Saturday, July 23, 2016


Persian Letters

Senior Iranian Ayatollah Says High-Speed Mobile Internet Is Un-Islamic

A leading conservative cleric in Iran is worried about the "negative features" of high-speed mobile Internet and 3G services.
A leading conservative cleric in Iran is worried about the "negative features" of high-speed mobile Internet and 3G services.

A senior Iranian hard-line cleric says high-speed mobile Internet and third generation mobile services are "un-Islamic" and violate "human and moral norms".

Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi said Iranian authorities should introduce measures that would prevent access to the "negative features" of high-speed mobile Internet and 3G services before making them widely available. 

Makarem Shirazi, a Shi'ite source of emulation, said expanding Internet services hastily can result in the spread of corruption including the access of young people to anti-Islamic movies and other content.

Makarem Shirazi made the ruling in response to an enquiry by a group of online activists.

In a statement posted on his personal website, Makarem Shirazi wrote that authorities should consult with the Supreme Council of Cyberspace (SCC), which formulates and oversees Iran's Internet policies including its tough online censorship.

"Authorities should not merely think about the financial earnings of this program, and consider it as a type of religious intellectualism and academic freedom," Makarem Shirazi wrote. 

The ayatollah added that Iranian judiciary officials should also not remain "indifferent" regarding this "vital issue." 

The online activists had written in their enquiry to Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi that Iran's Ministry of Communication has announced it will soon give more mobile providers licenses for high-speed Internet services.

One company, mobile operator Rightel, had exclusive rights to provide 3G services in Iran, but in recent weeks two other mobile providers have also obtained 3G licenses. Yet 3G subscribers still account for only a tiny share of the overall mobile market in Iran.

The activist group added that Iran does not have the necessary  structure to prevent the "harm" that could result from such services, including "access to immoral movies and photos," "the weakening of family structures," and "spying and the sale of the country's confidential information."

The exchange highlights the pressure President Hassan Rohani faces from hard-liners in implementing his promises to lessen online censorship and give Iranians greater access to information. 

Rohani is the chairman of the SCC, the Internet body that Makarem Shirazi advised the government to consult. But the Iranian president is not the sole decision-maker in the SCC, which is dominated by conservative and hard-line members including the head of Iran's judiciary, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp, and the head of state broadcasting.

The oversight body was established in 2012 following a decree by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who said Iranians should be protected from the "damage" caused by the spread of information and communication technologies. 

Earlier this year, Rohani said that the Internet should not be seen as something that should be feared.

"We ought to see [the Internet] as an opportunity. We must recognize our citizens' right to connect to the World Wide Web," Rohani was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency on May 20.

Ayatollah Naser Makarem ShiraziAyatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi
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Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi
Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi

The enquiry to Makarem Shirazi and his ruling, however, demonstrate that, for hard-liners, the Internet remains a cause of concern which they see as a threat to morality and national security, despite Iran's strict censorship, which leads to the filtering of thousands of websites and social media.

It's not the first time Makarem Shirazi has weighed in against 3G. Last year he spoke against video calls, saying they had more downsides than benefits.

His latest ruling has sparked criticism online.

"We're already facing filtering. What else do you want? What kind of nonsensical question is this?" wrote an Internet user in the comments section of one of the websites that posted Makarem Shirazi's ruling.

"The Internet is as necessary as water and food," wrote another user, while someone else maintained that the Internet should be seen as a tool for progress.

"In our backward country we see only the negative sides. According to this [argument] grapes should be considered haram because they can be used to produce wine!!!" the user said.

The ayatollah's ruling was also criticized on social media by some Iranians who said the cleric should not issue statements about issues he's not familiar with.

"You shouldn't speak about things you know nothing about," wrote a young man on Facebook.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

NOTE: On September 3, days after this story was published, Ayatollah Shirazi said his comments regarding 3G services had been distorted. The cleric said he is not against technology while adding that Western technologies are like muddy unclean water. "Water is the source of life yet when it is dirty it must be refined," the cleric was quoted as saying on his website. 

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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by: jojnjo from: Dublin
August 27, 2014 17:54
This poor guy is of the dark ages so I doubt he would see the light about anything...the young people of Iran though... will see he's kept in the "Dark"!
In Response

by: Anonymous from: DC
August 28, 2014 22:09
Every government executes activities similar to censorship. The politic maturity of each government and the manner in which they conduct news censorship varies. The more mature a government is, the better they can censor news in a more subtle manner.

by: TheSaucyMugwump from: saucymugwump.blogspot.com
August 27, 2014 22:27
All technology which 'M' did not have access to in the 500s and 600s is haram. All Islamists who take/share photos of beheadings, use the Internet, radio, or television to communicate with other Islamists, use computers, use electricity in any form, use motor vehicles (cars, trucks, planes, trains, etc), or use modern weapons (pistols, automatic rifles, grenades, RPGs, missiles, rockets, tanks, armored vehicles, etc) are being un-Islamic and must stop immediately or face an eternity in Jahannam.

by: Bill Webb from: Phoenix Arizona USA
August 28, 2014 05:30
The information age is upon us. Stick your finger in the dike if you must.

by: Anonymous
August 28, 2014 10:07
Iranian society is living in a inflammatory social culture which can't adapt itself to the wave of new and rapid changes; therefore it's better to slow this process down to the degree by which these alteration would take place in a more pacific way.
In Response

by: Mamuka
August 28, 2014 15:03
Iranian society is advancing; it is the Mullahs and Ayatollahs (who have everyone by the neck) that are making these statements. I wonder if #Rohani has tweeted about this yet...

by: Anonymous
August 28, 2014 13:15
Send the ayatollah back to the Middle Ages.
In Response

by: shareef from: world
September 09, 2014 12:52
send those like you into the future if the tech exists and let the rest of us live in peace and harmony with God.

by: ChangeIranNow from: USA
August 28, 2014 20:20
This is just another example of hypocrisy of Rouhani and his regime in talking about a new and open moderation to dialogue and online discussion, but instead there has been a relentless effort on the part of the regime to shut down websites, censor articles, restrict access and throttle back broadband access. Iran's efforts to stomp on any and all online dissent is just further proof of the regime's commitment to a hardline course irrespective of what is tries to portray to the West. The fact that Iran has imprisoned people for simply posting comments on Facebook and shutting down citizen journalists and then treating them harshly in Iran's notorious Evin Prison is evidence of Iran's total lack of commitment to any human rights improvements

by: George from: USA
August 28, 2014 22:53
Who cares what one stupid cleric says? Has anyone heard all the garbage promulgated by some Christian clerics like Pat Robertson?
In Response

by: Samantha from: USA
August 30, 2014 22:57
People will actually believe him and he can influence government policy. Pat Robertson, Jerry Fallwell and the other CBN wackos didn't hold as much sway.

by: Jaheed Muftashiti from: The USA
August 29, 2014 03:55
Once again, another goat-roping holy cleric that insists on living on the dark ages. Exactly how is he communicating with his other filthy and ignorant clerics? Still sending nasty notes scribbled on torn out pages of the never-ending book of single-ply butt paper (Quran). Come on... High speed for all the disciples of "M"
In Response

by: Rania from: Canada
August 30, 2014 22:44
Jaheed Before you make such statements about our holy book I suggest you go get your self some manners and learn about respect. As bad of decisions as these rulers may make. When I see such ignorance and disrespect. I tend to agree with their harsh rules. U are an unrespectful ignorant person.
In Response

by: shareef from: world
September 09, 2014 12:54
another internet spoiling commentor who actually makes the reasons for clerics to be skeptical.

by: Pushkin from: Vancouver, Canada
September 01, 2014 22:50
it is sad to see the continuing suppression of thought and access by mostly ignorant so called "clerics". Iranian young and many others want to join the world in information exchange and to interact. Of course, Iranian attempts to restrict internet to it's citizens is totally useless-as many dictatorial governments have found out. Iran citizens have used simple proxy and other means to have access to websites. What the clerics have not understood is that banning information access is a sign of weakness. While the means are not yet visible there is hope that the young generation will not allow their life to be ruled by a group of old men, desiring to live in the 7th century. Iran has a vibrant educated culture. One can wish them well and hope for some change.
In Response

by: shareef from: world
September 09, 2014 12:56
There's no need to interact with the west. You only encourage vice against virtue. Evil against good. It's you who need to be shepherded, nobody else.

by: shareef from: isfahan
September 09, 2014 12:49
Well, based on the quoted statement made by him at the end. It makes more sense now that we know what he meant. It's good sense to filter the content that the high speed internet was developed for in the first place. America is confirmed to be the land of infidelity and encourages it in all forms
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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