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Why Are the Iranian Protesters Islamophobes?

“We should have an Iranian republic, not an Islamic republic,” said one Iranian protester. “Islam cannot address our needs.”

The protesters chanted: “We don’t want an Islamic republic! … Clerics, shame on you, let go of our country!” Some even chanted: “Reza Shah, bless your soul!”, referring to the former Shah of Iran who had set the nation on a secularizing, pro-Western course.

All of this raises the question: in the U.S., we are constantly told that opposition to Sharia constitutes bigotry and “Islamophobia.” So how did Iran come to be filled with bigoted “Islamophobes”?

The answer is simple. What turned many Iranians against Sharia was having to live under it since 1979.

Julie Lenarz of Britain’s Human Security Center observed in December 2015: “It is astonishing that the West cultivates an ever-closer alliance with a theocratic regime widely known for its abysmal human rights record and aggressive behavior in the region. They hang men for the ‘crime’ of writing poems; or engaging in peaceful protest; or loving someone of the same sex. Women are stoned for being raped and Iranian law even allows for juvenile executions. Iran is averaging three hangings per day at the moment and remains a pariah state with no regard for human life. In a despicable form of moral myopia, the gold rush for business, as the international sanctions regime begins to unravel, has made Western governments blind to the suffering of ordinary Iranians at the hands of the Ayatollahs.”

The savage punishment of death by stoning remains alive and well in the Islamic Republic. One woman, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, gained international attention after she was sentenced in 2006 to be stoned to death for adultery and conspiracy to murder her husband. After a great deal of media pressure on the Islamic Republic, she was ultimately pardoned and freed in 2014.

The Iranians continue, however, to sentence others to be stoned to death: in December 2015, a woman identified only by her initials, “A. Kh.,” was sentenced to be stoned to death for aiding in the murder of her husband.

Maryam Nayeb Yazdi, a Canadian-Iranian human rights activist, noted: “The rate of executions in Iran has not decreased in the last few years, it has increased. Although stoning has become more rare in Iran, such sentences are still being issued by Iranian judges. The probability of a stoning sentence to be carried out is slim due to the international sensitivity of the issue, there is a great chance her sentence may be ‘converted’ to death by hanging.”

Mohammad-Javad Larijani, chief of the Islamic Republic’s Human Rights Council, had no patience with those who charged that stoning people to death was barbaric. He said in April 2014: “We are not ashamed of stoning or any of the Islamic decrees. No one has the right to tell a judge to avert some sentences because the United Nations gets upset. We should firmly and seriously defend the sentence of stoning.” To those who charged that such punishments violated the human rights of the victim, Larijani said: “Retaliation and punishment are beautiful and necessary things. It’s a form of protection for the individual and civil rights of the people in a society. The executioner or the person administering the sentence is in fact very much a defender of human rights. One can say that there is humanity in the act of retaliation.”