As Iran prepares to execute Christian converts, thank God for David Miliband
It is well known that Iran believes itself to be a role model for the world – the ideal Islamic state - but it seems to be more reminiscent of Hell than any earthly kingdom of God, and is led by the increasingly mad Ahmadinejad who is intent on returning Iran to a level of barbarism forbidden even by its own constitution.
Rashin Soodmand is an Iranian woman living in Britain, whose father was the last man hanged in Iran for converting to Christianity. Now she expects her brother, Ramtin, to be the first to be hanged under the proposed ‘Islamic Penal Code’ which will demand the death penalty for any male Iranian who leaves his Islamic faith, while women would get life imprisonment.
The freedom to change one’s religion is one of the most fundamental of ‘human rights’, but in a nation which refutes any such post-Enlightenment notion, it is a pointless debate and a fruitless dialogue. The right to freedom of religion may be enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, or in the European Convention of Human Rights, or even enshrined as Article 23 of Iran's own constitution. But this is no matter. Mad Ahmadinejad is a latter-day prophet, the Shi’a successor to Mohammed, and it is his divinely-appointed role to eradicate Israel and return the world to Islam. If that means executing a few apostates, so much the better.
While the Iran Liberty Association does what it can on its meagre funding, the EU is silent on all matters Iranian - possibly for fear of stoking American concerns. In fact Germany, Iran's largest foreign trading partner, has recently actually increased its business deals with Iran. The United Nations is mute, though this is not overly surprising, since Iran is probably next in line to chair its human rights council. But a voice cries in the wilderness. David Miliband, our Foreign Secretary, is almost alone among Western politicians to express his vehement opposition to Iran’s decision to punish apostasy by death.
It is bizarre indeed when a devout atheist puts the professing Christians to shame in demanding freedom of religion.
Ramtin is not, however, an apostate at all. He has never been a Muslim because his father raised both of his children as Christians. But the assumption is that all Iranians must be Muslims, and if they are not, it is a situation which needs to be rectified. There are, in fact, 10,000 Christian converts living in Iran, and also several hundred thousand Baha'is who are deemed apostates.
Imagine the choice – for we so easily forget it – that the police knock on your door, and take you away for questioning. They offer you a choice: you could denounce your Christian faith, or you will be killed.
Cranmer is no stranger to the trauma of the soul and the agony of the flesh. But we so easily forget that today - in Iran, in Iraq, in Israel, in China – we have brothers and sisters in Christ who are presented with a life and death choice, and they cannot bring themselves to renounce their Lord and God. Their belief in Christ is indeed their life, their deepest conviction, and they are prepared to die for it.
Iran’s clerics have instituted a mandate for judges who preside over criminal cases: ‘If the existing penal code does not include legislation on whether a certain kind of behaviour is an offence, then the judges should refer to traditional Islamic jurisprudence.’
This is, of course, Iran’s notion of Shari’a law. It is Shi’a jurisprudence, developed across generations of Shi’a scholars and clerics within the narrowness of Shi'a scholarship out of the confines of Shi'a history. And still there are those who demand or advocate Shari’a courts - Sunni and Shi'a - based on uncodified legislation and dispensing arbitrary judgements in Britain.
And what says the Conservative Muslim Forum on this matter? They are on record as saying that Iran should be free to possess nuclear weapons, despite their manifest utility in facilitating President Ahmadinejad’s quest to ‘wipe Israel off the map’. They also juxtapose Iran and Israel, demanding moral equivalence, ignoring the fact that one is a democratic nation which recognises the rights of minorities and permits freedom of religion; while the other is a barbarous totalitarian theocracy which executes women, children and apostates.
Cranmer awaits the intervention of CCHQ and an equally strong denunciation from William Hague. Until it comes, Cranmer will be praying for David Miliband, for his call is righteous, and is heart is full of compassion.