Friday, May 19, 2006

Scramble Is On To Confirm Report Iran Wants Jews To Wear Badges

Eli Lake, The New York Sun:
Jewish leaders, the Israeli government and chancelleries of free countries are scrambling to find out whether there is truth to a report that Iran is readying a law that would require Jews and Christians and members of other minority religions to wear special identifying marks on their clothing. READ MORE

On Friday, the Jewish Community's representative in Iran's parliament, known as the Majlis, Morris Mohtemed spoke with the secretary general of the Iranian American Jewish Federation in Los Angeles, Sam Kermanian, and told him the story reported by the National Post in Canada today was false. "We have not been able to confirm the accuracy of the report, nonetheless we are pursuing this issue with concern," Mr. Kermanian said in an interview with The New York Sun.

The National Post story reported that, "Iran's roughly 25,000 Jews would have to sew a yellow strip of cloth on the front of their clothes, while Christians would wear red badges and Zoroastrians would be forced to wear blue cloth," if the legislation winding its way through Iran's parliament passed. Already, the report has invited scorn from western leaders. Speaking Friday in Ottawa, Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, "Unfortunately, we've seen enough already from the Iranian regime to suggest that it is very capable of this kind of action. We've seen a number of things from the Iranian regime that are along these lines. And the fact that such a measure could even be contemplated is absolutely abhorrent."

Canada's leader said that in a press conference with Australia's prime minister, John Howard, who said he had not previously heard the report, but "If that is true I would find that totally repugnant. It obviously echoes the most horrible period of genocide in the world's history -- the marking of Jewish people with a mark on their clothing by the Nazis."

At the State Department, the spokesman, Sean McCormack, said in his press briefing Friday that America has yet to confirm the content of the law in question, but that if it was true the legislation was "despicable."

It is unclear whether the report that such a law would require non-Muslims to wear different colored badges is correct. There is a legislative proposal that has been considered by the parliament for two years that would impose dress codes on Muslims and non-Muslims.

The executive vice chairman of the conference of presidents of major American Jewish organizations, Malcolm Hoenlein, said yesterday he has yet to confirm the report. "We have gotten word about Mohtemed's reaction, and we heard it from another leader in Tehran," he told The New York Sun. "It is still unclear whether the legislation will require a uniform code of dress or for Muslims or whether it will extend to non Muslims having to wear some identifying marker." Mr. Hoenlein added that it is not inconceivable such regulation, reminiscent of the Nazis, would be contemplated under President Ahmadinejad, a man who has publicly questioned whether the Nazi atrocities ever occurred.

Iran's constitution already carves out special status for non-Muslims. For example, it prohibits non-Muslims from obtaining senior posts in either the army or government. A national ordinance made into law in 2000 and 2001 requires all non-Muslim butchers, grocers, and purveyors of food to post a form in the window of their place of business warning Muslims they do not share their faith. At the time the code was defended in order to enforce Islamic dietary law. Muslims in Iran officially enjoy preference over non-Muslims in terms of admission to universities and colleges.