Iran bans Zumba classes for being ‘un-Islamic'

Iranian sports authority condemns popular exercise in move met with fury by fitness enthusiasts and gyms 

Monday 19 June 2017 10:44 BST
People dance Zumba to raise money for charity in this file photo from 21 May 2016 in Beirut, Lebanon
People dance Zumba to raise money for charity in this file photo from 21 May 2016 in Beirut, Lebanon (REUTERS)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


Zumba exercises classes have been effectively banned in Iran after the country’s authorities declared that the dance “contravenes Islamic ideology”.

“In light of activities such as Zumba, performing rhythmic movements or dancing in any form is not legal in any shape or title and the prohibition of movements such as this is requested,” Ali Majdara, the head of Iran’s General Sports Federation, wrote in a public letter to the ministry of youth affairs earlier this month.

The federation went on to urge the development of “athletics for everyone in the framework of supreme Islamic ideology.”

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Mr Majdara’s position means that Zumba has in effect already been banned, with classes in locations around the country already cancelled. Similar announcements have led to the curtailment of other sports - especially those for women - in the past.

The energetic Colombian dance style has become popular in recent years, with gyms and sport centres around the world offering instruction.

In Iran, where women still face opposition from the Islamic Republic’s Revolutionary Guard over dress codes and activities which the religious authorities fear may encourage revealing clothing or mixing of the sexes, it had been taught under names such as “body rhythm” or “advanced aerobics”.

Dancing is technically illegal, but in recent years, instructors and gyms had become bolder, openly advertising classes as Zumba lessons.

The move was met with fury by female fitness enthusiasts across the country, many of whom took to social media to vent their frustrations.

“Iran officials banned Zumba classes. Why? because it encourages ppl to dance and this is against 'our' cultural norms!,” one person tweeted.

“Iran bans Zumba from all gyms because it's ‘un-Islamic.’ When regime meddles in every aspect of personal life,” another post read.

Several gyms told media outlets they planned to continue the classes under different names because of its popularity - and the possible dents in profits.

Zohre Safavizadeh, a Zumba student, told the Los Angeles Times the ban is being viewed as a reaction to the greater freedoms promised by Iran’s moderate President Hassan Rouhani, who was reelected in May.

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

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