An Islamist website is offering a $100,000 reward for anyone who kills Iranian hip-hop star Shahin Najafi over a song that it says offended people within the Islamic Republic and was irreverent to a Shi'ite imam.
The website, Shia-Onlin.ir, said the rapper should die for the song posted on YouTube, that "grossly insulted" Ali al-Hadi al-Naqi, one of the 12 imams highly revered by Shi'ite Muslims, according to Reuters.
Najafi, who is apparently living in Germany, said his song does not put the negative spotlight on al-Naqi, nor was it created to put down Islam.
The song has more than 350,000 hits on YouTube and includes "references ranging from Iranians' love of nose jobs to economic sanctions and the contested 2009 presidential election," Reuters reported.
The song "takes the form of a prayer to the ninth century Naqi and expresses ironic reverence for many contemporary Iranian figures," according to the news agency.
It is reported that Najafi's repeated refrain of "O Naqi" is the reason for the bounty. Songs by other Iranian rappers with a less focused bent apparently do not cause such a stir.
"A (website) founder who lives in one of the Gulf Arab states has promised to pay the ($100,000) bounty on behalf of Shia-Online.ir to the killer of this abusive singer," the website states.
A senior cleric in Iran said Najafi's rap might warrant a death sentence. However, Iranian officials have not yet commented on the song and the country's news agencies have mostly refrained from reporting on the bounty placed on him by the Shi'ite website.
According to Fars news agency, Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi ruled that: "Any outrage against the infallible imams ... and obvious insult against them would make a Muslim an apostate."
In an interview with German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, Reuters reported that Najafi said: "I thought there would be some ramifications. But I didn't think I would upset the regime that much. Now they are taking advantage of the situation and making it look like I was trying to criticize religion and put down believers.
"For me it is more of an excuse to talk about completely different things. I also criticize Iranian society in the song. It seems as though people are just concentrating on the word 'imam.'"
In 2005, Najafi left Iran after participating in the country's underground music scene. He is reportedly in his early 30s and has taken some "precautionary measures" because "some of the supporters of the regime want to create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation," according to Reuters.