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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Religious Cleansing in Iran

It is a shame that the Iranian government is bullying it's minorities. We have got to find solutions to bring civility in governance.

As Muslims we condemn this act of ugliness, it does not corrospond with the Islamic values of Justice, fainess and treating others as you would wanted to be treated.

Shame on the supreme leader to have his pictures plastered on every wall in Iran, Prophet Muhammad, the founder of the religion did exactly the opposite of it; and advised against plastering one's pictures or erecting busts in every street corner. Prophet Muhammad was a humble man, can we say the same about the supreme leader? There is something wrong here and yet he claims to represent the Islamic faith?

However, finding the truth is our own responsibility, the National review is at times questionable and biased.

The best option I see is to pull back from the corner we are pushing Iran into, and bring them into the community of Nations as an active civil partner. It is in the best interest of the United States and Israel to make friends with the Muslim majority states. The propaganda, particularly the violent Neocon propaganda has not yielded any goodness thus far, and most certinaly will harm every one in the process, we need to work with the policy of inclusion to bring about a lasting change for every one.

Mike Ghouse
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Iran treats non-Muslims as harshly as political dissidents. Why doesn’t the West notice?

By J. K. Choksy & Nina Shea

‘Every aspect of a non-Muslim is unclean,” proclaimed Iran’s late Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini. He explained that non-Muslims rank between “feces” and “the sweat of a camel that has consumed impure food.” Other prominent ayatollahs, including Ahmad Jannati, the current chairman of the Guardian Council, have made similar utterances.

Thus Iran’s Zoroastrians, Jews, Mandeans, Christians, and Bahais are subordinated and indeed treated as a fifth column by the revolutionary Islamic Republic. No matter that most of these religious groups were established in Iran before Islam arrived there; none are accepted by Iran’s Shiite rulers as fully Iranian. With the recent controversial presidential election, the scapegoating of non-Muslims as agents of the United States, Israel, Britain, and the deposed monarchy reached new heights. Seven Bahai leaders and two Christian converts are in prison and will soon be put on trial for their lives, while other non-Muslims are suffering intensified government repression.

Non-Muslim communities collectively have diminished to no more than 2 percent of Iran’s 71 million people. Forty years ago, under the Shah, a visitor would have seen a relatively tolerant society. Iran now appears to be in the final stages of religious cleansing. Pervasive discrimination, intimidation, and harassment have prompted non-Muslims to flee in disproportionately high numbers.

Like political dissidents, these religious minorities are a moderating force against Iranian Shiite extremism. Also, their mere presence ensures a modicum of ideological diversity and pluralism in the face of the regime’s brutal insistence on conformity. But unlike the dissidents, the religious minorities have attracted little international concern, and their plight is poorly understood.

Iran’s constitution requires that laws and regulations be based on Islamic criteria, which mandate inferior status for three non-Muslim faiths, while withholding all rights and protections from all other faiths. Zoroastrian, Jewish, and Christian (specifically, Assyrian and Armenian) live in a modern version of dhimmi status — the protected though subjugated condition of “people of the Book” dating back to medieval times. While these three groups are allotted seats in the legislative assembly (a total of five out of 290 seats), they are barred from seeking high public office in any of the three branches of government.

Catholic, Anglican, Protestant, and evangelical churches are not regarded as heritage communities and are afforded few rights. Christian worship must be in the Assyrian or Armenian languages, not in Farsi. Several Protestant and evangelical leaders have been murdered by government agents in recent years, and last year reports surfaced of a renewed crackdown against churches operating in people’s homes, with reportedly 50 or more arrests. Mandeans have sought in vain for official recognition based on their historic ties to John the Baptist.

Members of the Bahai faith, an independent religion that originated in 19th-century Iran, are treated far worse: as heretics to be persecuted outright. According to Iranian law, Bahai blood is considered mobah — that is, it can be spilled with impunity. Over two hundred Bahais have been executed since 1979. “An enemy of Islam” was written on some of their corpses. In 1979 the Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards) demolished the house of the Bab, a sacred Bahai site in the southwestern city of Shiraz, and the place where it stood has since been paved over for an Islamic center. The burial shrine of Quddus, a prominent follower of the Bab, was destroyed at Babol in 2004. Bahais can gather only underground — at private homes or in surreptitiously rented halls.

Converts from Islam to any other faith are regarded by the state as apostates who can be put to death. Iran bans non-Muslims not only from proselytizing but from most public religious expression in the presence of Muslims. The Intelligence Ministry closely monitors Zoroastrian, Jewish, and Christian religious communities. These groups are routinely denied permission for formal contacts with foreign co-religionists.

Among these religious groups, initiation ceremonies, weddings, and funerals must be discreet affairs. Even so, they run the risk of raids by the Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance to ensure adherence to “Islamic standards.” A 2004 raid of one gathering resulted in the arrest of 80 Christians for following their own mores in women’s dress and in allowing men and women to mingle.

In Shiraz, a synagogue, a church, and a fire temple are located in close proximity to one another. Anti-Pahlavi graffiti there are refreshed regularly to remind Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians that their loyalty remains suspect. Jews often are accused of aiding Israel. In 2000, eleven prominent Iranian Jews were convicted of spying for Israel.

The tomb of Daniel, from the Old Testament, is exploited by the regime to promote its relentless anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli propaganda. One mural features an imaginary scene of Iranian forces joining Palestinian fighters in seizing Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. Nearby slogans denounce Jews, Zionism, and Israel. Jews have stopped visiting the site altogether.

Though the constitution permits Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians to “act according to their own canon in matters of personal affairs and religious education,” Iran’s Education Ministry administers minority schools and imposes a state-approved religious textbook. Many minority secondary schools have been nationalized. The surviving private schools typically have Muslim directors. All university applicants must pass an examination in Islamic theology. Bahais have been essentially barred from higher education.

Zoroastrian schools must display towering portraits of Iran’s supreme leaders. Quranic quotations and revolutionary slogans are painted on their interior walls with the forced participation of the schoolchildren, while mullahs and revolutionary guards chant Shia praises.

The same displays are forced on churches, especially those not within Armenian or Assyrian neighborhoods. Churchgoers are taunted as infidels by Pasdaran and by Basij militiamen.

Religious minorities experience high unemployment and economic impoverishment, since so much of the economy, including the oil industry, is controlled by the state. Minority storeowners must display prominent signs indicating they are najasa (ritually unclean). Bahais have no property rights, and their homes and business are vulnerable to confiscation.

Non-Muslims are not excluded from the compulsory military service, however, and they report being deployed for especially hazardous assignments. During the Iran-Iraq war, they were routinely transferred to suicide brigades. Non-Muslim communities maintain small “martyrs’ walls” as memorials to their war dead.

Any non-Muslim responsible for a Muslim’s death faces capital punishment, in accordance with medieval Islamic jurisprudence. Conversely, Muslims do not face capital punishment or even long prison sentences for murdering a non-Muslim, though they are fined. Exceptions are in the murder of a Bahai or a Muslim apostate — no compensation whatsoever is required. In a court proceeding, a non-Muslim’s testimony is valued at half that of a Muslim’s. A non-Muslim who converts to Islam becomes the sole inheritor of his or her family’s assets.

President Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust, threatens Israel, and promotes the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as genuine. He has reportedly vowed the end of Christianity’s development in Iran. Under his presidency, life has only become more difficult for religious minorities. Their social organizations have been subject to intrusive investigations and threatened with criminal charges on such grounds as rejecting “cultural conformity” and weakening “the centrality of the Islamic regime.” A new committee in Qom has been empowered to “combat activities of members of religious minorities.” The five minority parliamentarians, like 175 of their colleagues, left Tehran to avoid having to congratulate the president upon his reelection, prompting a new round of raids on synagogues, churches, and fire temples.

Iran’s non-Muslims cannot defend their own rights. In 2005, the Zoroastrian parliamentarian Kourosh Niknam tried to do so, by giving a speech protesting a slur against non-Muslims by the head of the Guardian Council. He was prosecuted for failing to show respect for Iran’s leaders but released with a stern admonishment in response to domestic and international pressure.

Iran’s political dissidents are defended by the West. Its diverse non-Muslim minorities ask why they’ve been forgotten.


— Jamsheed K. Choksy is a professor of Iranian studies and former director of the Middle Eastern Studies Program at Indiana University and serves as a Member of the National Council on the Humanities. Nina Shea directs the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom and serves on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The views expressed herein are their own.
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  1. Whats the truth behind it, i did't know but if its true you mention then its not fair, no practice allowed in islam and we can not practice it in our Islamic center

  2. When ever I hear something about Islam and muslims in west it is usually or always bad.It can never be good otherwise west could be accused of fairness a charge that must surprise many.Even though I don't know Iranian side nor do I care to know it I know few things and want to ask you.These are few questions.
    Q.Aren't there two sides of story in any conflict.Is the answer 99% or 100%.You will say 100% there are two sides of the sotry.
    q#2.Isn't always the truth the victim in the war.If I ask you 99% or 100% you will say 100%.Now comes 3rd Question.Is it not always that the side that is stronger only allows its side in maligning the weaker side.If I ask you 99% or 100%.If you are fair you will say 100%.With these facts in front of you ,now you see Islam an ideology US and its cronies enjoy maligning because they are at war against it.And sadly US is the only country which enjoys being at war in the world because that is how it makes money and thats how it presents itself as very benevolant,but those who study know what is truth.

  3. You really think this is not happening? COME ON.

    Y do u think there are almost no NON-Muslims in these countries. Most Muslim Countries which use religion (Islam) to implement the law have very little tollerance for NON-Muslims.