Do Baha’is Enjoy Full Citizenship Rights in Iran?

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Source: BBC Persian, 17th of May 2016

Translation by Iran Press Watch

PROF. MOHSEN KADIVAR

Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi 1, one of the Grand Ayatollahs in the Iranian religious studies center in Qum, has strongly condemned the visit of Faezeh Hashemi 2 with one of the leaders of the Baha’i community; he has said that her action is a “prosecutable crime from the religious point of view.”

Sadegh Larijani 3, the Head of the Iranian Judiciary, has also reiterated that this visit “has broken the norm”, and warned that if “breaking the norm reached the level of a crime we will deal with it severely.”

The publication of a picture of the visit of Ms Hashemi with Fariba Kamalabadi 4, one of the leaders of the Baha’i community of Iran, who had a temporary furlough after eight years of incarceration, made headlines recently.

Akbar Hashemi Rafasanjani 5, the Chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council 6, and Faezeh Hashemi’s father, in a clear reaction, has expressed that his daughter made a mistake and that she has to redress it.

Mohsen Kadivar 7, Islamologist and professor of Islamic Studies at Duke University in North Carolina, has written a detailed article on the issue, which asks: “How to deal with the Baha’is?” In it he personally responds: “Baha’is should be treated like humans.”

In the Chasmandaz Bamdadi, on Tuesday the 17th of May 2016, Dariush Rajabian had a conversation with Mohsen Kadivar.

Mohsen Kadivar, now in the city of Doran, is with us on a direct call.

Dariush Rajabian: greetings and good evening, Mr. Kadivar. In Iran, as we said, some of the Sources of Emulation 8 like Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi and also judicial authorities, like the Head of the Judiciary, condemned Faezeh Hashmi’s visit with this Baha’i, but apparently you do not agree with these reactions.

Mohsen Kadivar: I, also offer my greetings to you and to your respected listeners. Yes, merely being a Source of Emulation or the Head of the Judiciary does not give credence to one’s verbal expressions from a legal or religious point of view. Neither one of these two people ‒ these religious and political personalities ‒ have advanced any reason. Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi should have asserted his views in a written form. Based on what reason from any source, like the Quran, logic or consensus, dictate that this visit is religiously illegal, that it is a transgression and is a prosecutable crime? If basically it has a related secondary ruling, he must mention that visiting the followers of the misguided Baha’i sect puts one into religious difficulty. I, until now, have not heard any such assertion from any Source of Emulation. Merely saying something is not enough; he does not give a reason. The Head of the Judiciary also said something about the same issue ‒ based on which law does he want to bar the visit of two Iranian citizens with each other? He must quote that law in order for Iranian attorneys to know that such an incidence should not happen in future.

Dariush Rajabian: Incidentally, Mr Kadviar: in the article that you have written, you emphasise this point ‒ that such a law does not exist in Iran ‒ but we know that based on the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, Baha’is have not been mentioned, whereas other religious minorities such as Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians are considered to be People of the Book 9. In this manner the perception of many could be that Baha’is, based on the Constitution of the country, do not have any rights as citizens.

Mohsen Kadivar: This perception of the Constitution is not correct. Article 14 of the Constitution 10stipulates that all Iranians must be treated justly. Baha’is, like any other people, are Iranian citizens. Now we hypothesize that a Buddhist or Hindu is an Iranian citizen. Because they are not Muslim of either Sunni or Shi’ite sects and are not People of the Book, should they not have any human rights in this country? Does that mean all their lives, honour and property should not be respected, and that anybody may do whatever they want to them? Such as destroying their graveyards or preventing them from continuing their education? I don’t think any lawyer has such an understanding of the Constitution. This perception is against civil as well as religious law.

Dariush Rajabian: In rejecting your view, Mr. Kadivar, Abdullah Shahbazi 11 of the Political Studies and Research Institute, which is affiliated with the Ministry of Information, has written that: “in the case of a Baha’i individual who is enjoying citizen rights based on recognition of the House of Justice in Haifa, what would be the duty of the government?” Incidentally, he addresses you and points out that dependence of the Baha’is of Iran on their Universal House of Justice in Haifa could be interpreted as a government within a government. He implicitly says that in such a case, citizen rights are not relevant.

Mohsen Kadivar: This assertion can be refuted on two grounds. One: consider that an Iranian is Catholic and is a follower of the Church in the Vatican. Is this considered to be a government within a government? Second: in the countries of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, followers of Shi’ite Islam are prosecuted for the exact same reason. They are told that because they follow and emulate the Sources of Emulations in the Iranian city of Qum, therefore they must be hired workers for the Islamic Republic. Is this a valid argument? Mr. Shahbazi, by advancing such reasoning, in fact endorses the action of the two governments of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. None of them is correct, based on Islamic law. People in their personal conduct, based on whatever they deem right, are free to embark upon whatever lawful actions they choose. Apart from personal conduct, they have to follow the written rule of law which should be applied to them, not whatever anyone arbitrarily decides is law.

Dariush Rajabian: Mr Kadivar, as we are discussing this situation, one of the Sources of Emulation of Qum has said “even visiting followers of the Baha’i Faith is a prosecutable crime from the religious point of view”, and the judicial authority has also spoken in the same way. On what authentic Islamic texts and verses do you base your views?

Mohsen Kadivar: I have written all my reasoning in detail based on verse eight of Quran 60:8; the late Grand Ayatollah and Source of Emulation Hussein-Ali Montazeri 12 cited the same verse, quoting: “God does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes ‒ from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them.” In Nahjul Balagha (“The Peak of Eloquence” ‒ Sermons of Ali 13), Imam Ali says (Sermon #53), “People are of two types: either they are your brothers in religion or they are your equals in creation.” Baha’is are not our co-religionists but they are human like us. What we want from the Iranian clergy or what I want from our religious and legal authorities is to deal with these Iranians according to the standard of religion and law. These people are monotheistic or claim that they are monotheistic. They believe in the Prophet of Islam but they don’t accept Him as the seal of the prophets. They also don’t believe in the twelfth Imam like most Shi’ites. That’s fine. At most they could be considered similar to people of the Book: Sunnis, Hindus, Buddhists and idol worshipers. With none of the followers of these religions, as long as they are the citizen of the Islamic Republic, are we are able to overrun any religion’s laws. We have to deal with them like human beings. In fact this is their right: to ask according to what verse, reason, or with what ruling you disregard the human rights of Baha’is.

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1. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naser_Makarem_Shirazi

2. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faezeh_Hashemi

3. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sadeq_Larijani

4. See https://www.bic.org/Mrs-Fariba-Kamalabadi#Pf1ZXYuBwqZlLWE6.97

5. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akbar_Hashemi_Rafsanjani

6. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expediency_Discernment_Council

7. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohsen_Kadivar

8. Marja’ taqlidi, or just marja’; see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marja%27

9. For more on this Islamic theological concept, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People_of_the_Book

10. Article 14 of the Iranian Constitution in English translation can be found here: http://www.iranonline.com/iran/iran-info/government/constitution-1.html. The Article in full is: ” In accordance with the sacred verse; (“God does not forbid you to deal kindly and justly with those who have not fought against you because of your religion and who have not expelled you from your homes” [60:8]), the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and all Muslims are duty-bound to treat non-Muslims in conformity with ethical norms and the principles of Islamic justice and equity, and to respect their human rights. This principle applies to all who refrain from engaging in conspiracy or activity against Islam and the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

11. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdollah_Shahbazi

12. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hussein-Ali_Montazeri

13. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nahj_al-Balagha

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