The Iranian-born British Muslim singer Sami Yusuf, whose records sell millions in the Middle East, has been banned by state television in Iran because of his recent performance in the Israeli city of Nazareth, the Guardian reports.
Iranian news websites reported earlier this week that state TV had banned Yusuf’s music from all its channels after he performed in Nazareth in Ramadan, even though the city (which is located in Israel) has a predominantly Palestinian population and most of his audience was Palestinian.
“Sami Yusuf’s recent trip to the occupied territories (Christian and Jewish holy sites including the site of the baptism of Jesus Christ) is the reason why his works are banned from the state television,” reported Entekhab, an Iranian news website.
Iran does not recognise Israel and world artists who perform there become persona non grata in the Islamic Republic.
Yusuf, 35, is one of Britain’s most famous Muslims worldwide. He reacted to the controversy on Monday by issuing a statement on his official website with the headline: “Banned by my very own.”
“I was very surprised to hear that the official state TV and radio for the Islamic Republic of Iran has banned my music and likeness due to my recent performance in Nazareth,” he wrote.
“I was not aware that bringing smiles to the faces of my beloved Palestinian brothers and sisters could cause such offence to the government of Iran. I am sorry that my precious listeners in Iran will be denied my music for sometime, but I will not apologise for performing in Palestine.”
He went on to say: “Music is permeable and was never meant to be confined to borders nor used for political ends, rather, it was meant to echo freely throughout space and time. May we one day see a Free Palestine.”
Yusuf is adored in Iran, as in many parts of the Middle East. He recently contributed to the score of a multimillion-dollar Iranian biopic about the youth of the Prophet Muhammad, called “Muhammad, Messenger of God.”