In The News
Tehran, Iran—After an international outcry, five of the six Iranians who were arrested for filming a video to the song “Happy” have been released. They were detained for their involvement in a YouTube video that Tehran Police Chief Hossein Sajedinia called “obscene,” saying it “offended the public morals.”
In the video to the Pharrell Williams hit, couples danced and women weren’t wearing legally required head scarves. The participants were later forced to apologize on state television.
Williams criticized the arrests, saying, “It is beyond sad that these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness.”
Even Iranian President Hassan Rouhani supported the “Happy” video, tweeting, “#Happiness is our people’s right. We shouldn’t be too hard on behaviors caused by joy.”
Groups and people critical of the Iranian government used the arrests to condemn the censorship and isolation that citizens face. “Iran is a country where being ‘happy’ is a crime,” tweeted Iranian journalist Golnaz Esfandiari.
On Williams’ Facebook page, Hamoun Dowlatshah wrote, “In a country [where] religion and politics are not separated, anything could become a crime, even happiness. I love you Iran, but I hate your government more than anything else.”
The Internet is heavily filtered in Iran, where so-called “morality police” enforce standards of Islamic dress. The rules are widely broken, however.
Before being arrested for her role in the “Happy” video, Reihane Taravati wrote on Instagram, “People of Tehran are happy! Watch and share our happiness! Let the world hear us! We are happy and we deserve to be!”
Sources: cnn.com, bbc.com, theguardian.com
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Discussion Starters for Student Small Groups
Why do you think a government would object to its citizens expressing happiness? By flouting Iran’s rules, were the video participants asking for trouble? Why or why not?
If America had morality police, what are some things you’d want them to arrest people for, and why? How successful do you think modesty-related laws would be in our society these days?
In your opinion, is happiness a basic human right? If so, in what ways should it be guarded or protected?
Is happiness one of your main goals in life? Why or why not? To what degree is it possible to achieve true happiness on earth, in your opinion?
If you consciously strive to be happy, what would you say is the best path toward reaching that goal?
Do you think Jesus wants you to be happy? If so, in what ways? Is happiness a selfish emotion? Why or why not? How might happiness become a way to minister to or love other people?
Does knowing and following Jesus make you happy? Why or why not? Does suffering for Jesus or for your faith ever make you genuinely happy? If so, explain.
What are the differences, if any, between happiness and joy? How might you be able to experience joy even when you aren’t necessarily happy?
Who and what makes you the happiest, and why? What are your favorite ways to express happiness? Do you prefer to express it privately or publicly, and why?
What are some things that take a toll on or threaten your happiness? Are you able to remain happy even during challenges or trials? If so, how?
Scripture links: Psalm 126:5-6; Ecclesiastes 3:12-13; Matthew 5:3-12; John 16:20-24; Galatians 5:22-25; and Philippians 4:4-9.