Less playing, more preaching: Cleric fired over piano videos
Sayed Hussein al-Husseini, a 38-year-old Shia Muslim cleric studying in Beirut, said he was punished by the al-Thaqalain seminary for posting the videos which he described as a mere attempt to challenge the traditional perception of clerics.
"I wanted to show that religious study should not be isolated from the world, or from people or from other studies," Husseini told Reuters.
"People consider the man of religion as sacred, strange even, someone who cannot be criticised and cannot do wrong," said Husseini who lives in Dahieh, Beirut's southern suburb.
"Religious men have been forced into feigning a certain way of behaving. They speak slowly. When they move, they move as if they are in the throes of death, to show that they are spiritual," he said. "This is what people expect."
The video which was posted on his personal YouTube account reached 10,000 views in less than an hour, the cleric claimed.
But the intention to alter society's image of clerics backfired, with many social media users condemning the sight of a turban-wearing, robe-wearing cleric playing a musical instrument.
According to Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's most powerful Shia leader and a religious guide for many Shias around the world, classical music, including the piano, is not prohibited in Islam.
"As long as we've established that it's not haram, then it's my right to practice it as a human," he said, adding that being a cleric does not make him "an alien".