Second class status for Christians maintained in Iran
The conservative Guardian Council of Iran once again rejected a parliamentary bill on equal diyeh, or blood-price, for non-Muslim Iranian nationals.
This effectively affirms that the life of a Muslim is worth more than that of a Christian or other non-Muslim in accordance with Islamic law (Shariíah).
Under Shariíah, diyeh is the price of a manís life valued in livestock. In accordance with Shariíah the family and relatives of a murder victim in Iran can choose to claim diyeh from the murderer, or pardon them, instead of allowing the execution to go ahead.
In the case of homicide the diyeh for an adult Muslim man in Iran is valued at 100 camels or 200 cows or 1000 sheep (in accordance with Shariíah), which is each year set at a certain monetary value by the Judiciary, now at 180 million rials.
However, under Shariíah, the compensation for a non-Muslim man is usually set at a fraction of this value and for a Muslim woman compensation is similarly set at half that of a Muslim man. In Iran a non-Muslim man is worth only one-twelfth of that paid for a Muslim man.
In September 2002 an Iranian court set a significant new precedent when it granted the family of a murdered Christian the same compensation as that of a Muslim.
In January 2003 the reformist Iranian Parliament submitted a bill that makes the diyeh value on the lives of Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians (Iranís recognised religious minorities) equal to that of Muslim men, according to the BBC.
The draft law therefore clearly contradicts traditional Shariíah and according to one Persian-language newspaper, Jomhouri-ye-Eslami, this is why the Guardian Council rejected the bill. (Under Iranís constitution all new legislation must be approved by the cleric-based conservative Guardian Council).
The IRNA, Iranís official news agency, reports that the final decision as to whether the bill will be scrapped will be determined by the countryís Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.
Historically, under traditional Shariíah, Christians, Jews, Sabeans and Zoroastrians in Islamic societies were regarded as dhimmis, or protected peoples.
Whilst better treated than religious minorities in Europe during the same period, this status nevertheless meant that dhimmis were marked out as second-class citizens.
Many discriminatory laws, such as the different diyah value for Muslim and non-Muslim, affirmed this second-class status in everyday life. Dhimmis had to pay a special and humiliating tax to their Muslim overlords called the jizya and could hold no position of authority in an Islamic state.
Today the concept of dhimmi is an historical phenomenon and does not exist as an official legal status in any Muslim state, yet much the same discrimination faces Christians today as it did centuries ago, especially in countries like Iran that have reimposed Shariíah.