Iran dress code law does not target minorities - MPs

Tehran, Iran - Iran's new dress code bill is aimed at encouraging designers to work on imaginative Islamic clothing, lawmakers said on Sunday, dismissing a report that the bill sought special outfits for religious minorities.

Canada's National Post on Friday reported the draft bill approved last week would force Jews, Christians and other religious minorities such as Zoroastrians to wear colour-coded clothes to distinguish them from Muslims.

A copy of the bill obtained by Reuters contained no such references. Reuters correspondents who followed the dress code session in parliament as it was broadcast on state radio heard no discussion of proscriptions for religious minorities.

Senior parliamentarian Mohsen Yahyavi described the Canadian report as "completely false".

"The bill aims to support those designers that produce clothes that are more compatible with Islam, but there will be no ban on the wearing of other designs," he told Reuters.

Iran's Jewish MP Moris Motamed also agreed the bill made no attempt to force special garments on the minorities.

"There is no single word in the bill about a special design or colour for the religious minority groups," he said.

"Our enemies seek to create tension among the religious minorities with such news and to exploit the situation to their benefit," he added.

The parliamentary bill follows a call from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who said two years ago Iranians should design a national costume and not take their lead from Western fashion magazines.

The bill has only been approved as an outline. The details must be agreed then sent to the Guardian Council, Iran's constitutional watchdog, for approval.

Iran has strict Islamic dress codes under which women must cover their hair and hide the shape of their bodies with loose-fitting clothes. Police and Islamic basij militias intermittently clamp down on women who flout the rules.

Religious minorities are largely tolerated in Iran, have freedom of worship and some exemptions from the Islamic Republic's strict rules in the private spaces of their own communities.

There are, however, certain military and medical jobs they are barred from and there are occasional scares for the 25,000-member Jewish community which has expressed its fears about President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's denial of the Holocaust.