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Mahmoud still not a Jew

by Brad A. Greenberg

October 11, 2009 | 6:25 pm

"On the other hand ..."

Remember the London Telegraph report last week claiming that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a crypto-Jew?

I’m not sure that many people were buying it; certainly Karmel Melamed, who writes the Iranian American Jews blog, wasn’t. On the Guardian’s Comment is Free blog, Meir Javedanfar gives Karmel some support:

Professor David Yeroshalmi, author of The Jews of Iran in the 19th century and an expert on Iranian Jewish communities, disputes the validity of this argument. “There is no such meaning for the word ‘sabour’ in any of the Persian Jewish dialects, nor does it mean Jewish prayer shawl in Persian. Also, the name Sabourjian is not a well-known Jewish name,” he stated in a recent interview. In fact, Iranian Jews use the Hebrew word “tzitzit” to describe the Jewish prayer shawl. Yeroshalmi, a scholar at Tel Aviv University’s Center for Iranian Studies, also went on to dispute the article’s findings that the “-jian” ending to the name specifically showed the family had been practising Jews. “This ending is in no way sufficient to judge whether someone has a Jewish background. Many Muslim surnames have the same ending,” he stated.

Upon closer inspection, a completely different interpretation of “Sabourjian” emerges. According to Robert Tait, a Guardian correspondent who travelled to Ahmadinejad’s native village in 2005, the name “derives from thread painter – sabor in Farsi – a once common and humble occupation in the carpet industry in Semnan province, where Aradan is situated”. This is confirmed by Kasra Naji, who also wrote a biography of Ahmadinejad and met his family in his native village. Carpet weaving or colouring carpet threads are not professions associated with Jews in Iran.

According to both Naji and Tait, Ahmadinejad’s father Ahmad was in fact a religious Shia, who taught the Quran before and after Ahmadinejad’s birth and their move to Tehran. So religious was Ahmad Sabourjian that he bought a house near a Hosseinieh, a religious club that he frequented during the holy month of Moharram to mourn the martyrdom of Imam Hossein.

Moreover, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s mother is a Seyyede.

In other words, Ahmadinejad’s mother was a female descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. Of course if you’re predisposed to seeing cover ups, that’s just further proof that Mahmoud’s family really was Jewish.

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Since launching the blog in 2007, I’ve referred to myself as “a God-fearing Christian with devilishly good Jewish looks.” The description, I’d say, is an accurate one,...

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