Iran's New Hijab Law Hits a Snag—But Probably only Temporarily
Unbelief Brief
November 20, 2023
Although the Iranian parliament approved a bill which would have enacted new, stricter punishments for women failing to wear head coverings (among a host of other provisions), the Guardian Council has sent it back to parliament.

Iran: Tension and tumult over hijab

The proposed tightening of modesty proscriptions in Iran, particularly with regard to women’s adherence to religious hijab requirements, has hit an unexpected—if almost certainly temporary—snag. Although the Iranian parliament approved a bill which would have enacted new, stricter punishments for women failing to wear head coverings (among a host of other provisions designed to enforce modesty culture), the Guardian Council, “a potent constitutional body responsible for vetting all legislation,” has sent it back to parliament.

Although the Council apparently officially cited problems with the ambiguity of certain terms in the proposed bill, seeking formal clarification and tighter language, some have reportedly speculated that the Council may have recognized the bill’s potential to inflame polarization over the hijab issue, ever a center of contention since last year’s protests against the murder of Mahsa Amini in police custody.

Even if it must wait until after the March elections, however, the overwhelming likelihood remains that some form of the law will pass and come into force. Even as this draft of the law has faced rejection from the Guardian Council, the Council has likewise barred some MPs from seeking reelection:

Eight members of Iran’s parliament have been disqualified from running for reelection next year, according to the initial results of the vetting process by the Guardian Council, an unelected body that disqualifies election candidates it deems insufficiently loyal to the clerical establishment.

The disqualified lawmakers include two members of the Minority Faction in parliament and several critics of a controversial "Chastity and Hijab,” which proposes extensive penalties for women opposing wearing the mandatory hijab.

It could thus not be clearer that the Guardian Council, as expected, supports the general thrust of what the “chastity and hijab” law aims to do.

The injustice the Iranian regime inflicts on women who refuse to adhere to theocratic orthodoxy will thus persist—well exemplified by the case of Narges Mohammadi, an Iranian Nobel Peace Prize recipient currently jailed for refusing to wear the hijab. She has recently ended a hunger strike, now reportedly undergoing treatment in a hospital. As France 24 reports:

First arrested 22 years ago, Mohammadi has spent much of the past two decades in and out of jail over her campaigning for human rights in Iran.

She has most recently been incarcerated since November 2021 and has not seen her children, now based in France, for eight years.

Conservatives in Indonesia protest… Coldplay

A crowd of a couple hundred conservative Muslims in Indonesia’s capital of Jakarta came out last week for a matter of grave importance: Coldplay. Yes, the band. Specifically, the travesty of allowing the band to play a concert in the country.

The crowd had little to no musical critique, though. Rather, it was “the British band’s support for the LGBTQ community” that drew the ire of protestors. 

The protesters, marching about 1 kilometer (half a mile) away from the concert venue in Jakarta where the band was set to perform, held a large banner that read: “Reject, cancel and disband Coldplay concerts.” It described the band as an LGBTQ “propagandist,” saying its stance damages “faith and morals.”

And, while Indonesia is nominally secular, it is no stranger to blasphemy convictions—under laws predominantly used against non-Muslims or otherwise anyone deemed to have disrespected Islamic sanctities. Socially conservative Muslims have ever found themselves amid tensions with the country's legal foundation, a fact exhibited again by these protests.

US Speaker of the House: Separation of church and state a ‘misnomer’

The new Speaker of the House has brought back the oldest line in the book for American lite-theocrats: that separation of church and state really, when you think about it, only goes one way and not the other. From the horse’s mouth:

“The separation of church and state is a misnomer, people misunderstand it. Of course it comes from a phrase that was in a letter that [Thomas] Jefferson wrote, it's not in the Constitution … What he was explaining is they did not want the government to encroach upon the church, not that they didn't want principles of faith to encroach on our public life. It's exactly the opposite.”

Maybe the religious right in the United States has been sleeping, to an extent, over the last decade or so, at least in comparison with the earlier 2000s. But it’s not dead by a long shot. The current Speaker of the House shows that better than anyone.

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