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Why religious singers are gaining power in Iran

Eulogists or religious singers are the latest actors to gain prominence on Iran’s ever more crowded political stage.

The diversity of actors on Iran’s political stage has made the political process in the country complex. The “maddahan” (“madah,” singular), religious singers or eulogists, are one group relatively new to the scene.

A decade ago, maddahan were visible mainly in mosques and during such holidays as the 10-day mourning ceremonies in the month of Muharram, when Shiite Muslims commemorate the martyrdom of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Hussein ibn Ali and his companions in the 680 Battle of Karbala. In recent years, however, eulogists have become more influential and now even play a role in politics. Indeed, whereas they previously only attended mourning ceremonies, they are now present on virtually all religious occasions, including festivities, and often comment on various issues, such as observance of the hijab, social mores, whether to hold concerts and sports competitions, the economy and even foreign policy.

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