Ilhan Omar is wrong, Iran is in no way like Israel

Iran’s Sharia laws are biased against Iranian religious minorities.

By Karmel Melamed


Two months ago, U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar inaccurately compared the state of Israel to the Islamic regime of Iran. “When I see Israel institute a law that recognizes it as a Jewish state and does not recognize the other religions that are living in it, and we still uphold it as a democracy in the Middle East, I almost chuckle, because I know that if we see that in any other society we would criticize it, we would call it out, we do that to Iran, we do that to any other place that sort of upholds its religion,” Omar said.  Yet, the new Nation-State Law in Israel that Omar was referring to only defines Israel as “the historical homeland of the Jewish people,” and the state’s “historical right to self-determination.” Sadly, Omar does not understand that Israel’s Nation-State Law does not change the status of any religious groups in Israel. Omar, who has never been to Israel, fails to recognize that while Israel not only offers all of its non-Jewish minority population equal rights and equal opportunities in that country, the Iranian regime’s radical Shiite laws have created an environment of discrimination and inequality for religious minorities living in Iran over the last 40 years. A closer examination of the Iranian regime’s laws pertaining to the country’s religious minorities is needed to expose Omar’s stupidity when it comes to Iranian jurisprudence, and to also expose the true evil nature of the Iranian regime when it comes to non-Shiites living in Iran.

Zoroastrian magus praying over the atar or Inner Sanctum – in front of the vase of the everlasting flame

Since 1979, the Iranian regime has been enforcing Shiite Islamic Sharia laws. As a result of these Sharia laws, non-Muslims can be subjected to mass punishment and exile, even in their own lands which have fallen under Islamic rule. Under the current Iranian regime’s constitution, non-Muslims are identified as different “nations,” even if they live within the boundaries of Iran. While the constitution does recognize some individuals as second or third-class residents, there are also many “unrecognized” minorities in the document, referring to non-Muslims who do not have any human, legal, or civil rights at all. According to these laws, non-Muslims are all “infidels” who are either the “tolerated infidels” with limited rights, or “enemy infidels” with no rights. Jews, traditional Christians such as Armenians, Chaldeans and Assyrians, as well as Zoroastrians, are considered as recognized minorities, or tolerated infidels. However, religious groups such as the Bahais’, Buddhists, Hindus, or atheists are unrecognized minorities, with no rights. Muslims who have converted to Christianity are considered apostates and face the threat of the death penalty if they are discovered to have left the Islamic faith by the Iranian regime. While one may argue that the Iranian regime affords a limited number of minorities such as Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians some protection under the law, this is inaccurate because Iranian judges are allowed to directly rule on the validity of any law in the country, based on the authoritarian edicts of major Shiite Mullahs, whenever the actual laws are deemed inadequate or “un-Islamic.” This means, in essence, that even recognized religious minorities have no rights at all, including the right to life, marriage, education, work or even burial in “Islamic land” if an Iranian judge or mullah randomly considers the law or situation to be “un-Islamic.”

Iranian Jews

Perhaps one of the most discriminatory aspects of the Iranian regime’s jurisprudence is its asinine constitution, as it pertains to the country’s religious minorities. Sadly, in the constitution, every time a certain right is expressly given to “Muslims,” in the context of civil and criminal law, it clearly means that those rights are being withheld from the country’s religious minorities. The following are just a few of the major discriminatory aspects of the Iranian regime’s constitution, as it concerns non-Muslims living in the country:

  • Article 1 describes the mentality of the Iranian nation as, “based on its age-old belief in the divine government and the justice of the Koran.” As many know, the Koran and Islamic law greatly limit, or altogether do not recognize, the rights of non-Muslims.
  • Article 4 mandates that all laws and regulations “should be based on Islamic tenets,” meaning that Sharia law is the supreme laws of the land, including the discriminatory laws pertaining to non-Muslims.
  • Article 12 declares the one official religion of the country is Shiite Islam – which the government has to protect and promote. This article in in fact a clear declaration of the inferiority of the followers of other religions, and that Muslims will receive preferential and superior treatment under the laws of the land.
  • Article 13 grants limited rights to three recognized minorities: Armenian and Assyrian Christians, Jews, and the Zoroastrians, but denies all rights to all other minorities, such as the Baha’is, Hindus, Buddhists, and non-believers. 
  • Article 14 is in fact a declaration of the conditional and temporary nature of the rights given in Article 13, and a threat against the “recognized” minorities in case they do anything “against Islam.” This could be any act, as frequently indicated in Islamic sources, including the prohibition of non-Islamic praying in public, sounding church bells etc. In addition, according to the regime’s minority laws, a non-Muslim cannot bring up his own children in such a way that, upon reaching adulthood, the child would not be open to accepting Islam.
  • Article 19 denies equal rights to non-Muslims, by excluding them from the list of those who do have equal rights. This article declares that all Iranians have equal rights, “regardless of language, race, color, ethnicity and tribe,” purposely excluding religion in a constitution whose fundamental focus is on the religion of Islam.
  • Article 20 also denies equal rights for non-Muslims by qualifying equality as conditional upon “Islamic principles,” which of course includes the laws pertaining to religious minorities.
  • Article 64 limits the number of members of Parliament for the recognized minorities to one each, even if their population increases in the future.
  • Article 68 demands non-Muslim members of Parliament take an oath to safeguard the religion of Islam, and not their own religion. 
  • Article 167 requires judges’ rulings to be based primarily on Islamic laws, regardless of the letter of the law, which might present loopholes that could be considered un-Islamic. This article clearly places the “authoritative Islamic sources of credible edicts,” or “fatwas,” above other laws. This therefore permits the Iranian regime’s judges or officials to use fatwas created by fanatical, hate filled mullahs, such as Khomeini, as precedent over other contradictory laws. Finally, this article confirms that even if there are certain concessions given to non-Muslims in other sections of the law, judges are allowed and even encouraged to ignore them.
  • Article 170 grants the full right to judges, and the regime’s authorities, to refuse to implement government regulations which they deem to be un-Islamic. This always includes civil or criminal cases pertaining to religious minorities, which provides the regime’s leadership the easiest way to defeat a ruling or judgment that may otherwise come out in favor of a non-Muslim.



Aside from Iran’s constitutional bias and discrimination against non-Muslims, the regime’s criminal and civil codes are also clearly against non-Muslims. The following are just a few examples:

  • In many criminal cases, the punishment for the same crime differs, depending on the religion of the offender or the victim. In all these cases, the Muslim offender or victim is given an advantage over non-Muslims in Iran. According to the Iranian criminal code, the murder of a non-Muslim is not punished according to “retribution laws,” and only carries a financial penalty, unless under the limited circumstances of if the Muslim criminal is a habitual murderer, then his punishment may be made more severe if a judge deems his actions to be harmful to the image of Islam. If the victim of the murder is not a member of a “recognized minority” such as Jews, Christians or Zoroastrians, then the murderer of such a person is not charged with any crime whatsoever. This is the case with the murderers of people from the Bahai faith, who are either never arrested, or are set free after perpetrating the killing of a Bahai.
  • According to Iranian criminal law, the official penalty for leaving Islam and converting to a different religion – even a recognized religion – is death. For the last 40 years, the regime has executed or assassinated Iranian “apostates,” but due to the negative publicity generated outside the country because of such actions, the Iranian regime has in some instances refrained from executing apostates, but still imprisons, tortures, and condemns them to death. In some rare instances, the regime’s authorities have freed apostates condemned to death after such individuals sought repentance after a long imprisonment.
  • According to Iranian criminal law, the penalty for adultery and homosexual sex can be death, if the individual the sex act is being performed on is a Muslim. Yet, if the perpetrator of the sex crime is a Muslim, and the person having the sex act performed on them is from a recognized minority, then the penalty for both is multiple lashes.
  • According to Iranian criminal law, the marriage between a non-Muslim man and a Muslim woman is considered adultery. Likewise, the children produced from such a marriage are considered illegitimate in the eyes of the Iranian regime, and such individuals have no rights, including the right to receive an education. However, if a Muslim man marries a non-Muslim woman, there is no penalty for either party, as Muslim men are encouraged to marry outside of their faith in order to produce more Muslim children.
  • Under criminal and civil law in Iran, Non-Muslims do not have the right to testify against Muslims in court, because one of the conditions for testimony is “righteousness,” which cannot be an attribute of non-Muslims.
  • According to Iranian civil probate law, a non-Muslim who has converted to Islam can claim the entire inheritance of his non-Muslim family members, to the exclusion of the rightful non-Muslim heirs, because the Iranian regime is seeking to promote new conversions to Islam.
  • According to Iranian civil law, recognized non-Muslim minorities in Iran, such as Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians, are not allowed to have jobs in the government that place them in a superior position over Muslims.
  • Iranian civil law indicates that Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians do not have the right to build new houses of worship, and must obtain special permission to repair their existing ones from the Iranian authorities. Likewise, Sunni Muslims, who are Muslims but a minority in Iran, are not permitted to have mosques outside of the remote provinces where their numbers are larger than the local Shiites.
  • According to Iranian criminal law, Muslims are prohibited from entering minority venues. To enforce such laws, the Iranian regime’s Intelligence Ministry agents regularly check the participants of church services in Iran against their lists of regular members.
  • According to Iranian criminal law, non-Muslim prayer books and language instruction materials must be strictly controlled by the Intelligence Ministry, to make sure nothing is said or taught that could be offensive to the Islamic regime, or their beliefs. Likewise, Jews in Iran are prohibited from teaching their children the Hebrew language, even if it is only for religious educational purposes, because the Hebrew language is deemed by the Iranian regime to be the evil language of the Zionist entity.
  • Iranian civil codes identify the “blood value,” or the value of life and limb, very differently between Muslims and non-Muslims when it comes to compensation for the loss of life or limb. Officially, Iran’s Sharia laws, and the various fatwas issued by Khomeini and other mullahs, have determined the value of the life of a recognized religious minority follower at 1/8 or 1/12 the value of the life of a Muslim. However, in some instances, Iranian courts and officials have been “more generous,” and set the value of a recognized religious minority follower’s life at one half that of a Muslim. Iranian laws deem non-recognized minorities, such as Baha’is, Hindus, Buddhists, or atheists as having no life value, and if they are killed, the victim’s family will receive zero compensation.
  • The Iranian regime’s criminal laws pertaining to “religious impurity” of non-Muslims are in accordance with Sharia law, enforced by the regime, and taught in schools. Such laws declare non-Muslims as “filthy” – physically – and prohibit Muslims from physical contact with them. Even though the average Iranian Muslims are increasingly disregarding these laws, minority owned food establishments, laundromats, and public venues have at times been forced to have signs outside their businesses warning the “clean Muslims” about the “filthy” minority owners. Likewise, in some Iranian schools, the regime’s authorities have required segregated classroom seating for non-Muslims because of their “religious impurity.”

When one compares all of these very clearly biased laws against religious minorities in Iran to the vast freedoms and equal rights religious minorities enjoy in Israel, it is clear that Israel and Iran are very different places. Aside from the right to vote, non-Jews in Israel have multiple representatives in the Israeli Parliament, and have equal protection under the laws of the land. These groups include Aramean Christians, Arab Christians, Druze, Armenian Christians, Arab Muslims, Bahais, Bedouins, Christians from other parts of world living in Israel, and other groups. Non-Jews in Israel enjoy equal opportunities in business, education, health care, access to technology, and even high-ranking positions in local and national government. Non-Jews in Israel have not only served in the highest ranks of the Israeli military, police forces, and intelligence services, but have also served in Israel’s Supreme Court, as well as other judicial positions in lower courts. More importantly, Israel’s democracy has an independent judiciary, which allows minority groups access to the country’s courts– and even convicted murderous Palestinian terrorists have the ability to petition Israeli courts for a redress of their grievances. If such a system of government in Israel, which protects minority rights so fervently and offers them equal protection under the law, is not a true and free democracy, then I am not sure what else one would call a democracy. Israel is by no means a perfect society, nor a perfect democracy, as it does have it flaws. However, I challenge any person on this planet to show me a state that is a perfect democracy. Likewise, any normal human being with even half a brain who is exposed to the countless biased laws of the radical Islamic regime in Iran would very easily determine that the Iranian regime is nothing more than a totalitarian, repressive, and very violent regime, not only towards its religious minorities, but even to its own Muslim majority citizenry. Representative Omar’s foolish comments comparing Iran to Israel either reflect her sheer incompetence when it comes to foreign policy, or a raging anti-Semitic hatred that has blinded her from seeing the true reality that Israel is the only true democracy and free society in the Middle East.

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