Monday, October 05, 2009
That's a chapter heading from the book "The Jewish Connection", pointing up the fact that Jews, and Jewish connections, can show up in the most unlikely times and places.
For example, Adolf Hitler's paternal grandfather is unknown; given that, by Hitler's standards, one Jewish grandparent was enough to send you to the concentration camps, he tried strenuously -- without success -- to get to the bottom of it. He was threatened with blackmail at least once because of this.
(By Jewish law, of course, Hitler could not have been considered Jewish, because his mother was not Jewish. It was only because of Hitler's perverted racial standards that the issue even came up. Hoist on your own petard, Adolf.)
With that precedent, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to read about Hitler's spiritual descendant, the man who never tires of saying that Israel should be wiped off the map, and his Jewish connection:
click for a higher-resolution photo
A photograph of the Iranian president holding up his identity card during elections in March 2008 clearly shows his family has Jewish roots.That sounds pretty definitive to me. But what fascinates me even more is the suggestion that the name was changed when the family "converted to embrace Islam, after his birth."
A close-up of the document reveals he was previously known as Sabourjian – a Jewish name meaning cloth weaver.
The short note scrawled on the card suggests his family changed its name to Ahmadinejad when they converted to embrace Islam after his birth.
The Sabourjians traditionally hail from Aradan, Mr Ahmadinejad's birthplace, and the name derives from "weaver of the Sabour", the name for the Jewish Tallit shawl in Persia. The name is even on the list of reserved names for Iranian Jews compiled by Iran's Ministry of the Interior.
Was Mahmoud himself born a Jew? (If so, I have to wonder what his original first name was.)
This could well be a hoax, mind you; I can't read Farsi, so I'd have no way of knowing. But if it turns out to be true, the man will shortly become a laughingstock... and will deserve to be.
(hat tip: Instapundit.)
UPDATE: Oh well, it was fun while it lasted... an expert on the Iranian Jewish community disputes the claim:
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.Hat tip: Solomonia.
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. This is a title given to women whose family are believed to be direct bloodline descendants of Prophet Muhammad. Male members are given the title of Seyyed, and include prominent figures such as Iran's supreme leader Ali Khamenei. In Judaism, this is equivalent to the Cohens, who are direct descendants of Aaron, the brother of Moses. One has to be born into a Seyyed family: the title is never given to Muslims by birth, let alone converts. This makes it impossible for Ahmadinejad's mother to have been a Jew. In fact, she was so proud of her lineage that everyone in her native village of Aradan referred to her by her Islamic title, Seyyede.
The reason that Ahmadinejad's father changed his surname has more to do with the class struggle in Iran. When it became mandatory to adopt surnames, many people from rural areas chose names that represented their professions or that of their ancestors. This made them easily identifiable as townfolk. In many cases they changed their surnames upon moving to Tehran, in order to avoid snobbery and discrimination from residents of the capital.
The Sabourjians were one of many such families. Their surname was related to carpet-making, an industry that conjures up images of sweatshops. They changed it to Ahmadinejad in order to help them fit in. The new name was also chosen because it means from the race of Ahmad, one of the names given to Muhammad.
According to Ahmadinejad's relatives the new name emphasised the family's piety and their dedication to their religion and its founder. This is something that the president and his relatives in Tehran and Aradan have maintained to the present day. Not because they are trying to deny their past, but because they are proud of it.