Israeli politicians are sounding some very dire notes, but as far as I know, no one’s independently confirmed this morning’s story in the National Post yet. Neither Stephen Harper nor John Howard had heard anything about it until today. And a friend of mine with contacts in Iran says he can’t find anyone who thinks it’s true. Liberal Catnip links to a report from Montreal radio quoting one expert as saying it’s false.
On the other hand, Amir Taheri’s story in the Post this morning (which accompanied the main article that everyone’s linking to) is awfully detailed to have been made up out of whole cloth. Taheri is a credible reporter, and he has oodles of contacts in Iran, so it’s hard for me to believe he could have been suckered here. There’s certainly no dispute that the Majlis did pass a law this week mandating a national Islamic dress code (which is bad enough); the question is whether that law carries any special requirements for non-Muslims.
I’ll update once I hear more.
Update: Ace puts it nicely:
[I]t may just be a case of the telephone game, or understandably pissed-off Iranian exiles attempting a little propaganda against a regime that, in a better world, would need no propagadizing against. (In a perfect world, of course, it simply wouldn’t exist.)
Update: Could it be that the Post’s sources were guessing what’s likely to happen under the new dress code (based on their knowledge of Iranian history) rather than stating what the statute explicitly provides? From an online history of Jews in Persia:
The battle of Nehavend in 642 A.D. and the defeat of the Sassanid by Arab-Muslims ended the independence of Persia after nearly 12 centuries and it became a part of the Arab-Islamic entity. The Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs of Damascus and Baghdad controlled Persia. Arabic words infiltrated the Persian language, and Islam replaced Zorastrianism as the state religion.
These changes had a profound impact on the many religious minorities within Persia. Through a covenant of Omar (a Sunni Muslim leader), non-Muslims were deprived of social and political equality, and became, in effect, second-class citizens. Jews were made to wear a yellow ribbon on their arms and Christians a blue ribbon to distinguish them from Muslims.
Professor Amnon Netzer of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem told RFE/RL that the yellow patch as a distinctive mark for Iranian Jews reappeared a number of times through Iranian history, most recently at the beginning of the 20th century.
Maybe the Iranian expatriates figure that yellow ribbons are the logical, inevitable next step of an Islamic dress code, and Chris Wattie, the NaPo reporter, misunderstood and thought they were saying the Majlis had already mandated them.
But would Taheri have misunderstood? Read his piece again. He sounds pretty darned certain.
Update: The Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations has issued a statement expressing concern — but they can’t confirm the story either.
Update: The Simon Wiesenthal Center has written a letter to Kofi Annan demanding that the United Nations investigate. Man, if this is a screw-up by the National Post, it’s an awfully big one.
Update: Well, well. We can confirm at least one Islamist proponent of yellow badges for religious minorities. You don’t have to go far to find him. Unfortunately.
Update: The New York Sun has been digging. Turns out even the State Department hasn’t been able to confirm the story yet. Here’s the Sun’s money graf:
On Friday, the Jewish Community’s representative in Iran’s parliament, known as the Majlis, Morris Mohtemed spoke with the secretary general of the Iranian American Jewish Federation in Los Angeles, Sam Kermanian, and told him the story reported by the National Post in Canada today was false. “We have not been able to confirm the accuracy of the report, nonetheless we are pursuing this issue with concern,” Mr. Kermanian said in an interview with The New York Sun.
Update: CBS is holding off for now:
CBSNews.com has not mentioned it. “It’s potentially an explosive story but we won’t touch it until we have some sort of concrete confirmation, and we haven’t come close to that,” says Dan Collins, senior producer for CBSNews.com.
CBS News Radio has also decided against running the story, according to Exective Producer Charlie Kaye. “There are too many red flags here,” he says. “The best we can determine is this has originated with Iranian dissidents in Canada. We have spoken to a CBS News correspondent just back from Iran and her producer, we’ve spoken to the Iranian mission to the UN, we’ve spoken to our State Department Reporter Charlie Wolfson, and at this point we’re not comfortable putting it on the radio.”
Update: Reader Muslihoon points me to Debka, which says it’s obtained a copy of the Iranian statute and that it contains no special provisions regarding minorities — yet.
Update: The National Post has a new article up by Chris Wattie retreating from the original report. Wattie appears to point the finger at Taheri — even though it was his own byline that ran on the story everyone linked to.
So what happened?
The Simon Wiesenthal Centre and Iranian expatriates living in Canada had confirmed that the order had been passed, although it still had to be approved by Iran’s “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenehi before being put into effect…
Ali Reza Nourizadeh, an Iranian commentator on political affairs in London, suggested that the requirements for badges or insignia for religious minorities was part of a “secondary motion” introduced in parliament, addressing the changes specific to the attire of people of various religious backgrounds.
Mr. Nourizadeh said that motion was very minor and was far from being passed into law.
That account could not be confirmed.
Captain Ed notes that the original story has been removed from Canada.com. The Australian says Iran’s only Jewish MP, Morris Motammed (who was also quoted in the NY Sun’s article), denies the story emphatically.
Update: A bad day for journalists all the way around.
Update: I was hoping lefties would stick to gloating about the story being wrong and not use it as an opportunity to minimize Ahmadinejad’s other Nazi-esque inclinations. But that was naive of me, wasn’t it?
Andrew Bostom has a lengthy but valuable piece in the American Thinker today demonstrating why, tragically, this story was only too credible. Read the whole thing, as the man says.
Update: Good lord. The New York Post ran Taheri’s discredited piece in today’s edition.
Update: The AP has excerpts from the Iranian statute.
Update: I’ve already seen one lefty blog today claim that right-wingers aren’t correcting the record on this story. No? Here’s what the top of Memeorandum looked like in the wee hours this morning:
And here’s what the top of the page at BlogsNow looked like as of 5:50 p.m. this afternoon:
The National Post’s retraction is number two. This post is right below it at number four. So much for the cover-up.