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Social media in Iran: ‘Good Shia kids’ can be cool, too

You can be an observant Muslim and also want to have fun on social media. In Iran, more and more young conservatives are blending religion and Internet culture and sometimes breaking taboos while doing so. Some of them have been creating faith-based emojis and stickers that also show physical contact between men and women, which is officially banned in Iran and which has not made religious authorities too happy.

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Telegram “stickers” showing physical contact between a man and woman – something never seen on Iranian TV.

While Facebook and Twitter are officially banned in Iran, they and other social media sites – especially Instagram and Telegram – are hugely popular in the country. Facebook has an estimated 17 million users in Iran (many of them connecting via VPN to get around the ban). Some 33 Million Iranians are active on Instagram and more than 20 million on Telegram, an instant-messaging site prized for its speed and security.

Instagram and Telegram are both fully legal in Iran, for now. While most of the younger users appear to be from the moderate, secular part of Iranian society, more and more accounts are appearing with religious symbols and themes. Portraits of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei adorned with hearts find themselves next to tips on how to be a “good Shia kid”, with drawings inspired by Disney cartoons and Japanese manga. Young religious users push the boundaries of what is acceptable, designing emojis and Telegram “stickers” that depict physical contact between (married) men and women.

Initially published on France24 on 10/28/2016
Read the full story here.

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