Hard-line Iranian cleric Hojat ol-Islam Alireza Panahian has said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent comments about Iranians not having access to blue jeans and Western music was rooted in a desire to make the Iranian youth “weak” so that they could be controlled.
In an Oct. 4 interview with BBC Persian, Netanyahu said, “I think if the Iranian people had their way, they’d be wearing blue jeans; they’d have Western music.” Netanyahu was immediately mocked online by Iranians who tweeted pictures of themselves wearing jeans.
However, Panahian believes there is something more sinister at work in Netanyahu’s comments. An adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for a university think tank, Panahian is also a member of the hard-line Ammar think thank, which has called for the trial and execution of 2009 presidential candidates Mir Hussein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi for their role in the post-election protests.
“Why do you think that in the West, which is being run by the Zionists, corruption is so common?” Panahian asked at a religious center commemorating the night of Ashura. “So that their people would not be strong, so that their people would be fearful, and so that three or four million people can rule over three or four billion people.”
Panahian, who is a student of and ideologically aligned with hard-line cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, continued, “Why is the president of the Zionists worried that the Iranian youth cannot easily listen to any type of music, or wear any type of pants? Why did he say this? He, who is worried about our strength and would like us to be weak, why is he after our music listening?”
Quoting former Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Panahian said, “Maybe the leader of the Zionist regime heard Imam [Khomeini] say, ‘Music makes the spirit of the individual weak.’”
Addressing Netanyahu directly, Panahian accused him of being behind “all of the crimes of the world” and asked, “Are you really worried about my recreation? Why do you want me to listen to music? Why do you want the youth of our society to commit debauchery? Did they tell you that if they are after music and debauchery, they will become weak and when they are weak, they will come under your rule?”
Panahian, whose speech was titled “Spiritual Strength and Power,” also addressed the youth directly in regard to the cultural impact of the West and its secular nature. “You are living in a world that the tyrants are dominating,” he said. “Wherever you see they are giving you moral advice, be suspicious.”
He continued, “Don’t faint [in awe] when a philosopher, an artist or a film gives a moral recommendation.” Panahian instead recommends that the youth question who is giving the advice, and reply: “What is this moral recommendation for? For me to be quiet so someone can cut off my head? I don’t want to be this good. For me to be good, and for others to act like wolves and for me not to speak up? For me to be good so that the silence and quiet humility can open the battlefield for the oppressors and the tyrants?”
Panahian questioned why it is that Western countries with such “moral recommendations” feel the need to address the issues of other countries but do not address issues such as poverty in their own countries.