Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Persian Letters

Iran's Supreme Leader Issues Ambiguous Fatwa Regarding Facebook

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's Facebook fatwa fell flat.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's Facebook fatwa fell flat.
"Since Facebook has been filtered in Iran, is logging on to such a website to stay in touch with friends, without having any activity against the national interests of the Islamic republic, wrong?"

This question was recently put to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, reportedly by an Iranian via mail.

Ayatollah Khamenei's written response, posted on Iranian websites, was ambiguous:

"In general if it requires engaging in [immorality and evil acts] (such as spreading corruption, lies, and false materials) or if there is concern that it is sinful, or it strengthens the enemies of Islam and Muslims, it is not permissible. Otherwise it's fine," he wrote.

The fatwa is open to interpretation. One can decide, seemingly, whether by using the social-networking site he or she is committing a sin.

By issuing the fatwa, Khamenei has apparently contradicted the Iranian state policy of Internet filtering -- a policy that has been adopted and implemented with his blessing, as the supreme leader has the final say in all matters in the Islamic republic.

Iran has one of the world's toughest Internet censorship regimes, blocking millions of websites including pornographic sites, news websites, and social-networking sites such as Facebook.

Millions of Iranians who use antifiltering software to access Facebook don't necessarily think they're acting against Islam or spreading corruption. They use the social-networking site to stay in touch with friends, share photos and information, discuss political and nonpolitical issues, and also to join different campaigns.

Khamenei himself is on Twitter and some Iranian lawmakers are said to have Facebook pages. The Iranian government uses blogs and social media for its own purposes, including propaganda.

In recent years a number of Iranian officials have issued warnings and called on Iranians not to use social-networking sites, namely Facebook and Google+.

One of the latest warnings against Facebook came last week from Mehdi Jafari, who heads the technology and intelligence section of the Pupil's Basij militia. Jafari, who said there were currently 17 million Iranians on Facebook, warned against the "cultural damages" of cyberspace.

Shabestan, the religious news website that first reported about Khamenei's Facebook fatwa, says any use of social-networking sites helps the "enemies" by providing user data.

This view stems from claims by Tehran that Facebook and Twitter are being used by Western intelligence services to recruit agents and gather data on individuals.

Nevertheless, Shabestan concedes that the Khamenei's pronouncement is "in between."

With or without the fatwa, Facebook is among the top 10 most visited sites in the Islamic republic.

Ultimately, the episode demonstrates that the Iranian establishment can't simply ignore the popularity of social-networking sites, the fact that filtering is not completely blocking access to them, and warnings are not enough to keep Iranians logged off.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

Tags: Facebook,social networking websites

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Person from: This Planet
October 15, 2011 07:49
This Fatwa once more demonstrates that there is a lot of room for self rationalization in Islam. Much more than many Islamophobes and the LA based anti-Islamic Iranian community is willing to admit. Lack of basic knowledge on principles of Islamic jurisprudence is what makes this ruling confusing for anti-Iranian opposition activist disguised as a journalist.

by: James from: London
October 15, 2011 10:52
From reading this story, I can see it is not even an authentic report. No Iranian newsagency broadcast such news. It is allegdely a personal email by some person. This article says fatwa is "reportedly by an Iranian via mail." That says it all. Why Radio Liberty bothers with uncorroborated item is beyond me. Please stick to proper news.
In Response

by: Siamak from: London
October 15, 2011 13:08
Spot on. Too often the person in charge of Persian Letters translates other people's blogs and feeds them to readers as news ! In fact what you read here is a massaged translation of selected blogs in Persian that befits the political agenda of the author and Radio Free Europe.
In Response

by: Ali from: Tehran
October 15, 2011 14:01
This is how it works, people ask religious questions to different sources of emulations and they get their response online, posted on the sites of those ayatollahs.
In Response

by: Ali from: Tehran
October 16, 2011 02:25
The headline says "fatwa", but it is not. Shabestan website (in Persian) clearly says that it might be interpreted as fatwa but it is not .
The ayatollah has given "advice on a religious matter" (estefta - as noted in the web in Persian/Arabic) . In other words inaccuate translation.
Fatwa is a religious decree and what Khamenei said was not a fatwa.
The word "mofsedeh" has been translated evil - it is wrong. It means an act of sedition or mischief.
Finally, as one of your readers has already said the translation of the report and headline in English has been doctored to make the report appealing to English-language readers.
Can't Radio Free Europe afford a better translator?
In Response

by: Kiumars Irani from: London
October 16, 2011 13:02
TO: James from: London
RE: Why Radio Liberty bothers with uncorroborated item …

Because they have nothing else to say! The so called “Radio Liberty” staff would be on unemployment list if they did not pretend they are worth the money they are paid! So if they cannot find a real news, they make it up!
In Response

by: Anonymous
October 16, 2011 16:38
"Radio Liberty staff make up news", "Radio Farda reporters are CIA agents", "BBC is supported by MI6 and Bahais", I guess Press TV is the only reliable media, right?!!!

by: Julian
October 15, 2011 17:19
The fatwa demonstrates that even Khamenei's supporters use Facebook. Why is Khamenei on Twitter and not on Facebook? Perhaps something to explore.
In Response

by: Anonymous
October 16, 2011 12:48
RE: The fatwa demonstrates that even Khamenei's supporters use Facebook.
It does not prove what you claim actually, you may ask if eating a dead animal is permitted if you are starved in the desert and have no chance to survive if you do not eat the dead animal. It is just a hypothetical question; it does not mean that you have been in that situation.

Allaho-Akbar

by: An Iranian
October 16, 2011 12:12
Shabestan says the order has been expressed as a fatwa. Why should there even be a fatwa? Isn't free access to information a human rights? What's wrong with people logging on to Facebook? Why do they have to interfere in people's lives? Instead of attacking Khamenei who is killing our children, and making life hell for them, why are you shooting the messenger here?!
In Response

by: Parviz from: US
October 17, 2011 01:21
Kiumarz s right. If I understand you right, you are saying that because of your hatred or dislike of Khamenei doctored or bad translation of his comments should be fed to the English-spaeking audience. It is against journalistic integrity and it misleads people.
Khamenei did not issue fatwa. He gave a religious advice. Please be reasonable. The messenger is giving you the wrond message !

by: Kiumars Irani from: London
October 16, 2011 12:39
The voice of the USA Senate has put its foot in its mouth AGAIN!
Fatwa is expressed to the entire public, not to a single person. This article shows how ignorant are those who run this American financed show.

by: Laleh from: Mashad
October 17, 2011 05:45
In Farsi the website says the order was issued as a fatwa. We have a fatwa for everything, except for how to be happy. Welcome to the Islamic Republic of Iran!

About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.

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Seen anything in the Iranian blogosphere that you think Persian Letters should cover? If so, contact Golnaz Esfandiari at esfandiarig@rferl.org

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