Death to non-Muslims Law Passed (Iran)

Iran’s parliament has passed the death penalty for apostasy, which is viewed in that country as converting to any other faith than Islam.

Thousands of Iranians have been converting to Christianity, and the underground church is thriving, according to reports. But other Iranians are returning to Zoroastrianism, which was the dominant religion in Iran at one time. Jonathan Rocho, with International Christian Concern (ICC), explains.

“We, as a Christian organization, are very much concerned about this because this means many Christians who converted from Islam are going to face death, simply because of their decision to follow Jesus Christ,” Rocho laments.

He says Iranians are questioning the Muslim faith after living under the regime, which has been dominated by the religion since the revolution in the 1970s. “They have not seen any change in their lives,” Rocho adds. “There is even more repression, more problems going on in the country, so they are very much confused about the Islamic faith.”

Already, two Christian converts accused of apostasy have been given the death penalty. Since Iran does not easily succumb to international pressure, Rocho urges people to pray.

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Sixteen Christian Converts Arrested…and Beaten (Iran)

Tehran, 29 July (AKI) – Sixteen Iranians who converted from Islam to Christianity were arrested on Tuesday in Malakshahr, on the outskirts of the central Iranian city of Isfahan.

The six women, eight men and two adolescents who were arrested were assisting in a conversion ceremony and baptism of three new members of the church at a private house that had been transformed into an evangelical church.

The owners of the home, an elderly couple, were allegedly beaten up before they were locked up in an unmarked lorry.

In April, 10 Christian converts were arrested in Shiraz.

The official evangelical churches in Isfahan received orders not to allow any Muslims to attend their ceremonies and not to facilitate in any way the conversions.

Iranian law does not stipulate any punishment for those who convert from Islam to other faiths, even if the converts are subject to repression.

A few months ago, the government presented a bill which is currently being discussed in parliament, to include in the penal code the crime of “Ertedad” which is the act of abandoning the Muslim faith.

If the parliament does approve the law, the punishment for abandoning Islam will be the death penalty.

Iran: Death to non-Muslims

Lawmakers in Iran are considering a proposal to make the death penalty automatic for those who leave the Muslim faith.

Abe Ghafari of Iranian Christians International, Inc. (ICI) was at least a little surprised to learn the news. “Before, it was like an option that an Islamic judge could decide to use or not to use — but now it will become an automatic thing. And from the language of the legislation, it seems like something that cannot be appealed,” Ghafari contends.

The death penalty would primarily apply to those who convert to the Christian faith. “There are large numbers of conversions from Islam, maybe even in the tens of thousands every year, and this is causing concern in the Islamic circles in Iran,” Ghafari explains.

People who use the Internet to convert people away from the Muslim faith will also be subject to the death penalty. Ghafari was asked if this information shocked him. “Yes, it does a bit because we do know that under Islamic law of Iran, there was always this option of issuing death penalties for any conversions from Islam. So this was already available, but it looks like they just want to escalate persecution – making the death penalty almost automatic for anyone who converts from Islam,” Ghafari adds.

While Christians are the primary target, anyone converting to the Bahá’í faith will also face the death penalty. Ghafari sees trouble ahead, and is hopeful Christians everywhere will pray for the underground church in Iran.

Information on legislation provided by ICI about Iranian apostasy and the death penalty is available here.

Death Penalty for Internet ‘Crimes’

Iran’s parliament is set to debate a draft bill which could see the death penalty used for those deemed to promote corruption, prostitution and apostasy on the Internet, reports said on Wednesday.

MPs on Wednesday voted to discuss as a priority the draft bill which seeks to “toughen punishment for harming mental security in society,” the ISNA news agency said.

The text lists a wide range of crimes such rape and armed robbery for which the death penalty is already applicable. The crime of apostasy (the act of leaving a religion, in this case Islam) is also already punishable by death.

However, the draft bill also includes “establishing weblogs and sites promoting corruption, prostitution and apostasy”, which is a new addition to crimes punishable by death.

Those convicted of these crimes “should be punished as “mohareb’ (enemy of God) and “corrupt on the earth’,” the text says.

Under Iranian law the standard punishments for these two crimes are “hanging, amputation of the right hand and then the left foot as well as exile.”

The bill — which is yet to be debated by lawmakers — also stipulates that the punishment handed out in these cases “cannot be commuted, suspended or changed”.

Internet is widely used in Iran despite restrictions on access and the blocking of thousands of websites with a sexual content or deemed as insulting religious sanctities and promoting political dissent.

Blogging is also very popular among cyber-savvy young Iranians, some openly discussing their private lives or criticising the system.

Human rights groups have accused Iran of making excessive use of the death penalty but Teheran insists it is an effective deterrent that is carried out only after an exhaustive judicial process.

The number of executions soared last year to 317 amid a campaign which the authorities said was aimed at improving security in society, and was sharply up on 2006 figures when Amnesty International recorded 177 executions.

All legislation in Iran has to be rubber-stamped by a conservative clerical watchdog before it is written into law. The Guardians Council vets bills to see if they are in line with the constitution and Islamic law.