TEHRAN – Amid repeated promises to provide equal rights for Iranian Sunni Muslims, members of the religious minority have been raising concerns about ongoing discrimination they face at the hands of the Shiite majority.
“Sunni Muslims in Iran hope for an end to discrimination,” Molavi Abdolhamid Ismaeelzahi, a Sunni scholar, was quoted by Al Jazeera on Sunday, March 9.
“Everybody is hopeful [President Hassan] Rouhani can fulfill his promises and also implement the constitution and stop illegalities and stop the discrimination,” Ismaeelzahi added.
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Sunni Muslims have been targeted in Shiite majority Iran for decades.
Since the foundation of the Islamic Republic in 1979, the government has denied Sunnis in Tehran province permission to construct and operate Sunni mosques.
The election of the moderate Iranian President Rouhani has revived hopes of major transformations in the Islamic Republic policies.
Seizing the majority of Sunni votes, the newly elected president has promised to improve the situation of the minorities, including Sunni Muslims.
During his electoral campaign, Rouhani issued a 10p-oint statement guaranteeing equal protection of the law to all Iranians, regardless of ethnicity and religion.
Rouhani's promises were repeated in his recent speech in Iran's southern city of Bandar Abbas.
Yet, Sunnis are facing various forms in discrimination that range from curbing the freedom of worship to limiting political participation and employment.
“The most important discrimination against Sunni Muslims in Iran is discrimination in assigning responsibilities to them and employment,” Ismaeelzahi stated.
“Sunni Muslims in Iran have faced this problem since the Islamic revolution.”
Sunnis constitute around 20 percent of Iran’s 70 million residents, and they belong to different ethnic groups, such as Kurds, Balushis, Turkemans, Arabs, and Talishis.
Sunnis in Iran can be considered an oppressed minority.
Anti-Sunnis discrimination has also extended to the government jobs, dominated by the country Shiites.
“Until now, in the ministries and embassies of the Islamic Republic's government, no Sunnis are employed, and they haven't taken any important positions like governor or administrator,” said Mohammad Hussein Gorgi, the Sunni imam of Azadshahr in northern Iran.
“It doesn't mean that there's no competent, principled or resourceful people among Sunnis. Rather, it shows the lack of trust towards them.”
The Sunni Imam hopes that the current administration would meet its promises and end treating Muslims as second-class citizens.
“But since this government is the government of prudence and hope, we are hopeful that Sunnis will be assigned to important positions,” he said.
Freedom of speech was also turning to a mirage for Iran’s Sunni minority.
“After Iran's Islamic revolution, Sunnis are not allowed to broadcast and express their opinion... even in one TV program or one provincial media centre,” read Iranian Sunnis’ public letter to Khamenei.
“Instead, national media have been free to desecrate... and offend Sunni Muslims.”
The Islamic republic justifies the crackdown on the Sunni sect by citing attacks undertaken by extremist Sunni groups against the Shiites majority.
A few months ago, 16 Sunnis were executed by the Iranian government over claimed ‘terror’ attacks.
Sunni scholars are calling for recognizing a framework that guarantees the rights of minorities.
“Everyone should be able to act within the framework of his religion,” urged Ismaeelzahi, the Sunni scholar.
“That's it. It's reasonable and not excessive. We want this to be defined within the framework of the constitution.
“We believe that if this is achieved, then Iran will achieve national security, national unity and power.”
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net - Read full article here
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