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When I first heard about France and Belgium’s proposed laws for banning the burqa, I was outraged. As an American, I thought it ridiculous, violating the fundamental human rights of freedom of expression and free exercise of religion. I could not believe that two modern, democratic nations would not allow someone to practice their religion simply because they dress differently. As a Muslim, I was hurt.  Counter-arguments of “Well Christians can’t wear the cross either” were not even comparable to me and, quite frankly, made me angry.
But today when Manouchehr Mottaki, Iran’s Foreign Minister, denounced the law, saying that Iran “attaches great importance to the rights of religious minorities,” I laughed.
Mr. Mottaki, where have you been the past 31 years?
If Iran attaches such great importance to the rights of religious minorities, why are the Bahais still denied access to a university education and the right to inherit property unless they recant their faith? Why are they subject to arbitrary arrest and detention and violent attacks on their homes or property? Why are they denied establishment of places of worship or schools? Is it out of respect that Iran continues to detain seven Bahais after two years, violating their constitutional right to due process?
What of the Jews who until 2003 were not even considered equal to Muslims and Christians for compensation of murdered relatives in court? The Jews who have to build walls around their cemeteries to protect their dead out of fear that tombstones will be smashed or desecrated with anti-Israel slogans. Was Habibollah Elghanian murdered because of Iran’s great respect for religious minorities?
Why does religion continue to be on all identification papers in Iran if all religions are equal? And is imposing a hijab, with penalties for violations, really any better than banning it?
Mr. Mottaki, I ask what of all the Iranians who are not Shi’a Muslim? Before denouncing intolerance in Europe, look to the great intolerance in your own country. Iran, of all countries, does not have the right to denounce France and Belgium’s moves when it continues its much greater discriminatory practices.
And while I am still shocked at the proposed law banning the burqa, and at the fact that Spain, Austria, and the Netherlands are also preparing similar bills, I beg the hypocrites to please not speak out and demean the more valid arguments of many, rightfully-outraged Muslims around the world.

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