TEHRAN, (AFP) – Iran on Friday denied violating religious minorities’ rights as charged in an annual report by the US government, whom it accused of being the “biggest violator” of Muslim rights, state media reported.
In a statement carried by state news agency IRNA, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast “denied allegations made in the US state department report” released on Wednesday.
The United States charged that “government respect for religious freedom continued to deteriorate in Iran” and that Iranian Muslims who were not from the majority Shiite group faced “substantial societal discrimination”.
“Government rhetoric and actions created a threatening atmosphere for nearly all non-Shia religious groups, most notably Bahais, as well as Sufi Muslims, evangelical Christians, members of the Jewish community,” the report said.
Mehmanparast hit back, accusing Washington of infringing the religious rights of Muslims.
“The US government expresses concern about the situation of some fake cults fabricated by English colonialists and Zionists while… it is the biggest violator of Muslims’ religious rights.”
He was alluding to the Bahai faith which was founded in Iran in 1863 and whose followers are regarded as infidels in the Islamic republic, suffering persecution both before and after the Islamic revolution.
Most Iranians are Shiite Muslims and non-Muslim religious minorities recognised in the constitution include Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians, who have representatives to the parliament and under Iranian law are guaranteed freedom to practice their religion.