Religion has occupied an important place in world history. Spain was occupied by Catholic and Arab forces that fought against each other for centuries; England was torn for just as long between Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism. And, although religion plays a role in governments today, it most often tends to do so in only a ceremonial nature.
In two countries, however, religion has become a basis for governance and policy. In Iran, Islamic law has become the basis upon which its government derives its power and enforces policy. In India, a majority Hindu population does not institutionalize religion in government but rules in a manner that fails to protect minorities as it enacts policies that benefits Hindus and not its minority muslim populations.
Religious oppression in Iran began with the 1979 revolution when the American-instated Pahlavi dynasty was replaced by Ayatollah Khomenei. Khomenei based his revolution on the principle that a government by religion would use faith as a protection against human rights abuses. Thus, when he gained power in 1979, he began to enforce Islamic law.
However, as time progressed, the government could not tolerate criticism based on its use of religion. After all, Islam was the one true religion. All others would have to be eradicated, according to Khomenei. The Journal of Church and State remarked that “The emerging standing national army [under the
control of Reza Khan] suppressed revolts in Khorasan, defeated the leftist Jangali movement in the Caspain Sea region, muzzled the Kurdish and Lur tribes, and after the British removed its support for the Shaykh Khazal, crushed the separatist movement in the southern province of Khuzestan.”
Religion has been further used as a mechanism of oppression through the denial of representation to minority groups. A watchdog government group known as the Council of Guardians filters candidates and removes those that disagree with the current rulers’ ideology.
Iran has both used religion as a basis for government and a principle to govern. India, however, has used religion not as an institutional tool but solely as a basis of policy.
For example, India’s Citizenship Amendment Act provides citizenship on the basis of perceived persecuted minorities. Cultural Relations writer Kayla Krueger recently wrote that if citizens were “Hindu, Sikh, Parsi, Buddhist, or Christian, and they [came] from Bangladesh, Pakistan, or Afghanistan, they [would] be granted citizenship in 6 years.” Notably, this list does not contain Muslims, the majority religion in the surrounding countries. India, after the partition, has been notoriously anti-muslim. Thus, as India supports the expedition of citizenship to some minority religious groups, they do not provide it to the one most discriminated against in their country, even when this citizenship is designed to offer protection from persecution.
Furthermore, the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, granted due to its unique position as a Muslim-majority state, is another example of religious influence in governance. Revoking its special status would allow greater government intervention in local affairs, and would allow for for the oppression and degredation of the Muslim-majority government.
Both Iran and India present dangerous scenarios for religious minorities, and both present human rights issues that need to be combatted. Furthermore, countries such as Iran that are non-compliant with international transparency standards and global agreements allow persecution to continue unchecked. Recent U.N. reports show that Iran has failed to report several incarcerations and government-induced deaths and confessions of minority citizens.