Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Iran has passed a law requiring Jews and Christians to wear badges identifying them as religious minorities.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, 2006]
Origins: The above-quoted article about Iran's passing a law requiring Jews and Christians to wear identifying badges was taken from a May 2006 front-page article in the Canadian National Post newspaper. The Iranian parliament did not (and has not) passed such a law
Iranian officials denied a report that the country's parliament had passed a measure requiring Jews, Christians and other religious minorities to wear colored badges singling them out as non-Muslims.After the erroneous Canadian article caused an "international uproar," the National
According to a story published by the National Post of Canada, the new measure would have required Iran's estimated 25,000 Jews to wear a yellow strip of cloth on the front of their clothes. Christians would have had to wear red badges and Zoroastrians blue.
Metropolitan-area radio stations aired the report throughout the day, and media worldwide picked the story up.
Iran's conservative-dominated parliament is debating a draft law that would discourage women from wearing Western clothing, increase taxes on imported clothes and fund an advertising campaign to encourage citizens to wear Islamic-style garments.
In Tehran, legislator Emad Afroogh, who sponsored the bill and chairs the parliament's cultural committee, told The Associated Press there was no truth to the Canadian newspaper report, calling it "a sheer lie."
"The bill is not related to minorities. It is only about clothing," Afroogh said. "Please tell them [in the West] to check the details of the bill. There is no mention of religious minorities and their clothing in the bill."
Iranian Jewish lawmaker Morris Motamed told the AP: "Such a plan has never been proposed or discussed in parliament. Such news, which appeared abroad, is an insult to religious minorities here."
Last Friday, the National Post ran a story prominently on the front page alleging that the Iranian parliament had passed a law that, if enacted, would require Jews and other religious minorities in Iran to wear badges that would identify them as such in public. It is now clear the story is not true. Given the seriousness of the error, I felt it necessary to explain to our readers how this happened.Last updated: 31 October 2006
The story of the alleged badge law first came to us in the form of a column by Amir Taheri. Mr. Taheri, an Iranian author and journalist, has
This extraordinary allegation caught our attention, of course. The idea that Iran might impose such a law did not seem out of the question given that its President has denied the Holocaust and threatened to "wipe Israel off the map." We tried to contact
The editor who was dealing with Mr. Taheri's column wrote to Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in
The reporter also spoke with two Iranian exiles in Canada
Canada's Foreign Affairs Department did not respond to questions about the issue until after deadline, and then only to say they were looking into the matter. After several calls to the Iranian embassy in Ottawa, the reporter reached Hormoz Ghahremani, a spokesman for the embassy.
We now had four sources — Mr. Taheri, the Wiesenthal Center and two Iranian exiles in Canada
The reaction was immediate and distressing. Several experts whom the reporter had tried unsuccessfully to contact the day before called to say the story was not true. The Iranian embassy put out a statement late in the day doing what it had failed to do the day before
The reporter continued to try to determine whether there was any truth to the story. Some sources said there had been some peripheral discussion in the Iranian parliament of identifying clothing for minority religions, but it became clear that the dress code bill, which was introduced on
Mr. Taheri, who had written the column that sparked the story, was again unreachable on Friday. He has since put out a statement saying the National Post and others "jumped the gun" in our characterization of his column. He says he was only saying the provisions affecting minorities might happen at some point. All of the people who read the column on the first day took it to mean the measure was part of a law that had been passed.
On Saturday, the National Post ran another front-page story above the fold with the Iranian denial and the comments of the experts casting doubts on the original story.
It is corporate policy for all of CanWest's media holdings to face up to their mistakes in an honest, open fashion. It is also the right thing to do journalistically.
We acknowledge that on this story, we did not exercise sufficient caution and skepticism, and we did not check with enough sources. We should have pushed the sources we did have for more corroboration of the information they were giving us. That is not to say that we ignored basic journalistic practices or that we rushed this story into print with no thought as to the consequences. But given the seriousness of the allegations, more was required.
We apologize for the mistake and for the consternation it has caused not just National Post readers, but the broader public who read the story. We take this incident very seriously, and we are examining our procedures to try to ensure such an error does not happen again.
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