Iranian Jews score Sharia successes

Operating within the limits of ‘sharia’ law on minorities, Jews in Iran have managed to get equal ‘blood money’ compensation – except in cases where a Jew murders a Muslim,  the penalty being execution, and not ‘blood money’. The community also seeks to tackle the ban on Jews in senior posts in the government and military and the issue of Muslims serving as heads of Jewish schools. The issue of Israel is still out-of-bounds. Larry Cohler- Esses reports for the Forward:

The community is vocal about the multiple forms of discrimination
under which its members live — but without questioning the legitimacy of
the regime or the system of Sharia, or Islamic law, by which it
governs.

Image: Larry Cohler-Esses

Their approach could be seen in what community leaders consider one
of their biggest recent victories: gaining equality in “blood money”
compensation. That’s the amount a person must pay to a family when he is
responsible for an accident that caused a family member’s death.

“We succeeded in getting blood money compensation equalized for minorities,”

Motamed said. “Before, there was a big difference between the money
for minorities and the main population…. It was a very big achievement.”

But the community’s approach did not involve any criticism of Sharia,
which rules on such matters. Instead, Motamed, recalled, “We consulted a
lot of ayatollahs and took testimony from high-ranking clerics to show
there must be equality” under Sharia.

Pleased as he was, Motamed noted that blood money compensation for
non-Muslims remains unequal in cases of murder — and that they are
continuing to push on this.

“Under Sharia… if a Muslim kills a Jew, there will be blood money
payment. But if a Jew kills a Muslim, the penalty is execution,” he
said. Here, too, “we’ve consulted with a lot of ayatollahs and gotten
letters. But it’s still not solved.”

Other unresolved issues the leaders cited involved access to
high-ranking posts in government ministries and the requirement that a
Muslim serve as principal at Jewish schools.

“We have five schools,” Najafabadi said, “and the principals in all
of them are Muslim. There’s no enmity. They’re very cooperative. But
it’s kind of insulting.”

Then there is inheritance law: Under Sharia in Iran, if one sibling
in a non-Muslim family converts to Islam, he inherits the entirety of
his parents’ assets. This, too, community leaders are pushing to change.

Shiraz Jewish compound.

Shiraz Jewish compound. (Photo: Larry Cohler-Esses)

On Israel, the community’s leadership must be more circumspect. But
it is no secret that many in the community have family there, or that a
significant number of Jews in Iran have visited Israel themselves. One
teenager in Shiraz told me how excited he had been to visit three years
ago.

“There are people traveling to Israel,” Najafabadi volunteered. But
since the Gaza War of last summer, the government had clamped down, he
said. Some who go are imprisoned, fined and interrogated. Two community
members had been sentenced to 91 days, though this was later reduced to
20 days. Travel to Israel “is declining now because of these problems,”
he said.

Moreh Sedgh even voiced concern for Israel, in his way — his way
being to criticize Israel’s policies as harmful for Israel’s own
interests.

Speaking about Israel’s policy of opposing Syria’s regime under
Bashar al-Assad, which Iran supports, Moreh Sedgh said, “The main enemy
of Israel today is Daesh” — a reference to the extremist Islamic State
fighting to oust Assad. “Of course, the Assad family are not the ideal
leaders for Syria,” he said. But he noted that if Assad is ousted, they
“must be ready for ISIS. What benefit for Israel would that be?”

Despite all these issues, those Iranian Jews who choose to stay can
live a very active Jewish religious and communal life. My second-to-last
night in Iran, I was invited to meet with the local leaders of the
Shiraz community in the large open-air compound that serves as their
community center. About the size of a football field, the compound is
surrounded by high walls that ensure the privacy of those who come.
Tables were spread out with ample food, and by 11 p.m., Jewish families
totaling some 50 or 60 individuals, including children, were dining and
moving around from table to table to catch up on the local gossip.

Read article in full 

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