reportedly met a few other senior ayatollahs, including Nouri Hamedani and Safi Golpayegani.

Iranian Culture Minister Ali Jannati
(source: Arman daily)

Hard-liners have been critical of some of the cultural and social policies of Rohani who has promised Iranians more rights and less state intervention in their lives.

The Culture Ministry has been accused of allowing solo singing by women, which has been banned since the 1979 revolution and the creation of an Islamic republic. Jannati has said that the "rumors" are spread by those giving false information to senior clerics and lawmakers.

In February, Makarem Shirazi and Nouri Hamedani criticized a newly released album of traditional music that included female singing.

Qom, the base of a number of influential senior clerics, is considered one of the centers of power in the Islamic republic.

Government officials and authorities often travel to Qom for lobbying purposes and also in order to receive support for their policies.

Copyright (c) 2015 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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