Iran Bars Music in Private Schools, May Impose University Code

 From Saudi Arabia to Iran to Afghanistan to Malaysian and Indonesian provinces, we can be sure of one extremely important social measure that an Islamic religious government takes when it comes to power; enforce women modesty. An Islamist may not have much of a social or economic agenda. But he will make sure that a woman is covered first and foremost. For our readers more in tune with the current Iranian social and political situation, your comments on this thread would be most appreciated. (PTH)

Published at

By Ali Sheikholeslami in London

June 1 (Bloomberg) — Iran has barred private schools from teaching music, saying it clashes with the  establishment’s Islamic values, following a push to enforce moral standards that may lead to a national dress code for university students.

“The use of musical instruments is against the principles of our value system,” Ali Bagherzadeh, head of the private- schools office in the Education Ministry, said in a phone interview from Tehran today. Iran’s 16,000 private schools have 1.1 million students, the Islamic Republic News Agency said.

Iran has set aside $1.5 billion to promote “moral conduct,” including enforcement of its dress code for women, “to solve the cultural and social ills” in society, Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar said on May 10. His comments followed the introduction of a code of conduct at Shiraz University of Medical Sciences that bans loud laughter, nail polish, high heels and immodest clothing for women and men.

The police will “deal firmly” with violators of Iran’s laws on moral conduct, Mohammad-Najjar said. A cleric at Tehran’s main Friday prayers, Iran’s largest, said in April that women who dress immodestly cause earthquakes.

Teaching music in state schools has always been prohibited, Bagherzadeh said. A school that teaches music may be permanently closed and its director barred from opening another school, he said. The ban applies to the use of all instruments, including those played in traditional Iranian music, Bagherzadeh  said.

Supreme Leader

A committee will be formed to offer a single dress code for university students in Iran, said a higher education official on April 26. The committee will have members from the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology, the Ministry of Health,  private universities and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s office for universities.

“It’s best if there is a single policy, a benchmark and criteria about university dress codes, so that  individual universities do not enforce different standards,” said Jalil Dara, a director for cultural affairs at the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology, the state-run Mehr news agency reported in April.

Universities are already adopting their own ways of confronting immodest clothing. The University of Tehran has said it won’t allow students wearing “improper clothes” into its premises, Dara said. “The code compiled here may be adopted as a national practice,” Hamed Fasihinia, spokesman for Shiraz University, said in a telephone interview from the southern city, where the government-funded medical institution has 5,000 students and provides health care to the region.


Shoe Rules

Under Shiraz University’s code, in effect since Feb. 20, women must wear loose, long coats in subdued colors that go below the knee, a demand in line with government standards. Men aren’t permitted to wear jewelry, except for a wedding ring, nor short-sleeve shirts, and their trousers should be loose, according to the regulations. Shoes shouldn’t have pointed toes, make noise or have heels higher than 3 centimeters (1.2 inches).

Sandals, makeup and smoking are banned.

Since the revolution that brought Shiite Muslim religious leaders to power three decades ago, women in Iran have been required to cover their hair with scarves and obscure the shape of the body with loose-fitting coats. The government, which sees the U.S. and its influence on culture as a threat to Iranian society, also seeks to prevent young women and men from following the West’s pop culture and fashion trends.

Iranian authorities step up the clampdown annually to prevent women from abandoning Islamic dress amid summer temperatures that can reach 42 degrees Celsius (107 Fahrenheit) in Tehran, saying they need to protect religious values and “preserve society’s security and morals.”

–With assistance from Ladane Nasseri in Tehran. Editors: Heather Langan, Karl Maier



Filed under human rights, Iran, Islam, Pakistan, public policy, Religion, Rights, Women

39 responses to “Iran Bars Music in Private Schools, May Impose University Code

  1. Baljeet

    Sounds reasonable. How dare they play musical intruments.

  2. The first sentence of prominent Iranologist Richard Nelson Frye’s latest book on was

    “Iran’s glory has always been its culture.”

    Iran has one of the richest and oldest cultural histories in the world, their cinema with almost 300 international awards in past 25 years, music of Iran has thousands of years of history.

    I would say Iran is a true Islamic country maintaining modernity with their values.

    Even if someone thinks Iran is going towards religious extremism by banning music etc, he’s living in fool’s paradise. I would have agreed with the writer If this write up was about Saudi or any other Islamic country.

    Iranians have been preserving their culture since centuries, infact they are the best people to decide how to preserve it.

  3. Zainab Ali

    This is pathetic; dress codes for the university students, perhaps it should be for the whole nation. Muslim societies were never so conservative, there should be at least some autonomy for the students, and otherwise their education will get disturbed.

  4. Akash

    I guess it would be easier to wear a bikini underneath…
    I am surprised they didn’t ban briefs for men and thongs for women..

  5. The still allow 12 year old girls to marry old men. I guess everything is ok as long as you are wearing a tent.

  6. Tilsim

    Wow, music is the new corruption. This from the land that invented the Santoor and Ney. Opera came from Iran before it was known to the West.

    I am sure our clerics will be pointing to how pious this makes the Iranians and all the benefits of having a theocratic state.

    Islam is being steadily turned into a strange cult.

  7. Mustafa Shaban

    Iran has focused too much into religion. I agree that a state has to maintain moral , religious and ethical standards but Iran is taking it too far. They should ease up a bit.

  8. PMA

    Tilsim (June 3, 2010 at 3:53 pm):

    “Wow, music is the new corruption. This from the land that invented the Santoor and Ney. Opera came from Iran before it was known to the West.”

    You forgot to mention Sehtar and Tabla! Iranian Persian poetry is mother of Turkish, Pashtu and Urdu poetry. Iran is a cradle of Civilization. I am not in favor of ‘westernization’ of Iranian culture, but the stagnation imposed by the theocrats is suffocating.

  9. Vandana

    Excesses of one kind, under the Shah, brought about the Islamic revolution…..not much long before the excesses of the religious zealots bring about another revolution.People need music,culture,beauty,fashon,art…….they will get it back one way or another.

  10. Mustafa Shaban

    @Vandana: Agree. As long as they maintain their culture and cultural values they should be free to do what they like.

    Also in public these things are banned but people alwayz find a way to get around these bans in private places.

    There are downsides to the Iranian domestic and foriegn policy but there are also upsides. They have done some really good things as well.

  11. A

    There won’t be any earthquakes in Iran atleast 😉

  12. Anwar

    Let us not get carried away by what is published in the Western press about Iran – specially by those pro-Shah guys who are licking their past… There is no certainty or validity of the news i.e. whether or not it is in the right context or misreading of a minister’s statement.
    Few months ago I read a report of a large number of high quality scientific research publications authored by Iranians doing research in the “intellectually sanctioned” Iran… Even their best is ridiculed with contempt… So calm down – it is their country.
    By the way how many schools in Pakistan teach music?

  13. Akash

    “You forgot to mention Sehtar and Tabla! Iranian Persian poetry is mother of Turkish, Pashtu and Urdu poetry. Iran is a cradle of Civilization. ”

    I thought tabla was invented by Amir Khusrau. And the last time I heard, Mesopotamia, or modern Iraq, was considered to be the cradle of civilization.

  14. PMA

    Akash (June 4, 2010 at 1:30 pm):

    If you want to be technical about it, ‘tabl’ is an Arabic word meaning ‘drum’ – a drum with skin stretched on one side and the other side kept open. From Arabic the word entered into the Persian language. In Persian ‘tabla’ means a smaller drum. Now the word ‘tabla’ is common in many languages. The latest version of the instrument popular in Afghanistan-Pakistan-Northern India has developed over centuries.

    Mesopotamia (land between rivers), the Nile river valley and the Indus Basin are the centers of prehistoric human civilizations. Iran is the center of the Persian Civilization stretched from Mesopotamia in the west and the Indus in the east.

  15. Hayyer

    It is commonly believed that Amir Khusro invented the Sitar or sehtar but others stay that there is no mention of the sitar till late Mughal times. Besides, the sitar is not three stringed as seh tar would imply.
    The tabla, as you correctly point out is found in Afghanistan and the North India and Pakistan. Neither the tabla nor the sitar are used in Karnatak music, which means that they had something to do with North India and from the names, Muslims. Tabl may be an Arabic word but some say that it was used for the kettle drum in Persia, not the Indian pair of a treble and base jodi. Persia does not have anything like a sitar or even the tabla. The popular raag Yaman or Iman though, is said to be Persian in origin; mated with the Indian scale it became Yaman Kalyan.

  16. Hayyer

    This is one view on the sitar’s origins;

    “the sitar is perhaps the most well known musical instrument of India. It’s sound evokes thoughts and feelings of the sub-continent. It is believed to have evolved into its present form in the 1700’s, during the collapse of the Moghul Empire, as a marriage between the Persian Setar and the South-Indian Vina, while using the characteristically resonant bridge of the Tampura.

    There is a common story attributing the invention of the sitar to Amir Khusru. Amir Khusru was a great personality and is an icon for the early development of Hindustani Sangeet (North Indian classical music). He lived around 1300 AD. As common as this story is, it has no basis in historical fact. The sitar was clearly nonexistent until the time of the collapse of the Moghul Empire.

    Another theory has the sitar evolving from the ancient veenas such as the rudra vina. However the rudra vina is a stick zither while the sitar is a lute, and there are differences in materials used. It is not very likely that the sitar owes its origins to this instrument.

    Some suggest that the sitar is derived from the Saraswati vina. This is at least a possibility. Still there are questions raised. Where did the Saraswati vina come from? Why does this class only begin to show up in India about 800 years ago? There is a possibility that the lute class of chordophones is not indigenous to India but was imported from outside.

    It is clear that the sitar as we think of it today developed in the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent at the end of the Moghul era. It is also clear that it evolved from the Persian lutes that had been played in the Moghul courts for hundreds of years. The “Sangeet Sudarshana” states that the sitar was invented in the 18th century by a fakir named Amir Khusru. This of course was a different Amir Khusru from the one who lived in 1300. This latter Amir Khusru was the 15th descendent of Naubat Khan, the son-in-law of Tansen. It is said that he developed this instrument from the Persian Sehtar.

    Amir Khusru’s grandson Masit Khan was one of the most influential musicians in the development of the Sitar. He composed numerous slow gats in the dhrupad style of the day. This style is referred to as Masitkhani Gat. The Masitkhani gats were further popularized by his son, Bahadur Khan. Masit Khan was a resident of Delhi; therefore Masitkhani Gats are sometimes referred to as Dilli Ka Baaj.”

    As to the differences between the rudr veena, the vichitra veena and the saraswati veena and between a zither and a lute please research for yourselves.

  17. Girish


    This is an interesting discussion on the origins of musical instruments and musical traditions. I think it would be difficult, even perhaps inaccurate to attempt to draw a linear tradition for instruments. There was a lot of cultural interchange between different civilizations and in the case of Persia and India, these interchanges were quite strong even in the years before Persian culture arrived was introduced in the courts of northern India. And of course, the interchanges increased by an order of magnitude once that happened.

    Specifically about the Sitar/Veena, they can trace their origins to ancient instrument in India, even though several innovations make them different from those instruments (frets, sympathetic strings etc). For instance, the Sangam literature in Tamil refers to several stringed musical instruments or “yaazhs”, one of which, the Seerkazhi was a 21 or 22 stringed Veena and not different from some of the more modern avatars of the Veena. The playing of the modern Saraswati Veena in Carnatic music dates back to the time of the trinity, i.e. the mid 19th century. And popular legend of course dates the Sitar to the time of Allauddin Khilji (Amir Khusro being credited as the inventor). However, the Sitar’s origins are not that conclusive.

    The Sarod, on the other hand, can be more easily traced back to the Rabab, an instrument in use even now in Persian music both in Iran and in Afghanistan and with variants in other musical traditions as well.

    The Sitar (and for that matter) the Saraswati Veena both likely had a variety of influences, from ancient Indian instruments, to Persian and other influences. There was really a remarkable degree of openness about accepting influences from everywhere even in relatively ancient times.

  18. Akash

    Excellent post. Very informative. I have some comments, however, regarding the following lines:
    “Where did the Saraswati vina come from? Why does this class only begin to show up in India about 800 years ago? There is a possibility that the lute class of chordophones is not indigenous to India but was imported from outside.”

    Veena has been known and played in India from a long time ago, for sure, more than 800 years. If you may recall, Samudragupta, variously known as the Indian Napolean, has been pictured playing Veena or Been in his coins.

  19. PMA

    Hayyer (June 4, 2010 at 10:04 pm):

    It is possible that the original Persian musical instruments such as ‘Seh-tar’ (three strings) and even ‘Yek-tara’ (one string) and ‘Tabl’ (drum) during the Muslim period of the modern day Afghanistan-Pakistan-North India gradually evolved into their modern forms. The names of these instruments certainly suggest their Persian origin. In the absence of academic research a lot gets accepted as facts. Many things are attributed to Hazrat Amir Khusrau. Some true others just hear-say.

  20. Bin Ismail

    There are three “Islamic Republics” in this neigbourhood – Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. This troika is busy defaming Islam, in the name of Islam.

  21. Girish

    BTW, the source for Hayyer’s post is the following…

  22. Hayyer

    No, I got it from a site called Chandrakantha is good for the sarangi.

  23. Hayyer

    chandrakantha also seems to have taken it from yellowbellmusic.

  24. Akash

    Bin Islmail,
    But, it’s Pakistan that is known as the “fortress” of Islam, whatever that means..

    You are confusing language with it’s origins. Persian was one of the numerous languages spoken in India and present day Pakistan. It’s quite possible that the inventors of Tabla took a persian/arabic word to name their instrument. That doesn’t necessarily prove that Tabla originated in Iran. I do, however, share your skepticism of attributing a lot of inventions to Amir Khusro, though, he did live for a long time and was quite productive.

  25. Bin Ismail

    @Akash (June 5, 2010 at 3:02 am)

    If you ask the mullahs of Iran and Afghanistan, they will make similar claims about their respective countries.

    What the clergy fails to appreciate, is the fact that Islam does not need any fortress to harbour it. Islam was meant to reside in hearts, not fortresses.

  26. PMA

    Bin Ismail (June 5, 2010 at 12:50 am):

    I too find it intriguing. The three countries, joined at the hips, have opted to be ‘Islamic Republics’. But it was not always like that. The elites in all of these three countries during the times of Zahar Shah, Shah of Iran and, Ayub Khan enjoyed a West-inspired liberal life style. The poor masses ignored by the elites in each one of three countries eventually rose against the regimes and overthrew them. When the moderate Middle Class fails to provide the leadership, the extremists – may that be of religious nature or of non religious nature – takes over. Today religious groups of various shades have taken over these three enjoining countries. The blame goes to the Middle Class.

  27. Prasad

    Sad to read the article. Excellent posts though! Just shows how important music is to mankind…

  28. Bin Ismail

    @ PMA (June 5, 2010 at 8:02 pm)

    Of these three “Islamic republics”, Pakistan was the first to adopt this undeserved title. Let’s when each one of these adopted this prefix:

    1. Pakistan: Islamic Republic since 1956
    2. Iran: Islamic Republic since 1979
    3. Afghanistan: Islamic Republic since 2004

    All these three states have been shamelessly exploiting the blessed name of Islam for political purposes – Pakistan since 54 years, Iran since 31 years and Afghanistan since 6 years.

  29. Moosa

    The reformation of a person or of a nation must commence with what is within the heart, and then it blossoms and unfolds itself into a new creation and extends to what is without the heart. The problem is that ‘Islamic’ governments seek to compel their citizens to adopt the outward forms of Islam, without encourage the inner purity of soul. The result is that their citizens resent this imposition. For instance, many iranians today are repelled by the Islamic belief, as a consequence of being force-fed Islam by their government. This is a sad reflection on the policies of the ‘Islamic’ governments.

  30. bciv

    @bin ismail

    PMA has already sort of mentioned this. there was a period of a few years in between when the official name of pakistan did not include the word ‘islamic’. so your figure of 54 years is not quite correct.

  31. Bin Ismail

    @bciv (June 5, 2010 at 11:49 pm)

    Thank you for pointing out. Could I please have the details of that blessed period?

  32. Christina Amanpouri

    Being a woman from Iran, and living in America where we keep religion and State separate is a good example why religion has screwed my mother country. Women in countries that claim to be Islamic tend to hinder the progress of women in general. Men are put on a pedestal that make all the laws against women.
    Pakistan is a great example of this inequity, the rape of Mukhtaran Bibi and how the nation sat silent while it took international pressure to correct this wrong doing.
    Shame on the Pakistani media, no film has been made to reflect this story of a strong woman who stood against her rapist. Lolly wood is busy making trashy Urdu., Pusto & Punjabi x- rated films showing contours of tits and ass.
    While our counter Pakistani male act like enuchs, and let these terrible act occur and look the other way.
    Iran has its issues, we in Pakistan refuse to correct them.

  33. Tilsim

    @ Moosa

    “For instance, many iranians today are repelled by the Islamic belief, as a consequence of being force-fed Islam by their government.”

    Yes, if it carries on like this in Pakistan, we may all end up in this ‘repellious’ state!

  34. bciv

    @Bin Ismail

    Nothing blessed about the period at all. society was more tolerant and liberal (with normal qualifications) then, but the less said about the state, the better. nonetheless, it was called just The Republic of Pakistan, ie under the 1962 constitution. it was during yahya’s rule that the official name was changed back to what it had been in the 1956 constitution.

  35. Bin Ismail

    @ bciv

    The 1962 Constitution of Pakistan was adopted in May 1962. The name of the country was adopted as “Republic of Pakistan”. In 1963, barely a year after this Constitution came into being, the Assembly enacted the first amendment, and guess what that was – to restore the prefix of “Islamic” – which was then duly done. Therefore, for all practical purposes, from 1956 till 2010, which comes to be about 54 years, it was a period of approximately one year (’62 – ’63), that the name of our dear country existed without the undeserved prefix of “Islamic”.

  36. bciv

    @bin ismail

    thanks for that info. i stand corrected. even wiki has this info, with dec 1962 as the date for the amendment. 54 years it is, indeed.

  37. D_a_n

    @christina amanpouri

    ‘Being a woman froom Iran, and living in America…’

    so far so good. but then the following:

    ‘Iran has its issues, we in Pakistan refuse to correct them.’

    tad confusing!

  38. PMA

    D_a_n (June 7, 2010 at 12:45 am):

    Another clue to your inquiry: In Persian ‘amanpour’ stands for ‘son of aman’. But what does ‘amanpouri’ stand for? Perhaps our ‘gal’ meant ‘amanpuri’.

  39. Bin Ismail


    Thank you. What matters now is that this nation realizes that state and religion need to be separated – and separated for good.