Ayatollah Safi Golpayegani, a Shi’ite cleric based in the holy Iranian city of Qom, has issued a death sentence against rap artist Shahin Najafi for apostasy, the Persian-language Al Arabiya website reported on Wednesday.
The sentence was issued after Najafi released a controversial song called “Naqi.”
The song sparked a furor among protesters who believe it to be offensive to Imam Naqi, the tenth Imam in Shi’ite Islam.
News website Asr Emrous, which is closely tied to the regime in Tehran, launched an online campaign calling for the hanging of Najafi. The website stated that the aim of the campaign was to have Najafi condemned for apostasy, a crime that carries the death penalty in Iran.
The campaign organizers have called on all Shi’ites and Muslims in general to find and kill Najafi and “send him to hell,” according to the website.
Najafi, 31, was an underground artist during his time in Iran, and was banned by the authorities from performing in the country. He moved to Germany in recent years where he joined a group called “Tapesh 2012” which performs politically-motivated songs in Persian.
In 1989 a novel by British author Salman Rushdie created a similar response from Iran, when a fatwa (religious edict) was issued by Iran’s highest authority, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, calling for his killing for what was considered a disrespectful depiction of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
More recently, Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has been charged with apostasy by Iranian authorities and sentenced to death for leaving Islam and converting to Christianity, creating uproar across the Christian community worldwide.