Traditionally aired on Iranian state television and radio during the month of Ramadan, an Islamic prayer called "Rabbana," sung by 69-year-old Mohammad Reza Shajarian, has yet to be broadcast this year, leading to speculation that Shajarian's criticism of last year's postelection crackdown is the reason.
For some three decades, Iranians have looked forward to hearing the prayer. For those who were fasting, "Rabbana" signaled it was time to break their fast and begin the iftar.
This year, another version of the prayer, sung by a different singer, is reportedly being aired on state media.
Several Iranian news websites, including the reformist "Parlemannews," have reported that state television has banned the version
sung by Shajarian on all its channels.
But an Iranian state television official in charge of religious programming, Parviz Farsijani, says Shajarian's version has not been banned and that it could be aired in the coming days.
The absence of Shajarian’s "Rabbana" has been welcomed by some conservative figures and criticized by a number of music experts and singers.
Iranian singer Hossein Zaman writes on his website that Shajarian's only crime was his defense of people's rights.
"The only reason why this work is not being aired is that Shajarian thought about his people and spoke in their defense," Zaman says. "Shajarian's big sin is that he criticized, and it seems that criticizing the establishment is an unforgivable sin."
The website Khabaronline says the decision not to air Shajarian’s "Rabbana" erases 30 years of a nation's memory and its people's perceptions of the "spiritual" moments of Ramadan’s iftar. According to the website
, Shajarian’s "Rabbana" is an inseparable part of Ramadan.
However, conservative politician Hamid Reza Taraghi says the airing of Shajarian’s voice
on state television is a demand being made by Iran’s enemies.
"The broadcast of Shajarian’s voice on state television cannot be defended since he has separated his path from the path of the nation,” Taraghi says, while adding Shajarian is close to the "sedition," a term Iranian officials use to describe the Green Movement.
Shajarian has expressed his support for the opposition movement and criticized Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad. Following the postelection crackdown in June 2009, Shajarian called on state television to stop broadcasting his music.
"The president said people who protested against him are dirt and dust," Shajarian said in a recent interview. "I said that my voice [belongs] to the dirt and dust, and that I wouldn't allow state television to air my voice."
Shajarian had reportedly only allowed "Rabbana" to be broadcast during Ramadan.
Shajarian -- considered to be a master of Iranian traditional classical music -- is loved not only because of his music but because of his outspokenness.WATCH: A video of Shajarian's Zaban-e Atash":
In a song released last year titled "Zaban-e Atash" ("The Language of Fire"), based on a poem by the late poet Fereydoun Moshiri, Shajarian appears to condemn the violence by pro-government forces against Iranian citizens who took to the streets to protest what they considered to be Ahmadinejad's fraudulent reelection.
“Lay down your gun,” he sings. "The gun in your hand speaks the language of fire and iron."
-- Golnaz Esfandiari