Dec 28, 2021 10:00 UTC

If you remember, we discussed Imam Khomeini’s guidelines for political activities of armed forces and said that he strongly warned these forces against involvement in political activities and membership in any political party or group due to the fact that it would undermine armed forces and ultimately harm the power of the country and the system. This week we are going to discuss the situation of cinema in the pre-Islamic Revolution era and touch upon Imam Khomeini’s guidelines on the issue.

Cinema is a very important domain in culture and art of every country. Cinema entered Iran during the rule of King Mozaffar-e-ddin of the Qajar dynasty in 1890s. This art was not welcomed by ulema and religious strata due to its corrupt nature and the fact that it spread the European lifestyle. During the rule of Reza Khan in early 20th century, cinema found its way to other a few cities in addition to the capital Tehran. Upon the fall of Reza Khan and excessive dependence of his son, Mohammad Reza to the West especially the US, hundreds of American films were screened. In those days, the US started training of Iranian artists and filmmakers. In 1940s, from among 400 films that were screened in Iran, nearly 300 were American. After the US-staged coup d’état in August 1963, the Iranian cinematic climate turned toward more profiteering and box-office. Hence, entertaining films little by little found their way into Iran’s cinema. In the 1950s and 60s, pornographic films were gradually screened in some of the Iranian cinemas particularly in Tehran. This corrupt trend continued till the end of the regime’s life in Iran in 1979. Suring this period, the Pahlavi regime made every effort to screen anti-religious and pornographic films in every city, even religious cities like Qom and Mashhad.

One of the researchers of cinematic issues categorizes the films of the era of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in four groups. The first group included the films which would clearly ridicule religion. The second group composed of the films which portrayed religious themes like the Deluge and the story of Joseph and Zoleikha in a deviated form. The third group was the films which used religion for mundane desires. Finally, the fourth group included few films which contained religious script. The Shah’s regime did its best to mislead young generation so that they would not have the time and motive to even think of the corruption prevailing everywhere in the country. In 1970s, clashes between cinema and religion reached their climax as the cinema had turned into a window for showing the Western corrupt movies. The ulema, led by Imam Khomeini, were strongly opposed to cinema of the Pahlavi regime as it had turned into a tool in the hand of the regime to push forward the American goals in the country. The Imam once said, “If a cinema is ethical and scientific, who will prevent it? But when we see that our country, from its cinema to its school, is colonialist, it means that these have been brought for us from abroad. They are the gifts that have been brought from there to corrupt our young generation and everything. If a mosque becomes such, we will close it, too. The noble Prophet demolished the Zerār mosque…. That we are opposed to cinema it means we are opposed to such a cinema.”

Imam Khomeini writes in his testament, “Radio, TV, the press, cinemas and theaters have been among effective tools of decadence and numbing of nations, especially the young generation. During the recent century, especially the second half, what big plots were designed with these tools for propagation against Islam and the serving clergy, and for promotion of the Western and Eastern colonialists!!! They were used for the markets of goods, particularly luxurious and decorative goods of every kind, from imitation in buildings and their decoration and luxury to imitation in drinks and clothing. If, God forbid, the servile and destructive Pahlavi regime had continued, very soon our dear youths would have been corrupt by various devilish conspiracies and schemes of the regime… or they would have destroyed their youth period in the centers of corruption. Almighty God did a favour to us and them and rescued all from the mischief of the corrupt and the looters.” Imam Khomeini, warning the statesmen, writes elsewhere in his testament, “Have you forgotten the spread of indecency all over the country and in the centers of corruption, from brothels to gambling houses, bars, cinemas and other centers each of which was a big factor for corrupting the young generation?”