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.
By Ali Sheikholeslami
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.
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.
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.”