By Benjamin Weinthal – originally published in Jerusalem Post
Iran’s government and security apparatus have ratcheted up the pressure on Evangelical pastor Youcef Nadarkhani to convert to Islam or face execution, Fox News reported on Saturday.
Youcef Nadarkhani, now 34, was arrested in 2009 for questioning the compulsory Islamic education of his children and for seeking to register a home-based church. He was sentenced to death in 2010.
Iran’s security officials recently delivered a book on Islam to Nadarkhani, Fox News said. He is in prison Rasht on the Caspian Sea coast.
The Iranian officials told “him they would be back to discuss the material and hear his opinion,” according to the report.
Fox cited “sources close to the case.”
David Parsons, spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday the new development is “very troubling.”
There need to be “three attempts to make him convert to Islam before they can kill him,” Parsons said. He cited Shari’a Islamic law as the basis for the threeattempts rule.
Going through the motions
Iran “is going through the motions” and “trying to do it in a very public way for the Muslim world and maybe, in their mind, thinking they can placate the West. It is outrageous,” said Parsons, who is a contributing editor to The Jerusalem Post Christian Edition.
The case “should be an eye-opener for world leaders,” he said. “They should know what Islam teaches in terms of ‘inferior religions’ like Judaism and Christianity.”
Fox News wrote that it secured “a digital copy of the book given to Nadarkhani, a 300-page compilation entitled Beshaarat-eh Ahdein, meaning ‘Message of the Two Eras,’ referring to the New and Old Testaments. Through various narratives, the book claims Christianity is a fabrication and attempts to establish the superiority of Islam.”
Parsons said it “needs to be a priority to hold the Iranian regime accountable.
Governments, even Muslim governments, should not be allowing this. How can anyone find this acceptable this day?” Present Truth Ministries has campaigned since 2009 for Nadarkhani’s release and works to help persecuted Christians in the Middle East. “We cannot wait another moment, we have to contact our elected officials,” the USbased organization urges on its website in connection with Nadarkhani.
Dr Wahied Wahdat-Hagh, an authority on minority groups in the Islamic Republic of Iran, told the Post by phone from Berlin on Sunday that the book given to Nadarkhani, Beshaarat-eh Ahdein, is “religious indoctrination.”
There is “no freedom of opinion or religion in Iran,” he said. The Iranian regime has been closing newspapers and “there is no freedom of conscience” in the Islamic Republic.
The book argues against the Judaism and Christianity, as well as against Bahais and Zoroastrians, Wahdat-Hagh, a senior fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy in Brussels, wrote in a followup e-mail.
“The fact that Mr Nadarkhani was given this book makes clear that it does not deal with freedom of conscience, which does not exist in Iran, rather it deals with propaganda…,” he said.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader in Iran, has reacted to pressure regarding Nadarkhani’s case, and Khamenei has the authority to vacate the death penalty sentence against the pastor, Wahdat-Hagh added.
“This case shows that Iran does not seek dialogue with Christians, rather it wants to convince Christians of the correctness of converting to Islam,” he said.