Iran’s culture ministry has reportedly censored the word ‘wine’ in any books published in the country to prevent a Western “cultural onslaught”.
Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei (Photo: Wiki)
The Telegraph reports that ‘wine’, the names of pets and even the names of foreign heads of state are all now subject to censorship under the new guidelines.
The paper quoted the head of book publishing at the ministry, Mohammad Selgi, as saying: “When new books are registered with us, our staff first have to read them page by page to make sure whether they require any editorial changes in line with promoting the principles of the Islamic revolution, effectively confronting the Western cultural onslaught and censoring any insult against the prophets.”
The directive was launched at the behest of Iran’s current clerical ‘Supreme Leader’, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (pictured). He has apparently urged the culture ministry to develop books, films, video games and toys to counter a “Western cultural invasion of Iran that seeks to destroy Islamic identity.”
He has made several such statements in recent months and has been criticised by Iran’s more moderate clerical president, Hassan Rouhani, as a result.
Ironically, Selgi made his comments to an Iranian magazine called ‘Shiraze’, based in the city of Shiraz and which is commonly cited (albeit fancifully) as the origin of the grape name ‘Shiraz’.
The report, if true, only refers to new books published in Iran and not, it would appear, to books already published in the country.
As for wine being part of a “Western cultural onslaught”, pre-Islamic Iran has always had a strong affinity with the drink and has continued to do so even after the Islamic conquest of the 7th century.
The banning of alcohol after the 1979 Islamic Revolution has also done little to truly stamp out drinking in the country.
The origins of wine production are sometimes traced to ancient Persia and the country certainly had a thriving wine culture in its past. The famous Iranian poet Ferdowsi, who remains one of the country’s favourite writers, often wrote about wine, so too another famous Iranian poet and philosopher Omar Kahayyam who mocked the stern religious leaders of 11th and 12th century Iran with his praise of the benefits of good wine and food.
Ferdowsi’s 10th century epic The Shahnameh or Book of Kings, that tells the often mythical history of Persian Iran, is filled with depictions of wine drinking, especially by one of the book’s main heroes, Rostam, lord of Zabulistan, who’s prowess at battling demonic armies is seemingly matched only by his enormous capacity for wine.