“Deviant Sect Penal Code”

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Source: fa.rfi.fr

By Azadeh Vala

Translation by Iran Press Watch

Mohammad Ali Pourmokhtar, member of the Parliamentary Islamic Council on Legal and Judicial Affairs Commission, said on Tuesday, September 3, that the commission is considering a plan called the “Deviant Sect Penal Code”.

Without using the name of any specific sects, he said that the plan was based on sects that do not have any religious, legal, or other justifiable standing – those that consider themselves connected to Islam, but their action and behavior lead to deviation. In most cases, they act in contrast, disagreement and war against jurisprudence and Islamic religious rulings.

According to Mohammad Ali Pourmokhtar, by taking advantage of people’s beliefs they protect and maintain the political, economic and social interests of themselves or a particular individual, and cause the disintegration of family foundations. This is what the members of the Islamic Council and those who have proposed the “Deviant Sect Penal Code” consider to be a crime, and is the justification of the need for them to be punished.

This week’s Echoes of Society (Pejvak) Program is a conversation with Abdul Karim Lahiji, a lawyer and president of the International Federation of Human Rights Societies in Paris. I invite you to be with us.

Program Host (PH):

Mr. Lahiji: Please explain which sect is referred to as the deviant sect, and which group or groups are possibly the target of the proposers of this project?

Program Guest: (PG):

Please keep in mind that first, this is simply a suggestion raised by a person, a member of the Parliamentary Islamic Council on Legal and Judicial Affairs Commission, and has not yet become a law. The second point is that all the content that you just read demonstrates that the author or the announcer has no understanding about the law, and the document shows that he doesn’t even know what he is talking about when he says “war against jurisprudence and religious rulings.” Disagreement with jurisprudence and religious rulings makes sense, but what does “war against jurisprudence and religious rulings” even mean? I mean when they themselves define war against Islam in the Islamic penal code, it is defined as when an individual is disagreeing and fighting with Islamic religious rulings with a weapon, meaning that the person is armed. So what does it mean to be in an armed war against rulings? This demonstrates that the individual does not even have the appropriate ability and control over the content to even formulate his thoughts in writing or what he wants to say in a correct way. But in general, when we deal with the law and legislation, the first matter is that when you want to give a title to a crime, the title needs to clearly be defined. So, he says the “deviant sect”: ok, first, they need to define what is meant by “sect”; second, they need to define what is meant by “deviant”. In this announcement, he is not making anything clear, he simply mentions deviant sects that don’t have any religious, legal, or justified standing. Lining up all these words next to each other shows that nothing, not only for me, but even for the ordinary people is useful and understandable. First, people need to study and research the religious documents and determine which sects are considered to be justified and have religious standing, and which don’t. Therefore it seems that they just lumped a bunch of words together in a line to see if they can pull some text together and take it to the Parliament to produce another stick with which to bludgeon religious minorities, above all, since the text says they are connected to Islam, meaning that they are opinions or ideologies that are born from Islam, then at the top of the line could be Sufi Dervishes, or any spiritual groups associated with Sufism, which since hundreds of years ago from the beginning of Islam were active as one of the many branches of Islam, and expressing their ideas. None of these issues are addressed, and by making the wording general, they probably want to frame the religious minorities or those groups that they call deviant sects, and set them up again, in order to incriminate them.

Program Host (PH):

Including followers of the Baha’i Faith.

Program Guest: (PG):

Absolutely. When there is talk of deviant sect, and there is a mention of war against, or cooperation with foreign enemies, which has always been the weapon used against Baha’is – as you know the Baha’i Faith is the largest minority religion in Iran – you know the Islamic Constitutions Law only considers Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrians to be official religions that are allowed to participate in their religious traditions, without having the right to teach their faith, so even they are not really that official, because if they were considered completely official, they would be allowed to teach their faith, as Muslims, especially Shias and the supporters of the Islamic republic, do, because in the Islamic Constitution law, as they called it, legal standing has been given to them, but although the Baha’i Faith, which in terms of population is the largest religious minority in Iran, has not been recognized, and as you know it has been forty years during which they have trampled their rights, and those associated with this Faith have been charged and imprisoned, and even, in several cases, executed. And day by day they have increasingly limited their rights, and this also may be another tool for even harsher encounters with them.

Program Host (PH):

What could be the purpose behind proposing this plan after forty years?

Program Guest: (PG):

The intention is to come up with a new reason to show that the Islamic Republic will not tolerate any ideology, even if not contradictory but just different from the understanding and definition that they have of Shi’ite Islam. They want to show that not only they will fight by ideological, religious and cultural means, but also they will employ legal means to dissolve them, arrest their followers and stop their activities. I even dare to say that they aim to create issues with their beliefs so that people will be fearful of believing in this Faith, this religion, or, as they call it, this sect, and to ultimately cause the Baha’is to become even more isolated. This is a policy that the Islamic Republic has pursued for the past forty years. Proposing such plans demonstrates that the Islamic Republic has been defeated in their efforts, and they probably think with this new method they can use the law to add intensity, to scare the followers of these sects and religions, or those who possibly may be attracted to these Faiths.

Program Host (PH):

Which of the laws in the Islamic Penal Code of the Islamic Republic of Iran considers having a belief or teaching it to be a crime worthy of punishment?

Program Guest: (PG):

Basically, in the laws of the Islamic Republic, when you deal with some general concepts such as the “insult” for example that sometimes may be towards Islamic religious luminaries or towards Islamic Republic officials; or the concept of “conspiracy”. As you just saw in this very proposal that you mentioned, there is talk of acting against religious rulings with arms: what does this mean? This means that an individual writing a piece that is in contradiction with Islamic religious rulings is called an act of war, according to them. Concepts such as this are abundant in laws of the Islamic Republic. Therefore, any and all differences in ideology – not even differences, but simply diversity of political, religious, or philosophical ideas in the Islamic Republic – can be considered to be conspiracy – acting against the interest of the nation, or challenging the interests of the Islamic Republic. Unfortunately, these are expressions that we have seen repeatedly and continue to see in the rulings of the Courts of the Islamic Republic. Therefore, unfortunately, what has come from the report card of the Islamic Republic over these forty years, has been that the Islamic Republic is a regime that has no toleration for disagreement, but even slightest diversity of religious, political parties, political or philosophical opinions whatever, that is not in harmony with the Islamic Republic, not only will they disagree with it, but they will suppress it. Therefore, it is a regime for which freedom of thought, ideology, or religion are not recognized. Not only these are not recognized, but these freedoms that I mentioned – which are the foundation of human rights – are harshly dealt with, and those who want to use these freedoms have unfortunately been dealt with severely in the past.

Program Host (PH):

Does the Islamic Constitution also consider having a belief or teaching it to be a crime worthy of punishment?

Program Guest: (PG):

The Constitution indicates that having any ideology is not a crime. But when and how can one find out about anyone’s ideology? It is when one expresses their ideology. Therefore, they have even cheated in writing the Constitution. They say having an ideology is allowed, but not expressing one’s ideology; they say having an ideology is allowed so long as it is not expressed. Now, whether it is expressed orally or in writing is another story. How can you find out anyone’s ideology? When it says ideology is allowed, but expressing the ideology, be it religious, political or philosophical, is combated harshly and suppressed by charges of conspiracy or negating the Islamic Republic, etc. This demonstrates the fact that this general claim regarding freedom of ideology in the Constitution is meaningless in practice, because they have harshly dealt with the expression of any ideas, no matter of what kind, and continue to do so.

Program Host (PH):

Thank you very much Mr. Lahiji

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