A religious dialogue in Iran

Publié le par Joseph Robertson

Iran, not to present anymore, is a country of dialogue and openness promoting cultural diversity in the world. As a matter of fact, the former president Khatami launched, during his first mandate, the idea of a inter-civilisation dialogue aiming to counter Samuel Huntington prophecy about the clash of civilisations. In the same manner, « the order of the Islamic republic of Iran » which always tried to be the avant-garde of a fair dialogue between « religions of the book » has hosted many inter religious symposium, frame of interchange between christian theologians and Muslims.

Beyond a strictly religious context, the order through Mesbah Yazdi, the spiritual father of Ahmadinejad, met with western philosophers invited as christian theologians to Tehran. The guests had the privilege to be hosted in one of the most luxurious hotel in the northen part of the capital city. Who does not remember the amazing discovering of a certain Michel Foucault with the Islamic revolution ? What about the conversion of Roger Garaudy, welcomed with fast in Iran, land of freedom and exchange in excellence ?

Two Evin ...

Unfortunately, Iranian religious minorities are neither sharing the same experience with the guest philosophers, nor are they getting the chance to be hosted in first class hotels. Because, not far away, just beside Evin hotel where important guests of the Islamic republic are hosted, it is possible to find another Evin hotel, place of detention for many years , against his own will, of pastor Dibaj. This was before being assassinated « while enjoying his freedom ».

Inter-religious dialogue

Once again, members of the pastors national college of Iran are experiencing the results of the dialogue policy and opening preached by Ahmadinejad. Not long ago, after a police raid against Christians during christmas period , precisely on the 8 Th of January, two pastors, both members of the pastoral college took the initiave to consult the persons in charge of the Tehran intelligence services in order to know the best step to be taken. The response of Tehran to Pastor Behrouz Khanjani was reassuring: « All they are explanations, you guys can meet them, everything will be alright ». It means, the church of Iran, along with other protestant churches, has to give account to Iranian authorities. From now on 15 days have past, while « negotiations » continue in dark rooms of Chiraz’ intelligence services. The only information available as for now , is that after a brief trial, Christians have been held guilty of apostasy regardless their rights. Thus, in accordance with the Sharia « the apostate must be executed ». The word « ghatl » used authorises assassinations and attacks.

Gap in the law

The situation is bothering because of the fact that the decision taken is not based in any written law , all the more so the lawyer Sarbazi was not authorised to assist prisoners. The same lawyer underlined the fact that the notion of apostasy does not exist in the Iranian penal code and the attempts to introduce it into the reform of the penal code have failed. The twenty-third principle of the Iranian constitution is explicit on the topic : « opinion offence is banned and no-one can be blamed and admonished because of his opinions ».

Judges on their side evoke the use of fatwa for this matter, but still, there is no unanimity among the Ulemas. In the historical context, the term « irtidad » translated as apostasy used to be applied only against those who reinstate Arabic polytheism. The term « irtidad » suggests a back action. It is valid in the context of military conflicts within the qurayshite clan divided between Muslims and non-Muslims. According to the Ulemas who read the law and study traditions, they can’t be irtidad when the choice is used within « religions of the book ». It means, Koranic verses used against Jews and Christians are not included in the definition of apostasy.

A virility act

According to many analysts, some extremists in the government are convinced that as the actual political tension has caught medias’ attention, the repression of a good number of Christians will go unnoticed. They believe it is time for them to move towards a final solution. They think that the christian opinion is so divided that he is not ready to go beyond doctrinal cleavages likely to lead them into a common action. On the other hand, by doing so, the government plans to send a strong message to the opposition through the arrest of the Christians as : « if we are suppressing Christians often apolitical, we will certainly suppress with greater measures all attempts against the regime ». But because of the ignorance about what Christians are facing, it is not sure that the message is transmitted.

Today, the christian community expects a firm condemnation against his rights. Would we like to keep quiet as it was in the case of millions of Jews ? We hope the bitter experience of shoah awakens some spirits. The question is : are there still some Emile Zola willing to fight the negation of the right of others ?

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