Published: 00:00 GMT Daylight Time - Wednesday 23 April 2003
Christian Life Worth Only A Twelfth That of A Muslim#039;s
In mid-April 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 (Shari'a).
Under Shari'a diyeh is the price of a man's life valued in livestock. In accordance with Shari'a 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 Shari'a), which is each year set at a certain monetary value by the Judiciary, now at 180 million rials. However, under Shari'a, 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 (Iran's recognised religious minorities) equal to that of Muslim men, according to the BBC. The draft law therefore clearly contradicts traditional Shari'a and according to one Persian-language newspaper, Jomhouri-ye-Eslami, this is why the Guardian Council rejected the bill. (Under Iran's constitution all new legislation must be approved by the cleric-based conservative Guardian Council). The IRNA, Iran's official news agency, reports that the final decision as to whether the bill will be scrapped will be determined by the country's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.
Historically, under traditional Shari'a, 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 Shari'a. For many Christians it is a de facto reality of living in a Muslim country that they are thought of and treated as second-class citizens. In virtually ever Muslim majority context around the world Christians face social discrimination on a daily basis. They are faced with prejudice and social exclusion. Examples include discrimination in employment, under-representation in politics, difficulty in obtaining permission to build churches and exclusion from the top jobs in the civil service or security forces.
1. Pray that the Ayatollah will pass the Parliamentary bill and that Christian and Muslim men will have equal diyeh.
2. Pray for the safety and prosperity of Christians in Iran as they face daily discrimination.