Reuters: Iranian authorities have cancelled several musical concerts organised by European embassies after religious hardliners warned the Islamic state against the "corrupting" influence of Western culture.
Analysts said the concert cancellations reflected a new political climate in Iran where religious hardliners now firmly have the upper hand over the pro-reform allies of moderate President Mohammad Khatami. Reuters

By Parisa Hafezi

TEHRAN - Iranian authorities have cancelled several musical concerts organised by European embassies after religious hardliners warned the Islamic state against the "corrupting" influence of Western culture.

Analysts said the concert cancellations reflected a new political climate in Iran where religious hardliners now firmly have the upper hand over the pro-reform allies of moderate President Mohammad Khatami.

One Italian musical group left Iran without playing a note and planned concerts organised by the Swiss and Spanish embassies were scrapped, the diplomats said on Monday.

"The Culture Ministry cancelled the concerts fearing there may be some attacks on the concert hall by hardliners," one of the diplomats said.

Mohsen Majedi, a political science professor at Tehran's Baheshti University said: "They (hardliners) cannot wait any longer to paralyse Khatami's achieved reforms."

Following Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution all but classical or religious music was banned. Restrictions eased somewhat following Khatami's landslide electoral win in 1997.

Iran held its first official "Islamic pop" festival in 1999 but concerts remain tame with female soloists banned from singing in front of men and audiences prohibited from dancing.

Hardliners, who say the concerts promote immoral behaviour among young people, have in the past attacked cultural centres where musical performances were held.

"Our religious people are against such concerts which help to spread corrupt Western culture," the hard-line Jomhuri-ye Eslami newspaper said last week.

Behrang Tonekaboni, a member of Iran's Niavaran Musicians Association, told the Mardomsalari newspaper an Italian group had to leave without performing after threats were made.

Another Italian-sponsored event was moved to the ambassador's residence at short notice after permission was denied for the intended venue at a public concert hall.

The Swiss Embassy was informed about the cancellation of its classical music concert due to "technical problems" just one day before the musicians' were due to arrive.

"We regret such short notice ... but we still have hope of having concerts in the future," a Swiss diplomat said.