I’m waiting for the most well-connected Iranian I know personally to blog about the remarkable report — apparently unverified — that the Iranian Parliament is considering a law which would require non-Muslims — i.e. Jews and Christians — to wear a coloured label on their clothing. Until Hoder chimes in, (Hoder has, in fact chimed in with a great post), I have some back-and-forth between reporters and Sean McCormack, the spokesman for the U.S. State Department. Prime Minister Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke about this today during a scrum with reporters (a scrum, I might add, in which journalists decided who gets to ask the questions — but I digresss). The reports from Iran were also a subject of a inquiry at Question Period in the House of Commons today. And Antonia Zerbisias, the Toronto Star's media columnist has an extensive post on this, noting that the Iranian embassy in Ottawa denies this story. Zerbisias also puts together some theories on how this became fodder for official comment by the U.S. State Dept., the Prime Minister, and the House of Commons. First: here’s McCormack and an unknown reporter
QUESTION: On Iran, are you aware or is the Department aware of published reports stating that the Iranian parliament this week passed a measure that would require non-Muslims to wear badges that identify them as such?
MR. MCCORMACK: I have seen the news reports. These have, I think, recycled over time. There is — as I understand it, there is a — some law currently in the parliament, the exact nature of which is unclear, so I'm not going to try to delve into giving a definitive comment or a detailed comment about something about which I don't have all the facts.
That said, if you did have such an occurrence, whether it was in Iran or elsewhere, it would certainly be despicable.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up for a second on it?
MR. MCCORMACK: Go ahead.
QUESTION: You said that it's been something that, to your understanding, has been recycled over time. How long has the Department been following it or did you just become aware of these reports today for the first time?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I've seen various news — similar news reports and I can't give you the exact dates, you know months ago, and they seem to be coming up again, based on the progression of — well, I guess, for lack of a better term — law through the Iranian parliament. The exact nature of that law is a little bit unclear and the exact motivations behind that are a little unclear. So I can't offer, like I said, a detailed comment about it.
QUESTION: Two more questions, if I might. What is the — what kinds of means does the Department have at its disposal for verifying the passage of laws in the Iranian parliament?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, certainly we have access to open source material and we also talk frequently with other countries who have diplomatic representation in Iran.
QUESTION: And is there an effort underway right now to ascertain more about this?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: And why would it be despicable, if it were true?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think it has clear echoes, James, of Germany in the -– under Hitler, so I think that that's pretty clear. But again, you know, I don't want to delve too deeply into that because we don't have the facts.
And now to the House of Commons, were this issue also came up:
Hon. Karen Redman (Kitchener Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, Canadians were shocked and appalled to hear reports today that indicate Iran is about to pass a law requiring non-Muslims to wear coloured badges identifying their religious beliefs. Jews would have to sew yellow strips of cloth on the front of their clothes, while Christians would wear red badges. This kind of state-run bigotry is both disgusting and frightening to Canadians and all citizens of the world who believe in tolerance and religious freedom. What steps is the government taking to protest the actions of this rogue state?
Mr. Jason Kenney (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada is obviously deeply concerned about these reports. We have been unable at this point to independently verify the reports. Our officials are working diligently in Iran to establish independent verification of these deeply troubling reports. Should these reports turn out to be true, and we all hope they are not, this government will condemn, in the strongest terms possible, this kind of revisiting of the darkest period of the last century. If this turns out to be true, it is something that the entire civilized world must condemn.