Friday, May 19, 2006

Iran to Impose Dress Code on Non-Muslims?

Today's National Post released two articles claiming that the Iranian parliament is debating a law that mandates the government to insure that all Iranians wear "standard Islamic garments" designed to remove ethnic and class distinctions reflected in clothing, and to eliminate "the influence of the infidel" on the way Iranians, especially, the young and women dress. According to the National Post, the law reportedly will require separate dress codes for religious minorities. For example, Jews would have to sew a yellow strip of cloth on the front of their clothes, Christians would wear red cloth and Zoroastrians would be forced to wear blue. The new codes would apparently enable Muslims to easily recognize non-Muslims so that they can avoid shaking hands with them by mistake, and thus becoming najis (unclean).

Associated Press, on the other hand, is reporting that legislator Emad Afroogh, who sponsored the bill and chairs the parliament's cultural committee, told them today that there is no truth to the National Post report.

"It's a sheer lie. The rumors about this are worthless," he is reported to have said. He claims that the bill seeks only to make women dress more conservatively and avoid Western fashions. He told AP, "The bill is not related to minorities. It is only about clothing. Please tell them (in the West) to check the details of the bill. There is no mention of religious minorities and their clothing in the bill."

This story obviously needs to be verified by other independent sources before we assume that it is factual and report it as such. Even if is true, it is not without precedent in Islamic countries. Throughout history dhimmis (non-Muslims) have often been forced to wear distinctive clothing to mark them as separate from the Muslim majority. I think what shocks people is how this reportedly legislation is reminiscent of the policies of Nazi Germany. In the meantime, let's make sure of our facts before we say too much more. Can someone please produce an English translation of the bill?

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