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Iran: House of Representatives Approves First Reading of Bill on “Enjoining Doing Right and Forbidding Doing Wrong”

(July 1, 2010) The trend in Iranian legislation under the current government is to return to Quranic roots and interpret religious norms through legislation. Thus, for example, according to article 8 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, as amended in July 1989:

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, to enjoin doing good and avoid doing wrong is a public and reciprocal duty that must be fulfilled by the people with respect to one another, by the government with respect to the people, and by the people with respect to the government. The conditions, limits, and nature of this duty will be specified by law. (Islamic Republic of Iran Constitution, (last visited June 28, 2010).)

This provision reflects a verse in the Quran that exhorts every believer to encourage other believers to do what is right and avoid doing wrong.

On May 24, 2010, Iran's unicameral House of Representatives approved the first reading of a bill reflecting this moral imperative. The introduction to the bill, which had been signed by 103 House members, stated:

[i]n order to enhance human dignity and promote the efficiency of the regime, it seems that carrying out the divine order to enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and to realize it in practice is everyone's undeniable duty. On the other hand, article 8 of the Constitution on this subject has provided that the area of its application be defined by special law, and so we are presenting the bill to the House. (The House of Representatives Approves the Bill on “Enjoining Doing What Is Right and Forbidding What Is Wrong” [in Farsi], HAMSHAHRI (Tehran daily newspaper), May 24, 2010, at 1, available at

The bill, which has three chapters and 28 articles, received 172 votes in favor, 12 against, and 12 abstentions. The purpose of the bill is “to avoid clashes among people and to clarify the areas where individuals are allowed to exercise their personal judgment to put this recommendation into practice, so that peace in the society is not disturbed and personal rights are respected.” (Id.)

The first chapter of the bill is devoted to general provisions, the second chapter defines areas of the law's application, and the third chapter explains the organizational structure for the various bodies that are to carry out the responsibilities prescribed. The bill explains that the term “wrong” applies to acts that offend public standards (i.e., Islamic standards) or that are against the public interest and national security. (Id.) Under Islamic law, there are certain acts that are permissible if done in private, but not permissible if done openly in public, such as eating in public during the fasting month of Ramadan or, in the case of Muslim women, not being covered up in public. In general, any act that is offensive to Islamic society, such as the drinking of wine or using profane language in public, is not permissible.

The bill makes a distinction between people's duty and the government's responsibility in implementing the bill's provisions: in the first stage; it is the duty of every person to give those “doing what is wrong” a verbal reminder, to lodge a complaint, and to report the deed to the legal authorities. In the second stage, it becomes the government responsibility to take action against the wrongdoing. (Id.) At present the full text of the bill is not available, but it appears that one major purpose of the legislation is to encourage and facilitate the reporting of social wrongdoing to the authorities.