The Price of Faithlessness: Iran to Punish Apostasy with Death
Apostasy -- or the formal renunciation of religion -- is already punishable in Iran with death. But now, Iran wants to make the death penalty for apostasy part of the penal code. The European Union is concerned and has asked Iran to reconsider.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad doesn't take kindly to Western criticism of his country's legal practices.
As the news agency Reuters reported earlier this week, the EU, which opposes the death penalty as a matter of policy, expressed "acute concern" over the proposed penal code revision.
"These articles clearly violate the Islamic Republic of Iran's commitments under the international human rights conventions," Slovenian leaders, who currently head the rotating EU presidency, wrote in a statement.
"The EU calls upon the Iranian authorities, both in government and parliament, to modify the draft penal code in order to respect the obligations."
The death penalty has already been applied to apostates in Iran -- but this was never, since the founding of the Islamic Republic in 1979, institutionalized as a matter of legal practice.
Iran typically dismisses Western criticism of its legal system, claiming that Islamic law is fundamentally different.
The main concern seems to be arising from the Baha'i faith, which forms a religious minority in Iran but, unlike Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism, is not officially recognized by the regime.
At the beginning of February, the EU officially protested the sentence and expressed its concern about the "worsening situation for ethnic and religious minorities in Iran, in particular that of the Baha'i." The Iranian court defended its decision on the basis that the Baha'i, in promoting their faith, were spreading propaganda "against the Islamic regime."
The Baha'i faith developed out of Shia Islam in the 19th century and its followers have been subject to discrimination for generations.
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