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02/21/2013

Greed, lust, murder... 3G? Iran's phone fatwa

Iran
Women look at jewelry at a shop window in a bazaar in northern Tehran in this 2012 file photo. (Morteza Nikoubazl/Reuters)

Greed, lust, murder...3G phones?  Clerics in Iran have just added to the list of sinful behaviours that humanity must avoid.  

Popular Internet operator Rightel introduced video calling to the Iranian public for the first time through its new 3G internet service but it has been slapped with a fatwa by four grand ayatollahs, the highest authority in Shiite Islam. The fatwa means Rightel is banned.

"The decadence and corruption" associated with Rightel's use "outweighs its benefits,” grand ayatollah Makarem Shirazi was quoted as saying by Al Monitor.  

“It will cause new deviances in our society which is unfortunately already plagued with deviances,” added Alavi Gorghani who went further to say the video call service would “jeopardize the public chastity.”  

But it’s unlikely many young Iranians will be discouraged because many are just as tech savvy as young people in North America.

Could there be another reason for the fatwa?

The crackdown on anti-government protesters during the 2009 elections widely seen as rigged in favour of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was transmitted to the world via mobile phones. International and local journalists were severely restricted from reporting on the riots but many Iranians shared their struggle with the world on Flickr, Twitter and YouTube.

And Iran is holding a presidential election this summer. 

Hamida Ghafour is a foreign affairs reporter at The Star. She has lived and worked in the Middle East and South Asia for more than 10 years. Follow her on Twitter @HamidaGhafour

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