Iranian legislators and officials on Saturday dispelled a report by a Canadian newspaper alleging Tehran's Muslim regime of planning to force religious minorities in the country to wear identification badges.
On Friday, Canada's National Post reported that Iranian expatriates living in Canada confirmed reports that the Iranian parliament passed a law this week that would require the country's Jews and Christians to wear colored badges to identify them and other religious minorities as non-Muslims.
Iranian parliament member Imad a-Faruj, who initiated the law, said it was not directed at religious minorities but was meant to encourage women to remain chaste and wear traditional, Israel Radio reported.
Jewish Iranian legislator Maurice Mutamed said that parliament did not discuss any idea of forcing non-Muslims to wear anything that would differentiate between them and Muslims, the radio said.
A diplomat from the Iranian UN mission also denied the report, and said that minorities enjoy complete freedom in Iran and are also represented in parliament, according to the radio.
The Iranian government committed in the past to consult with all ethnic groups in the country before legislating a law requiring mandatory clothing for each group, Haaretz learned Friday.
Post: Jews would be required to sew yellow badgeAccording to the Post, Iran's 25,000 Jews would have to sew a yellow strip of cloth on their clothes. Christians would have to adorn red badges and Zoroastrians would be have to wear blue strips of cloth. To go into effect, the law would have to be approved by Iran's supreme leader and highest authority, Ali Khamenei.
According to Meir Jawadnafar, an Israeli expert on the Iranian government, Tehran has not yet determined the nature of Muslim dress that will be required in the country. Therefore, he says, the claim that it was decided that Iran's Jews would be forced to wear yellow badges on their clothing is baseless. He said the Iranian government has no intention of forcing ethnic groups to wear specific colors.
Later Friday, the Post published a story quoting several experts casting doubt on its initial report, as well as a reaction from the Iranian embassy in Ottawa, which denied Tehran had passed such a law. The Post quotes Sam Kermanian, of the U.S.-based Iranian-American Jewish Federation, who said he had contacted members of the Jewish community in Iran - including the lone Jewish member of the Iranian parliament - and they had denied that any such measures had been put in place.
Mr. Kermanian told the Post that the subject of "what to do with religious minorities" came up during debates leading up to the passing of the dress code law. "It is possible that some ideas might have been thrown around," he said. "But to the best of my knowledge the final version of the law does not demand any identifying marks by the religious minority groups."
Wiesenthal Center urges UN to step inAccording to the Post, The Simon Wiesenthal Center has written to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan urging the international community to pressure Iran to drop the measure. "This is reminiscent of the Holocaust," said Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean of the Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. "Iran is moving closer and closer to the ideology of the Nazis.
"There's no reason to believe they won't pass this," said Rabbi Hier. "It will certainly pass unless there's some sort of international outcry over this."
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations issued also issued a statement in response.
"While such legislation would be reminiscent of dark periods in the past," the statement read: "like the Nazi era when Jews and others had to wear identifying badges, it is also consistent with the racist and extremist ideology propagated by President Ahmadinejad. We are monitoring the situation and seeking to ascertain the facts in order to determine the appropriate response."
Mark Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued said: "If these reports are confirmed, we urge the United States, the United Nations, and the entire international community to speak out against the implementation of such a policy in Iran or elsewhere."
Bernie Farber, the chief executive of the Canadian Jewish Congress, told the Post he was "stunned" by the measure. "We thought this had gone the way of the dodo bird, but clearly in Iran everything old and bad is new again," he said. "It's state-sponsored religious discrimination."
Leonid Nevzlin, chairman of the board of trustees of Beth Hatefutsoth, the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora in Tel Aviv, called on Jews of the world to wear yellow badges to identify themselves with Iranian Jews.
"Iran is implementing Hitler's methods and constitutes a threat to the free world," Nevzlin said.
Some Israeli commentators suggested the story still needed to be fully verified, pointing to the fact that the source of the story was Iranian exiles strongly opposed to the regime ruling their country.