dirty dancingdirty dancing

Iranian Zumba ban infuriates female fans

Fitness enthusiasts shocked after authorities say activity goes against Islamic law; ‘We as women are deprived small happiness,’ one laments

Zumba dancers, illustrative (YouTube screenshot)
Zumba dancers, illustrative (YouTube screenshot)

An Iranian government ban on Zumba classes has Persian fitness fans up in arms this week, after a major sports federation argued the female activity contravenes Islamic ideology.

In a letter to Iran’s Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, the Iran Sport for All Federation urged suspension of a number of activities, Zumba among them, “which include rhythmic motions and dance and are unlawful in any shape and title,” the BBC reported.

According to the LA Times’ reporter in Tehran, the proposal has already been accepted and the ban has come into effect, at least in some locations.

In the June 7 missive, the federation urged the development of “athletics for everyone in the framework of supreme Islamic ideology.”

Zumba, the Colombian aerobic dance program set to bouncy music, has taken the world by storm in recent years and is a mainstay at fitness clubs everywhere. The LA Times reported that Iran is no different, with Zumba gaining immense popularity in gyms throughout the Islamic Republic.

An Iranian cleric quoted by the Times explained that “any harmonious movement or rhythmic exercise, if it is for pleasure seeking, is forbidden” under Islamic law.

“Unbelievable,” Zumba instructor Sepideh Abozari told the Times. “The authorities are worried about a Zumba pandemic?”

Iranian women were shocked and disturbed by the ban, she said.

“Even in low-income areas on the outskirts of Tehran where I live… women pay as much as a month cash subsidy to participate in Zumba class to keep fit in body and mind and tune in to the happy rhythm.”

BBC News quotes a gym manager in Tehran who told a local newspaper: “We have been teaching Zumba for 12 to 13 years and if they ban it, we will continue our class under a different name.

“Zumba is one of the most profitable activities and the clubs cannot ignore it,” he said.

Zohre Safavizadeh, a Zumba student, told the Times the ban was a revenge by hard-liners for moderates’ victory in the national elections last month, and the reelection of President Hassan Rouhani, who has promised Iranians greater freedoms.

“The hard-liners want to undo what was promised by President Rouhani,” she said, and thus “We as women are deprived small happiness.”

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