• 2 June 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

Oh, the Irony

When I first heard about France and Belgium’s proposed laws for banning the burqa, I was outraged. As an American, I thought it ridiculous, violating the fundamental human rights of freedom of expression and free exercise of religion. I could not believe that two modern, democratic nations would not allow someone to practice their religion simply because they dress differently. As a Muslim, I was hurt.  Counter-arguments of “Well Christians can’t wear the cross either” were not even comparable to me and, quite frankly, made me angry.

But today when Manouchehr Mottaki, Iran’s Foreign Minister, denounced the law, saying that Iran “attaches great importance to the rights of religious minorities,” I laughed.

Mr. Mottaki, where have you been the past 31 years?

If Iran attaches such great importance to the rights of religious minorities, why are the Bahais still denied access to a university education and the right to inherit property unless they recant their faith? Why are they subject to arbitrary arrest and detention and violent attacks on their homes or property? Why are they denied establishment of places of worship or schools? Is it out of respect that Iran continues to detain seven Bahais after two years, violating their constitutional right to due process?

What of the Jews who until 2003 were not even considered equal to Muslims and Christians for compensation of murdered relatives in court? The Jews who have to build walls around their cemeteries to protect their dead out of fear that tombstones will be smashed or desecrated with anti-Israel slogans. Was Habibollah Elghanian murdered because of Iran’s great respect for religious minorities?

Why does religion continue to be on all identification papers in Iran if all religions are equal? And is imposing a hijab, with penalties for violations, really any better than banning it?

Mr. Mottaki, I ask what of all the Iranians who are not Shi’a Muslim? Before denouncing intolerance in Europe, look to the great intolerance in your own country. Iran, of all countries, does not have the right to denounce France and Belgium’s moves when it continues its much greater discriminatory practices.

And while I am still shocked at the proposed law banning the burqa, and at the fact that Spain, Austria, and the Netherlands are also preparing similar bills, I beg the hypocrites to please not speak out and demean the more valid arguments of many, rightfully-outraged Muslims around the world.

Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie

    4 Responses to “Oh, the Irony”

  1. Pirouz says:

    Setareh, Iran is an Islamic Republic. Of course they’re going to be protective of Islam. That protection is key to understanding Iran’s positions towards other religions and its official place within society. While I personally do not agree with the official position on the Bahais, it is best understood as an element of this protection.

    It’s also best not to make comparisons between a republic based on Islam, and one based on Western liberalism. While there is an amount of crossover, they afford two fundamentally different societal orientations, with the emphasis in the former based on what can best be described as “family values”. These family values command priority over what many here in the West would consider the liberties of the individual.

    Regarding religion on official forms, while it is not universal here in the United States, it is still in place on many official forms, such as those related to the US military.

    The choice between a society based on family values (by Islamic interpretation) or individual liberty (based on a current interpretation of Western liberalism) is many times decided upon with a choice of residency. Setareh, obviously your personal preference is for the latter. But in doing so, you should not so condemn the former, where you do not reside and your overall orientation is not shared by the majority.

  2. Setareh Tabatabaie says:

    I am not sure how denying people of other religions is a form of protection. In fact, I find it quite unIslamic.

    Moreover, your reasoning for not making comparisons between a republic and a Western democracy is wholly inadequate. I do not believe that family values and liberties of the individual have to be at odds at all. I have my individual liberties, but I also remember the importance of family in my life due to its importance in my culture. People who make arguments that family values are protected are merely saying so in order to deny others their due rights. Your reasoning is a poor excuse at best.

  3. Iranian-American says:

    It is strangely refreshing to see the extent of absurdity required to defend the Iranian governments violation of basic human rights.

    Pirouz, for this type of thing, I suggest you just leave it alone. “family values”, Seriously?

  4. DOS says:

    Pirouz, this is the second time in just a few days that you have missed the point of a well-written, clearly articulated post. The author wasn’t suggesting that Iran be held to other nations’ standards; rather it was suggested that they be held to their own standards, Minister Mottaki’s own claim that religious minorities in Iran are respected.

    People like you scare the daylights out of me. You are clearly educated and articulate, but live in a well-supplied fantasy world.

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