Shahin Najafi, an Iranian rapper living in Germany, has a $100,000 bounty on his head after Islamist website Shia-Online.ir issued a 'fatwa' for a controversial song he released that criticizes the Islamist Republic.
Shia-Online.ir, an Iranian news and religion website, said Najafi should die for a song he released that grossly insulted the Islamic Republic and Ali al-Hadi al-Naqi, one of 12 imams venerated by Shi'ite Muslims in the country, reported Reuters.
A (website) founder, who lives in one of the Gulf Arab states, has promised to pay the ($100,000) bounty on behalf of Shia-Online.ir to the killer of this abusive singer, the site said in a posting reported Reuters.
The song in question mimics the form of a ninth century prayer and expresses ironic reverence for Iranian religious figures. Some Iranians find the song offensive while others say it has broken through social taboos by discussing different religious figures, reported the Guardian.
Yet Najafi said his song, 'Naqi, which focuses on events of the past year, was not mean to criticize or focus on Islam or al-Naqi.
Najafi constant refrain of O Naqi has angered authorities in the Islamic Republic. Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi said about the song that any outrage against the infallible imams ... and obvious insult against them would make a Muslim an apostate, reported Iran's Fars news agency, according to Reuters.
Apostasy, or a departure from one's religion, is punishable by death under Iran's sharia law.
Najafi, in an interview with Deutsche Welle, said he was surprised by the harsh criticism he has received from the Islamic Republic.
I thought there would be some ramifications. But I didn't think I would upset the regime that much. Now they are taking advantage of the situation and making it look like I was trying to criticize religion and put down believers, he said in the interview.
The song, which is in Iran's native language of Farsi, references everything from the country's love of plastic surgery to the 2009 presidential election.
For me it is more of an excuse to talk about completely different things, said Najafi. I also criticize Iranian society in the song. It seems as though people are just concentrating on the word 'imam'.
Najafi has been nicknamed the Salman Rushdie of music because both figures have had fatwas issued against them for what the Islamic Republic considers blasphemous material. Rushdie was targeted in 1989 after his novel 'The Satanic Verses' drew ire for senior clerics, reported the Guardian.
Najafi was active in Iran's underground music scene before leaving the country for Germany in 2005.
He said he was taken precautionary measures because some of the supporters of the regime want to create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, reported Reuters.
The song has received more than 350,000 hits on YouTube. Listen to it here.