Saturday, May 20, 2006

Iran 'capable' of introducing Nazi-like clothing labels



OTTAWA (CP) - Prime Minister Stephen Harper was quick to condemn Iran on Friday for an anti-Semitic law that appears not to exist.

Harper seized on a newspaper report that said Iran's hardline government would require Jews and Christians to wear coloured labels in public.

The prime minister couldn't vouch for the accuracy of the newspaper report, but he added that Iran was capable of such actions and compared them to Nazi practices.

"Unfortunately, we've seen enough already from the Iranian regime to suggest that it is very capable of this kind of action," Harper said.

"We've seen a number of things from the Iranian regime that are along these lines . . .

"It boggles the mind that any regime on the face of the Earth would want to do anything that could remind people of Nazi Germany."

But western journalists based in Iran told their Canadian colleagues that they were unaware of any such law.

And Iranian politicians - including a Jewish legislator in Tehran - were infuriated by the Post report, which they called false.

Politician Morris Motamed, one of about 25,000 Jews who live in Iran, called the report a slap in the face to his minority community.

"Such a plan has never been proposed or discussed in parliament," Motamed told the Associated Press.

"Such news, which appeared abroad, is an insult to religious minorities here."

Another Iranian legislator said the newspaper has distorted a bill that he presented to parliament, which calls for more conservative clothing for Muslims.

"It's a sheer lie. The rumours about this are worthless," Emad Afroogh said.

Afroogh's bill seeks to make women dress more traditionally and avoid Western fashions.

Minority religious labels have nothing to do with it, he said.

"The bill is not related to minorities. It is only about clothing," he said.

"Please tell them (the West) to check the details of the bill. There is no mention of religious minorities and their clothing in the bill."

The Associated Press reported from Tehran that the draft law, which has received preliminary approval, would discourage women from wearing Western clothing, increase taxes on imported clothes and fund an advertising campaign to encourage citizens to wear Islamic-style garments.

According to existing law, women must cover from head to toe, but many young women, buoyed by social freedoms granted to them during the 1997-2005 rule of former President Mohammad Khatami, ignore the law.

The Post's front-page story, which quoted Iranian expatriates living in Canada, made headlines around the world and was the banner story on the popular Drudge Report website in the U.S.

The story said Iran would require Jews to wear yellow labels on their clothing in an eerie reminder of the buildup to the Holocaust. Adolf Hitler forced Jews to identify themselves with yellow Star of David patches.

Christians would need to wear red labels, and Zoroastrians would be tagged with blue.

The law was still to be approved by Iran's "Supreme Guide," Ali Khamenehi, the Post reported.

Calls to the Post newsroom for comment on the developments around the story was not immediately returned.

Harper called the report a reminder that the international community must prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons.

He made the remarks during a news conference in Gatineau, Que., with the visiting Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

Both men provided lengthy answers to a question about the report.

Harper said he had seen the story and wasn't sure if it was true, before launching into his criticism of the Iranian government.

Howard said he hadn't seen the report. In answering the question, he sprinkled qualifiers into nearly every sentence to underscore uncertainty about the accuracy of the report.

"I haven't previously heard of that," Howard said.

"If that is true I would find that totally repugnant. It obviously echoes the most horrible period of genocide in the world's history - the marking of Jewish people with a mark on their clothing by the Nazis."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has previously described the Holocaust as a myth and has called for the destruction of the state of Israel.

Non-Muslims in Afghanistan were required to wear arm bands under the former Taliban regime.

The practice is a throwback to centuries-old rules imposed on non-Muslims living in Islamic states. Under Dhimmi law, non-Muslims were guaranteed security in exchange for paying a tax and wearing special labels on their clothing.

The U.S. government reacted with caution Friday.

The State Department said any such measure would be "despicable" and carry "clear echoes of Germany under Hitler."

U.S. government statistics indicate that 98 per cent of Iranians are Islamic. Other faiths are Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, and Baha'i.

Department spokesman Sean McCormack said he could not comment further because the precise nature of the proposal is unclear.

"I don't have all the facts," he said.


At 11:19 AM, Anonymous lor said...

I am a french jew and my mother is from Morocco. It is pretty funny to read that this jewish politician Morris Motamed is offended by this statement. It reminds me of some moroccan jewish representatives in Morocco who, when were asked by the media about the king of Morocco and its regime, couldn't answer anything but compliments wheras in privacy was crisizing the regime. This is to say that this Mr Morris Motamed will never be abble to say the truce openly in the fear to have his tongue cut out !!

At 9:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

true, he cant say what he really wants, and its important he dont act israeli.friendly for the sake of jews in iran and other places.

but the thing is with iranian jews, that they are very much iranian! their culture, cooking and so on... and have lived there for 3000years, the history of them in iran is very diffrent than in arab countries..

and most will not leave, because they are iranians aswell as i (a bahai) am iranian. our belief is diffrent but our culture is the same.


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