U.S. Must Oppose Human Rights Abuses in Iran

Allie Martin & Jenni Parker | AgapePress | Thursday, May 25, 2006

U.S. Must Oppose Human Rights Abuses in Iran

Christian Leader Protests Rumored Iranian Law Requiring Non-Muslims to Wear ID Badges

(AgapePress) - A Christian activist says believers must urge the United States government to take action against Iran if that country passes a law requiring Jews, Christians, and other religious minorities to wear identifying badges.

According to a United Press International report and other media sources, Iranian expatriates say Iran's parliament, or majlis, has approved a law requiring, among other things, that the roughly 25,000 Jews living in the Islamic Republic of Iran must wear a yellow strip of cloth attached to their clothing, while Christians would have to wear red badges, and Zoroastrians, blue badges. However, according to more recent reports several experts are casting doubt on the assertion that Iran has actually passed such a law.

Chris Wattie, a writer with Canada's National Post, followed up an earlier report about the law's passage with an update, noting that the Iranian Embassy in Ottowa has denied that the measure was approved. Also, the reporter notes, Sam Kermanian of the U.S.-based Iranian-American Jewish Federation, said in an interview that he had contacted members of the Jewish community in Iran -- including the sole Jewish member of the Iranian parliament -- and they all denied any such law was in place.

Kermanian did say, however, that the subject of "what to do with religious minorities" came up during debates leading up to the passing of a national uniform or dress code law, and it is possible that "some ideas might have been thrown around." However, the Federation spokesman added that, to the best of his knowledge, the final version of the law required no identifying marks by the religious minority groups. Nevertheless, Kermanian pointed out that Jews in Iran do face widespread, systematic discrimination. For example, he noted that if Jews want to sell food, they have to identify themselves and their shops as non-Muslim.

Wattie also reports that Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, admitted he did not have independent confirmation of the passage of a law requiring Jews to wear badges, but said he still believes it was passed. Hier said it is known that a national uniform law was passed and that certain colors were selected for Jews and other minorities, but he added, "If the Iranian government is going to pass such a law then they are not likely to be forthcoming about what they are doing."

<b>An Idea Whose Time Should Never Come Again</b>
Although the facts from early reports regarding the Iranian dress code law now appear inconclusive, the story has nevertheless sparked outrage and concern across the international community. The very idea that the Iranian parliament had approved legislation mandating that non-Muslims wear color-coded identifiers prompted some commentators to start drawing comparisons between Iran and the Third Reich.

Pastor Rob Schenck, president of the National Clergy Council (NCC), was among those outraged by the news of the ID badge law. "It is an offense against everything human," he remarked. "It sets up Iran for the same horrors that Nazi Germany produced 60 and 70 years ago."

The United States cannot afford to stand by and let history repeat itself, Schenck asserts. If Iran should ever attempt to pass a dress code law that forces non-Muslims to wear ID badges, he feels the church in America should be among the first to oppose it. "It is critical that Christians speak out loudly and immediately to denounce [such a] measure," he says.

If Christians do not speak out in the face of religious persecution and human rights abuses, the NCC spokesman says the world may well see a repeat of some of the most abhorrent episodes in human history. "During the 1930s, Christians were silenced. They were reluctant to act," he says.

"The United States was slow to respond, and in fact, in a couple of instances, turned people away who were seeking to flee from precisely this kind of persecution," Schenck continues. "That cannot happen again."

The U.S. clergy leader feels a law that would force Christians, Jews, and other non-Muslims to wear identifying markers obviously sets these religious minorities up for discrimination, persecution, or worse. If Iran takes steps in that direction, he says, the U.S. should act rather than turn a blind eye as some people in the U.S., even believers, did to Hitler's oppressive regime.

Americans are "wiser people now" and can no longer justify that kind of inaction, Schenck asserts. "We know the kinds of horrors that can happen in the world, that have happened in the east and in the west. We're no longer naïve," he says. "We can't use that as an excuse."

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