Chris Wattie, the [National Post] reporter, sourced his story only to Jewish groups and “Iranian exiles”. He quoted Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, saying the move was “reminiscent of the holocaust” and that Iran was “moving closer and closer to the ideology of the Nazis”.

The Post story was drawn from a column in the paper by Amir Taheri, editor of the state-owned Kayhan newspaper under the Shah of Iran before the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Mr Taheri claimed the law was “drafted two years ago” and had been revived “under pressure” from President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad.

“The new codes would enable Muslims to easily recognise non-Muslims so that they can avoid shaking hands with them by mistake, and thus becoming najis (unclean),” Mr Taheri wrote. ~The Financial Times

Via Andrew Sullivan (who is shocked and stunned that an exile from a Middle Eastern country moving in neoconservative circles would ever make anything up about his home country in an effort to destabilise the regime)

Not to put too fine a point on it, but why do we ever trust self-interested exiles to tell us the truth about their home country? Sometimes they may have valid information that could be worth knowing, but why is there is such careless willingness to believe exiles’ stories? If we assume the best about such people, they are patriots who want to free their country from a horrible government, so who assumes they would not do whatever is necessary to achieve that goal? That does bring up the question of why their fight is our fight. To ask is to be reminded that it has nothing to do with us.

Incidentally, the original Post story has been retracted (and it no longer appears on their website). Here is an excerpt from the new article:

Sam Kermanian, of the U.S.-based Iranian-American Jewish Federation, said in an interview from Los Angeles that he had contacted members of the Jewish community in Iran — including the lone Jewish member of the Iranian parliament — and they denied any such measure was in place.

Mr. Kermanian said the subject of “what to do with religious minorities” came up during debates leading up to the passing of the dress code law.

“It is possible that some ideas might have been thrown around,” he said. “But to the best of my knowledge the final version of the law does not demand any identifying marks by the religious minority groups.”

Ali Reza Nourizadeh, an Iranian commentator on political affairs in London, suggested that the requirements for badges or insignia for religious minorities was part of a “secondary motion” introduced in parliament, addressing the changes specific to the attire of people of various religious backgrounds.

Mr. Nourizadeh said that motion was very minor and was far from being passed into law.

That account could not be confirmed.

Meir Javdanfar, an Israeli expert on Iran and the Middle East who was born and raised in Tehran, said yesterday that he was unable to find any evidence that such a law had been passed.

“None of my sources in Iran have heard of this,” he said. “I don’t know where this comes from.”

Maybe Amir Taheri will now be lauded as a “hero in error”? But before that happens someone will have to remind me what the difference is between a “hero in error” and a hack.