October 04, 2006

Religious Freedom In Iran: Discrimination, Forced Mass Conversions

An idea of how the "peaceful" and "tolerant" religion of Islam treats non-Muslims in Iran--in this case Zoroastrians--from those currently living as dhimmis (surprisingly via al-Guardian):
The boisterous scenes of wine, unveiled women and song confounded the popular stereotype of religious worship in contemporary Iran. In an isolated and awe-inspiring mountain setting, followers of an ancient faith were communing with God in festive and time-honoured fashion.

But when the government VIPs arrived, normal order - as defined by the country's stringent Islamic laws - was restored. The merriment ended, women were ordered to cover up - and grumbles of discontent (albeit muted and discreet) began.

"This is the only time during the year when we are allowed to do what we want, but even here they don't leave us alone," said Giti, 55, reluctantly putting on her headscarf.

She was one of thousands of Zoroastrians gathered at Chak-Chak in the central Iranian desert for a five-day pilgrimage that is the biggest annual event in the religion's calendar.

. . .

But the sense of refuge worshippers traditionally enjoy was tested by the unprecedented government attention paid to this year's event, in the form of a visiting delegation sent by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, along with interior and culture ministry officials.

By requiring worshippers to observe Islamic dress in their own sacred place, the high-level visit illustrated the second-class status of Zoroastrianism - believed to be the world's oldest monotheistic faith - in its land of origin.

Kourash Niknam, the sole Zoroastrian MP in Iran's parliament, insisted the gesture was voluntary. "We just wanted to show respect because it is they who rule and we are living in their community," he said.

Yet it highlighted the difficult plight of Iran's estimated 25,000 Zoroastrians under the country's Shia Islamic governing system.

Officially, Zoroastrians - along with Jews and Armenian and Assyrian Christians - are a constitutionally protected religious minority with guaranteed parliamentary representation.

In practice, complaints of discrimination are widespread. Access to high-level posts in the government and armed forces is blocked. Some Zoroastrians say they are pressured to change their religion. A law awarding Zoroastrians who convert to Islam their entire families' inheritance at the expense of non-converted relatives has caused misery and bitter resentment. Despite legislation decreeing that all religions are entitled to equal blood money (compensation) awards, Zoroastrians say that in reality, they still receive only half the sums given to Muslims.

Nor do they feel wholly free in a land where their faith was the majority denomination until the forced mass conversions to Islam that followed the seventh century Arab invasion.

"We don't have the right to make programmes about our religion," complained Mr Niknam. "I have no platform on radio or television to go and speak about Zoroastrianism. We cannot get any budget for building a new fire temple when mosques are being built one after another."
Forced mass conversions!?!?!?!?!?!? Holy jihad, Batman! Discrimination and second-class status? Check. Enforcement of dhimmifying policies? Check. Pressure to convert--either overtly through suggestion or implicitly, by offering monetary gain? Check.

Yep, seems pretty tolerant to me.



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