Iran Rejects US Claims over Minorities

A05165294.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- President Ahmadinejad says Iran is a great family and nation and that religious minorities are inseparable constituents of the country.

“The schismatic remarks of enemies will not affect relations within the great Iranian family,” press tv quoted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying in a meeting with several representatives of religious minorities to the Parliament on Thursday.

President Ahmadinejad’s comment came after the US State Department’s Annual Report on Religious Freedom singled out China, Myanmar, North Korea, Iran, Sudan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan to “blacklist” because they are “countries of particular concern” when it comes to religious oppression.

But after the release of the report in September, Iranian religious minority groups in separate statements rejected the report, calling it a politically motivated move.

There are several important religious minorities in Iran, while the state religion is Shiite Islam. About 88 percent of Iranians are Shiite Muslim, 8 percent are Sunni Muslim, and the rest are Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians who are known as “People of the Book.”

“All of us are Iranian and we have a moral relationship,” the President said.

Iran’s non-Muslim religious minorities say they are not mistreated despite US accusations.

According to The Washington Post, in March, the decades-old US-funded program to help Christians, Zoroastrians and Jews leave their country for America has not been successful. Alleging ‘persecution’ of religious minorities in Iran, US-backed groups help them move to the US for a fee of $3,000.

“They give all those green cards to our people. Their only goal is to propagate the idea that Iran is mistreating its minorities,” Yonathan Betkolia, an Assyrian Christian member of Iran’s parliament, said.

Betkolia further said that he and his co-religionists enjoyed freedom in Iran and were allowed to lead their lives in accordance with their religious teachings and traditions, without any government-imposed restriction.

Home to the largest Jewish population in the Middle East after Occupied Palestine, Iran has demonstrated itself to be a country adamantly opposed to anti-Semitism.

The Constitution of the Islamic Republic treats Jews as equal to Muslims, Zoroastrians and Christians. They enjoy the right of self-administration and the election of their own representative to the 290-seat Parliament.

Jews living in the country take pride in their Iranian heritage and have refused to depart for occupied Palestine despite being offered $10,000 per person by a Zionist organization, the press tv report said.

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) received the cold shoulder from Iranian Jewish leaders in a 2007 statement. “Iranian Jews will not abandon their identity for any amount of money… We love our Iranian identity and culture, so threats and enticements can not persuade Iranian Jews to give up their identity.”

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