islam symbolOkay, Here is a story being carried by the New York Times that highlights the danger of religion gaining too much power over a government. The Iranian Supreme Court has overturned the murder conviction of six members of the Basiji Force. The group is infamous for carrying out attacks attacks on pro-democracy meetings and on reform politicians. They also are the self-appointed enforcers Iran’s Islamic Penal code, which parallels the civic code. The Basiji Force’s supporters include the Iranian’s supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the country’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is also a former member. “I’m not only the Iranian president, I’m a former vigilante”.

The six men’s murder convictions stem from the brutal murder of 17 people in 2002. The Supreme Court overturned their convictions because Islamic law permits the murder of people who are ‘morally corrupt’. In this case, moral corruption can include armed robbery, adultery by a wife (not by a husband, of course), insulting Muhammad, or even holding hands with your fiance in public! Worse yet, it is left up to the vigilantes to decide who is and who is not ‘morally corrupt’. Convictions can even be overturned in the case of mistakenly identifying someone as morally corrupt, though a fine needs to be paid the victim’s family.

This is clearly a moral outrage. The punishment doesn’t come close to fitting the ‘crimes’ and enforcement is entrusted to the arbitrary whim of vigilantes. I know that some Muslims will point out that this is not taught in their religion, but that gets at the very heart of the problem of mixing religion and politics. Who’s interpretation can we trust? What is to prevent even the most benign interpretation of Islam as law from being reinterpreted in an Iranian fashion? This goes for any other religion as well. Since interpretations of any religion varies so drastically, none of them can be trusted enough to be codified into laws. This sort of oppression is strong support for the separation of Church and State.


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