WASHINGTON (BP)–Iran’s official Fars news agency reports that the Iranian Foreign Ministry “strongly condemned the recent insult to the Muslims’ holy book in the US state of Florida, and warned that Washington attempts to spread Islamophobia in the world.” Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast condemned the “abhorrent” crime as “contributing to US hegemonic plots, which seek to create a rift between divine religions.”
The event in question occurred Sunday, March 20, when preacher Wayne Sapp set fire to a copy of the Quran in Florida. Sapp is a member of the Dove World Outreach Center, headed by pastor Terry Jones who famously threatened to burn a Quran last Sept. 11 and achieved short-lived fame.
Iran, however, recently suspended Hohabet News, one of the best sites for information on Iranian Christians, after it reported that the Iranian government itself had seized and burned 600 New Testaments in Salmas.
What’s the Farsi word for chutzpah?
Iran’s own Bible-burnings are only one part of its ongoing repression of Christians, Baha’is, Sufis and others. Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports that five Iranian Christians recently sentenced in Shiraz to one year’s imprisonment for “crimes against the Islamic Order” will be tried for blasphemy in April.
However, there is also good news. Iran’s actions have been so egregious that even the U.N. Human Rights Council voted March 24 to appoint a special rapporteur “on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran.” The 22-7 vote, with 14 abstentions, ended a nine-year hiatus in scrutinizing the country.
It is also good news that, unlike the outrage and media and political circus surrounding Terry Jones’ proposed Quran burning last September, preacher Sapp’s shenanigans received almost no coverage within the U.S.
Hopefully, this is a sign that we have realized that, in a free country, free people say and do many bad things, including things that others may regard as blasphemous or insulting. Our best response is to belittle or ignore them, and to tell foreign countries to do likewise.
Paul Marshall is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom in Washington, on the Web at http://crf.hudson.org. Used by permission.