Blasphemy law in Iran

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Iran is a constitutional, Islamic theocracy. Its official religion is the doctrine of the Twelver Jaafari School.[1] Iran's law against blasphemy derives from Sharia. Blasphemers are usually charged with "spreading corruption on earth", or mofsed-e-filarz, which can also be applied to criminal or political crimes. The law against blasphemy complements laws against criticizing the Islamic regime, insulting Islam, and publishing materials that deviate from Islamic standards.[1] The regime uses these laws to persecute religious minorities such as the Sunni, Bahai, Sufi, and Christians and to persecute dissidents and journalists. Persecuted individuals are subject to surveillance by the "religious police," harassment, prolonged detention, mistreatment, torture, and execution.[1][2][3] The courts have acquitted vigilantes who killed in the belief that their victims were engaged in un-Islamic activities.[4][5]

Selected cases[edit]

On 24 September 2014, a former psychologist Mohsen Amir Aslani was hanged in a prison near the city of Karaj west of Tehran, for “corruption on earth and heresy in religion,” including insulting the Prophet Jonah.[6]

On 9 June 2009, the singer Mohsen Namjoo was sentenced in absentia to a five-year jail term for ridiculing the Quran in a song. In 2008, Namjoo had apologized for the song, which he claimed was never meant for public release.[7]

In March 2009, Iranian blogger Omid Mirsayafi died in prison while serving a 30-month sentence for propaganda against the state and criticism of religious leaders. The authorities said Mirsayafi committed suicide.[1]

In February 2009, the Iranian government launched a campaign against Mohammad Mojtehed Shabestari, a Shia Muslim cleric, for blasphemy. Shabestari's blasphemy was to say in a speech: “If in a society the three concepts of God, power, and authority are mixed up, a political-religious despotism will find strong roots. ... and the people will suffer greatly.”[8]

In May 2007, authorities arrested eight students at Tehran's Amir Kabir University. The students were associated with a newspaper which had published articles suggesting that no humans were infallible, including Prophet Muhammad.[9]

In October 2006, Ayatollah Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi, a senior Shia cleric who advocates the separation of religion and state, and a number of his followers were arrested and imprisoned after clashes with riot police. He and seventeen of his followers were initially sentenced to death, but the death sentences were later withdrawn. In August 2007, he was sentenced to one year in prison in Tehran followed by another ten years in prison in another part of the country.[1]

In 2002, Hashem Aghajari, a member of the Shia majority, a history professor, and a veteran who lost a leg in 1980-88 war against Iraq, gave a speech in which he called for political reforms. The authorities arrested Aghajari, charged him with blasphemy, and jailed him. A court convicted Aghajari, and made death the penalty. In June 2004, the Supreme Court substituted a charge of "insulting religious values" for the blasphemy charge, and imposed a jail term of three years among other penalties. Aghajari was released on bail on 31 July 2004. [10] [11]

In 1999, Iran put on trial for “insulting the Prophet, his descendants, and the Ayatollah Khomeini,” and for other charges, Abdollah Nouri, the former Minister of the Interior in the Rafsanjani and Khatami cabinets. In 1999, Nouri was the publisher of a daily newspaper that discussed the limits on the Supreme Leader's powers, the rights of unorthodox clerics and groups to air their views, the right of women to divorce, and whether laughing and clapping were un-Islamic. On 27 November 1999, the Special Court for the Clergy found Nouri guilty, and sentenced him to five years' imprisonment and a fine. Nouri was released on 5 November 2002.[12][13]

In 1988, in the United Kingdom, Salman Rushdie published The Satanic Verses, a novel. Muslims in the United Kingdom accused Rushdie of blasphemy. Some Muslims called upon the Crown to prosecute Rushdie but it did not. On 14 February 1989, the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran issued a fatwa which called for Muslims to kill Rushdie and all publishers of The Satanic Verses. In 1991, Hitoshi Igarashi, the novel's Japanese translator was stabbed to death. Shortly afterward, the Italian translator was stabbed but survived. In 1993, the Norwegian publisher of the book was injured in a gun attack.[14]

Aseman newspaper[edit]

Dr Bavand described eye-for-eye punishment, an Islamic law, as inhumane in an interview with Aseman newspaper.

Aseman (Sky), a reformist newspaper was shut after just one week of publication. The closure was done after a professor, Davoud Hermidas-Bavand, described eye-for-an-eye punishment as "inhumane."[15] Aseman was aligned with the country’s new president Hassan Rouhani. Former reformist president, Mohammad Khatami, had endorsed the paper in a letter published in its first edition, saying, “Whenever the space for life tightens; whenever the land dries up and is deprived of water,” people “lift their eyes to the sky to keep hope alive.”[16]

According to Prosecutor's office, "The newspaper was banned for spreading lies and insulting Islam."[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Annual Report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom May 2009" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 May 2009. Retrieved 6 July 2009.
  2. ^ "Iran". Amnesty International. 2009. Archived from the original on 26 August 2011. Retrieved 7 July 2009.
  3. ^ Vann, Carole (11 June 2008). "Shirin Ebadi chides Switzerland over Iran". Human Rights Tribune. Archived from the original on 16 November 2008. Retrieved 9 July 2009.
  4. ^ Harrison, Frances (15 April 2007). "Group cleared over Iran murders". BBC News. Retrieved 10 July 2009.
  5. ^ Fathi, Nazila (19 April 2007). "Iran Exonerates Six Who Killed in Islam's Name". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 July 2009.
  6. ^ "Iranian man executed for heresy: rights group". Reuters. 30 September 2014. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  7. ^ "Iran: Singer Sentenced for Ridiculing the Koran". Becket Fund. 20 July 2009. Retrieved 25 July 2009.
  8. ^ Djavadi, Abbas (28 February 2009). "In Today's Iran, Anything Else Is "Blasphemy"". Iran & Beyond. Archived from the original on March 13, 2009. Retrieved 7 July 2009.
  9. ^ MacFarquhar, Neil (24 June 2007). "Iran Cracks Down on Dissent". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 July 2009.
  10. ^ Fathi, Nazila (29 June 2004). "Iran Drops Death Penalty for Professor Guilty of Blasphemy". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 July 2009.
  11. ^ "Iran Frees Professor Set to Die for Speech". The New York Times. 1 August 2004. Retrieved 11 July 2009.
  12. ^ Shea, Nina (26 January 2009). ""Insulting Islam": One Way Street in the Wrong Direction". Hudson Institute. Archived from the original on 14 June 2009. Retrieved 16 July 2009.
  13. ^ "Iran: Abdollah Nouri's release welcomed, but all prisoners of conscience must also be released". Amnesty International. n.d. Retrieved 26 July 2009.[dead link]
  14. ^ "Blasphemy Salman Rushdie". Constitutional Rights Foundation. 2009. Archived from the original on August 18, 2009. Retrieved 10 July 2009.
  15. ^ Iran shuts reformist paper over comments on law Reuters
  16. ^ Iran’s Judiciary Closes a New Pro-Government Newspaper NY Times
  17. ^ Iran shuts reformist paper over comments on law UK Reuters

External links[edit]