Saturday, October 03, 2009
Update to the update: The Guardian explodes the myth: Ahmadinejad comes from a devout Shi'a family of carpet-weavers (not a Jewish profession).
Update: The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles argues that there is no substance to these allegations, a favoured tactic among Ahmadinejad's opponents to discredit him. The word sabour is unknown among Jewish circles. The Daily Telegraph report relied on non-Jewish sources. However, it is not unknown for Jews to convert to Islam for inheritance reasons.
Rumours about Ahmadinejad's 'Jewish background' have been circulating for some time. Now The Daily Telegraph has conclusive proof: (with thanks: Lily)
A photograph of the Iranian president holding up his identity card during elections in March 2008 clearly shows his family has Jewish roots.
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 the Jewish for "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.
Experts last night suggested Mr Ahmadinejad's track record for hate-filled attacks on Jews could be an overcompensation to hide his past.
Ali Nourizadeh, of the Centre for Arab and Iranian Studies, said: "This aspect of Mr Ahmadinejad's background explains a lot about him.
"Every family that converts into a different religion takes a new identity by condemning their old faith.
"By making anti-Israeli statements he is trying to shed any suspicions about his Jewish connections. He feels vulnerable in a radical Shia society."
A London-based expert on Iranian Jewry said that "jian" ending to the name specifically showed the family had been practising Jews.
"He has changed his name for religious reasons, or at least his parents had," said the Iranian-born Jew living in London. "Sabourjian is well known Jewish name in Iran."
A spokesman for the Iranian embassy (Israeli? - ed) in London said it would not be drawn on Mr Ahmadinejad's background. "It's not something we'd talk about," said Ron Gidor, a spokesman.
The Iranian leader has not denied his name was changed when his family moved to Tehran in the 1950s. But he has never revealed what it was change from or directly addressed the reason for the switch.
Read article in full
Jews in Iran