The latest news about the Christian pastor held in Iran for converting from Islam to Christianity is another example of Iran’s barbaric and vicious treatment of its religious minorities.
Iranian officials are at the moment trying to convince jailed 34-year-old pastor, Youcef Nadarkhani, who converted to Christianity at age 19, to return to Islam. Nadarkhani is currently being held in prison in Rasht, awaiting Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s decision on whether he should be executed for converting to Christianity.
In trying to convince Nadarkhani to come back to Islam, Iran’s secret service officials approached the pastor at his prison site and presented him with a book on Islamic literature, telling him they would be back to discuss the material and hear his opinion.
The “we’ll be bac,” scenario is a common tool of the regime, used in cases such as this to either influence the individual or further implicate him. Specifically to Nadarkhani’s situation, the government is trying to persuade him to abandon Christianity and come back to Islam or to have evidence against him as a blasphemer against Islam — should he reject the material he has been given or speak out against it.
I have a digital copy of the book given to the pastor, a 300-page compilation entitled “Beshaarat-eh Ahdein,” meaning “Message of the Two Eras,” referring to the New and Old Testaments. Through various narratives, the book claims Christianity is a fabrication and attempts to establish the superiority of Islam.
Sources close to the pastor and his wife have reported that the pastor has been advised by family members, members of the church and lawyers to remain silent, out of fear that the Iranian government may try to use his statements against him, a strategy of entrapment.
Till now, Nadarkhani’s case has been drawn out and delayed amid heavy and targeted international attention to his case. Iran’s judiciary has been caught in a bind, fearing the ultimate decision will have far-reaching political implications.
If Nadarkhani is released, the judiciary risks appearing disrespectful of the tenets of Shariah law. But if he is executed, Iran will face increasing criticism from the international community, which continues to petition for the pastor’s release.
A few weeks ago, a letter on behalf of the judiciary was sent to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the nation’s highest authority in interpreting Shariah Law, asking him to make the final decision.
It is unusual for the supreme leader to be asked to weigh in on a case, but officials said this case is rare in nature and requires Khamenei’s stamp of approval in order to issue an execution.
Nadarkhani came under the regime’s radar in 2006 when he applied for his church to be registered with the state. According to sources, he was arrested at that time and then soon released.
In 2009, Nadarkhani went to local officials to complain about Islamic indoctrination in his school district, arguing that his children should not be forced to learn about Islam.
He was subsequently arrested and has been held since.
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