Sunday, October 04, 2009
Ahmadinejad's Jewish Background
I am surprised by how much controversy yesterday's article in the Daily Telegraph regarding Ahmadinejad's Jewish past has created, after all this is nothing new. Kasra Naji, the author of the book, Ahmadinejad, claims the name was changed from Sabaghian - meaning dye masters - to Ahmadienjad by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's father, when the family moved to Tehran, but Naji doesn't mention anything about the family having Jewish background.
The first time I came across Ahmadinejad's Jewish background claims was when I was reading Mehdi Khaza'li's blog. . Mehdi Khazali is the son of Ayatollah Khazali, a former member of the Guardian Council who is an ardent supporter of President Ahmadinejad. Mehdi, however, is among Ahmadinejad's most vocal opponents and at loggerheads with his clerical father, so much so that his father has publicly disowned him.
Mehdi Khazali claimed that Ahmadinejad's family name was changed from Saburjian and his forefathers were Jewish converts into Islam. This was also reported by Al-Arabiya, RFERL and the Guardian.
The clearest picture I can see of Ahmadinejad showing his birth certificate at the polling station used in the Telegraph article, is here and to be honest with you as much as I have looked at it, I can not clearly see anywhere that it says his name was changed to Ahmadienjad from Saburjian. On the top left hand page all I can read is From something to Ahamdienjad, and that something reads more like Sabaghian, but I could be wrong.
As much as I have looked at my Persian dictionaries, and that includes the online ones, I can not find any entries for the word Sabour.
There is more certainty around other hardline figures in the Islamic regime whose ancestors were converts into Islam from Judaism. Figures like the medieval super wealthy bazaar merchant and head of the conservative Islamic Coalition Society, Habibollah Asgarolladi. It is also said that Saeed Emami, the organiser of the extra judicial killings of Iranian dissidents in the late 90s was born into a Jewish family. There are also similar claims that Ahamdinejad's relative and controversial advisor, Rahim Mashaei, comes from a tribe of Jewish converts in the 17th century from the village of Masha near Ramsar.
Whatever the real story is, people's genealogy do not interest me. What does it matter if someone's father was a Christian, Jew, Communist, king, pauper or whatever. I am not interested in what someone's father and forefathers did or said, what religion their father practised or what political ideology their father held. I am interested in what people say or do themselves. I am not interested in whether Rahim Mashaei's forefathers four hundred years ago were converts to Islam or otherwise, I am concerned about understanding the esoteric nonsense Mashae comes up with today.
An example I have always used in Iranian history, to counter argue with someone who brings up something about someone's father and use it to condemn or praise someone else, is that of Sheikh Fazlollah Nouri, an extremely reactionary cleric who was against Iran's constitutionalist revolution, his son however was a freedom fighter of the revolution and was cheering with others when his father was hanged and the Sheikh's grandson turned out to be the General Secretary of the pro-Soviet Iranian Communist Party, so as you can see we are all who we are, not what our fathers were and that is the most important thing.
As we say in Persian, 'Geeram pedare tow bood fazel, az bahre pedar tow ra cheh hasel?'
- best I can translate 'I accept your father was a learned man, but what have you learned from your father?'