Malaysia bars Iranian singer for insulting Islam

Mohsen namjoo, who was convicted in absentia by Iran for ridiculing the Koran, is banned from performing in the east Asian island nation.

Malaysia praying 311 AP (photo credit: AP)
Malaysia praying 311 AP
(photo credit: AP)
Muslim-majority Malaysia has barred an Iranian singer from performing a concert later this week because his work has insulted Islam, authorities said Wednesday.
Mohsen Namjoo was scheduled to sing Friday in Kuala Lumpur, but a government panel that monitors shows by foreign artists rejected the plan because an Iranian court had convicted the 34-year-old Namjoo in 2009 of "disrespecting religious sanctities" in a song that used verses from the Koran.
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"It is not appropriate in terms of religion, culture and the country's cosmopolitan nature," Malaysian Information Minister Rais Yatim said in a statement.
An official from the government agency that oversees foreign acts said Namjoo's record "clearly shows he insulted the image of Islam."
"If we approve it, it will cause dissatisfaction among the Muslim community in Malaysia," the official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make public statements.
An Iranian court in 2009 sentenced Namjoo in absentia to five years in prison over a song leaked online that was accused of ridiculing the Koran. Namjoo, who was then based in Austria, has reportedly denied intending any disrespect, insisting the song was never meant for public release.
Namjoo, who plays the sitar and guitar, is known for folk songs that sometimes blend classical poetry with satirical lyrics. He has performed various shows in the United States in recent years.
Advertisements for Namjoo's planned Malaysian concert at a major auditorium were placed on his website last year, but it was not clear how many tickets were sold. A representative for the concert organizers in Kuala Lumpur declined to immediately comment.