Monday, July 21, 2008

Bahais and MandaeansIn Iran Still Suffer Discrimination

testimony before Congress about Iranian and Egyptian Bahais

Unlike western countries which have blanket religious freedom for all, the Islamic Republic of Iran rules specifically on each faith, deciding which qualify as "people of the book" for limited subordinate minority status. Today, the Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians are deemed to be worthy of this subordinate "protection". Although the Bahai faith is monotheistic, its founder Baha u'lah was born a Muslim. Because of this, the Bahais are considered to be a heretical offshoot of Islam and are in the strictest sense considered to be worse than idolators. They suffer from systematic discrimination from the Islamic government. They are discriminated against in employment and in university admissions. As shown in the video with this posting, both instructors and students who are barred from regular universities are now attending underground classes in Iran established for the Bahais. Other minorities in Iran are denied any civil rights at all, most notably the Mandaeans.
So pervasive is discrimination against the Mandaeans that doctors who treat them are considered to be "unclean". Muslim men who rape Mandaean women are considered to have "purified "them. According to many scholars, the Mandaeans are among the original protected faith communities of early Islam . Their mistreatment shows an ignorance of Islamic law and history among those who pay Islamic piety the most ostentatious lip service.
Even Christians who have some civil rights under Islamic law endure serious curtailments of their freedom to speak of their religious beliefs. It must be asked why the most intolerant interpretations of Islamic law from over 1400 years of Islamic history are now being made the law in large parts of the Islamic world. When contrasting societies in which tolerant variants of Islam were practiced with the heart of the Islamic world today, bloodlust and avarice are more convincing explanations than that of religious piety. The fate of all religious minorities in Iran should be of foremost concern to governments and individuals in the west. As we focus on the danger Iran presents to world peace, we must not forget the plight of Iran's own minorities.

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