Friday, May 19, 2006

Is National Post's "Badge Plan" story true?

This morning, Canada's "National Post" published a controversial report, citing "Iranian expatriates living in Canada" reporting that the Iranian parliament, called the Islamic Majlis, had passed a law this week setting a dress code for all Iranians, requiring them to wear almost identical standard Islamic garments. The report also added that " The law, which must still be approved by Iran's Supreme Guide Ali Khamenehi before being put into effect, also establishes special insignia to be worn by non-Muslims. 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." The report is no not available online but Amir Taheri has written a new report on the same issue here.

Since then, the news has sent shockwaves through out the world. Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the news 'abhorrent' and even went so far as to say that news reports that Iran could require Jews and Christians to wear coloured labels in public might be true, adding" Iran's hardline Islamist government has proven itself capable of such extremism."

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said,"If that [the news] 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."

In Iran, Iran's only Jewish MP strongly denied reports in a Canadian newspaper overnight that Iran may force non-Muslims to wear coloured badges in public so they can be identified. "This report is a complete fabrication and is totally false," Maurice Motammed said in Tehran. "It is a lie, and the people who invented it wanted to make political gain" by doing so.

In Washington, The State Department said Friday it was concerned about the reports on a special clothing rule for Iranian minorities. Spokesman Sean McCormack said such a measure would be "despicable" and carry "clear echoes of Germany under Hitler." McCormack said he could not comment further because the precise nature of the proposal was unclear.

Note: The original bill is a draft law that would discourage women from wearing Western clothing, increase taxes on imported clothes and fund an advertising campaign to encourage citizens to wear Islamic-style garments. You can read more about it here.

I still have difficulty finding reliable sources such as AP or Reuters confirming this story. The National Post cites Iranians living in Canada as its sources but doesn't say how they got a hold of this news. Still, the draft requiring women to dress more conservatively and avoid Western fashions is horrendous enough. As for the 'Badge Story', it may not be true, but as Stephen Harper says, Islamic Government in Iran has proven itself capable of such extremism and that's why most people here in the West won't be even surprised to hear about it, let alone bother to check if it is true or not - Kash

Update: National Post now says that the report may not be true (although the damage is done): Several experts are casting doubt on reports that Iran had passed a law requiring the country’s Jews and other religious minorities to wear coloured badges identifying them as non-Muslims.

...Sam Kermanian, of the U.S.-based Iranian-American Jewish Federation, said in an interview from Los Angeles that he had contacted members of the Jewish community in Iran — including the lone Jewish member of the Iranian parliament — and they denied any such measure was in place.

Ali Reza Nourizadeh, an Iranian commentator on political affairs in London, suggested that the requirements for badges or insignia for religious minorities was part of a “secondary motion” introduced in parliament, addressing the changes specific to the attire of people of various religious backgrounds.

Mr. Nourizadeh said that motion was very minor and was far from being passed into law.

That account could not be confirmed.