Iran’s Non-Muslims to Wear Identifying Badges

Iran’s parliament has passed a law that will require all citizens to wear what amounts to an Islamic uniform, with non-Muslims distinguished by different colored cloth strips.

Human rights groups are raising alarms over a new law passed by the Iranian parliament that would require the country’s Jews and Christians to wear coloured badges to identify them and other religious minorities as non-Muslims. “This is reminiscent of the Holocaust,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. “Iran is moving closer and closer to the ideology of the Nazis.”

Iranian expatriates living in Canada yesterday confirmed reports that the Iranian parliament, called the Islamic Majlis, passed a law this week setting a dress code for all Iranians, requiring them to wear almost identical “standard Islamic garments.” The law, which must still be approved by Iran’s “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenehi before being put into effect, also establishes special insignia to be worn by non-Muslims. Iran’s roughly 25,000 Jews would have to sew a yellow strip of cloth on the front of their clothes, while Christians would wear red badges and Zoroastrians would be forced to wear blue cloth.

“There’s no reason to believe they won’t pass this,” said Rabbi Hier. “It will certainly pass unless there’s some sort of international outcry over this.” Bernie Farber, the chief executive of the Canadian Jewish Congress, said he was “stunned” by the measure. “We thought this had gone the way of the dodo bird, but clearly in Iran everything old and bad is new again,” he said. “It’s state-sponsored religious discrimination.”

While images of the Holocaust are the most obvious cultural precedent, perhaps they got the idea from Star Trek, where command officers, engineers, and scientists all wear different colors. After all, as Bruce McQuain notes, Iran’s president doesn’t believe the Holocaust ever happened, so how could that be the inspiration?

At any rate, a Montreal AM station (via Daled Amos) is reporting that this story might be false.

[I]ndependent reporter Meir Javedanfar, an Israeli Middle East expert who was born and raised in Tehran, says the report is false. “It’s absolutely factually incorrect,” he told The New 940 Montreal. “Nowhere in the law is there any talk of Jews and Christians having to wear different colours. I’ve checked it with sources both inside Iran and outside.” “The Iranian people would never stand for it. The Iranian government wouldn’t be stupid enough to do it.” Political commentator and 940 Montreal host Beryl Waysman says the report is true, that the law was passed two years ago.

No word yet on whether they are considering making Persian an official language or whether non-Muslims will be denied pension benefits.

Update: Apropos Rodney Dill‘s comment, one wonders if it’s not the Christians, rather than the Jews, who need to worry given that they guys in the red shirts were the ones invariably killed in Star Trek landing parties. Of course, that was only true on the original series. For some reason, red and yellow/gold swapped places for Next Generation onward.

Elsewhere, Bill Nienhuis has a photo montage that, on a somewhat lighter topic, he might have entitled “We don’t need no stinkin’ badges.”

AllahPundit is tracking down the story and finds no independent corroboration. Indeed, the only thing leading it any credence at all is a companion piece by Amir Taheri, who most of us hold in high regard. He contends,

The new law, drafted during the presidency of Muhammad Khatami in 2004, had been blocked within the Majlis. That blockage, however, has been removed under pressure from Khatami’s successor, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The new law replaces the one passed in 1982 dealing with women’s clothes. That law imposed the hijab and focused on the need to force women to cover their hair in public. The emphasis on the hijab was based on the belief that women’s hair emanates an “evil ray” that drives men “into lustful irrationality” and thus causes harm to Islam. The new law cannot come into effect until consensus is reached on what constitutes “authentic Islamic attire.”

Of course, the idea that religious traditions requiring women to dress modestly is based on “evil ray” theories doesn’t do much to enhance Taheri’s reportage.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Rodney Dill says:

    perhaps they got the idea from Star Trek,

    Meaning the ones in the Red Tunics are the expendable ones that will be bumped off in each episode?

  2. James Joyner says:

    Rodney: Exactly!

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    IIRC the same scheme repeatedly appears in The Arabian Nights as a means of identifying Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians so it must be an ancient method, possibly Qu’ranic. Perhaps John Burgess or one of the more knowledgeable can weigh in.

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    I was nearly right. Here’s a snippet from R. F. Burton’s translation of “The Tale of the Fisherman and the Jinni” from The Thousand Nights and a Night:

    “The Fisherman looked into the water and was much astonished to see therein vari-coloured fishes, white and red, blue and yellow…

    It is later revealed that the fish are ensorcelled people: the white fish Muslims, the others Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians.

    …and the citizens, who were of four different faiths, Moslem, Nazarene, Jew and Magian, she transformed by her enchantments into fishes; the Moslems are the white, the Magians red, the Christians blue, and the Jews yellow.

    In the footnote Burton observes:

    Lane finds a date for the book in this passage. The Soldan of Egypt, Mohammed ibn Kala’un, in the early eight century (Hijrah = our fourteenth), issued a sumptuary law compelling Christians and Jews to wear indigo-blue and saffron-yellow turbans, the white being reserved for Muslims. But the custom was much older and Mandeville describes it in A.D. 1322 when it had become the rule. And it still endures; although abolished in the cities it is the rule for Christians, at least the the country parts of Egypt and Syria.

  5. Stevely says:

    Interesting that the Muslims picked yellow for the Jews; in the Middle Ages this practice was prevalent in much of western Europe, and there the Jews had to wear some yellow article of clothing, usually a pointy hat, or sometimes a yellow ring.

  6. legion says:

    So even the people reporting this law are saying it passed two years ago, but is only just now causing an uproar – you’d think the Israelis would’ve said something before now, eh? Something smells fishy…

  7. Herb says:

    Just like the late 30,s when the Nazis made the Jews wear an armband and we all have seen the results of that regime.

    When, if ever, will the world wake up and recognize the threat this gangster regime presents to the entire World. Do, or are, we going to take a wait and see attitude like everyone did pre WW11 or is the World going to sit on their asses and negotiate like Chamberlain did or are we going to take them out before we see WW111.

    The pacifists and the anti war marchers and the rest of the kooks would rather see another 100 plus million people die while they sit on their CS asses and let someone else “Protect” their good for nothing sorry rear ends.

    The Entire World never learns a damn thing from history.

  8. John Burgess says:

    The color designations are certainly not Quranic, but the are prevalent throught Islam, apparently. The Ottomans also instituted a “color coding” of subject races at a few points during their history. Theirs was a bit more granular, including different colors for “castes” within the Ottoman regime as well as different groups like Armenians. The color-coding was defunct by around the middle of the 19th C, in its last incarnation.

    BTW, Taheri is only reporting on the “evil ray” phenomenon, which is actually quite widespread. I don’t think for a moment that he believes it.

  9. Dave Schuler says:

    Thank you, John. As you can see Burton said that it was only practiced in the rural areas in his time.

  10. Adem says:

    no where in the Quran does it say Muslims need to color code other religions but what the Quran does say is Jews and Christians are people of the book meaning we believe in Christ and we believe in Moses (pbuh) we keep the commandments. but seriously you guy need to come down to earth and stop smoking the chronic. I’m a Muslim my roommate is a Jew (if that means any anything). we love Jesus(pbuh) but you guys make our prophet into a terrorist cartoon. we believe every nation received a prophet but you guys make fun of every faith out there. on TV hell is a constant party and heaven is boring whats wrong with that picture?

    i don’t understand what the Arabian nights have to do with the Quran.

    as far as the “evil rays” emanating from the hair of hot girls, i wonder what girls that have been rape and/or murdered would say about them evil “evil rays” just because the evil rays don’t affect a normally developed adult who’s parents didn’t try any and every drug out there, but there is always a but and there is always someone who will be an idiot and think no really means yes if you know what i mean.

    I’ll close with “let the one with no sin cast the first stone” involving anything going on in the media and the world
    oh and p.s. no Muslim country in the past has had as many wars as you guys have had and are having and no Muslim country ever dropped the A-bomb on anyone but i know who has.

    yes what ever lets you sleep easy at night.

    peace out y’all

  11. G A Phillips says:

    Adem, why do you clam to be a Muslim, you don’t sound like one to me, if you did you would sound like this”let him who is without sin chop off the first head”. Your prophet is a self proclaimed terrorist, it is the way he commands you to spread your so called faith, so if your gonna be a Muslim be one, you know you can’t be a Muslim or a Jew and truly love the son of God.

  12. Ratoe says:

    James, This story is a crock. You need to update this post. Jewish Iranian MP Maurice Motammed, says that the report is erroneous.

    Steven Harper’s Conservative government even isn’t buying it.,20867,19196947-1702,00.html

  13. Tor says:
  14. Tor says:

    Oh … I forget to note that Amir Taheri is as credible as (or should I say, more accurately, as clueless as) his buddy Michael Ledeen. They both act as paid pundits to produce nonsense and lies about Iran.

    Again, for the perspective of an Iranian Jewish leader and the Iranian MP behind the proposed bill, see: