The conception of najas or ritual uncleanliness of the non-Muslim has also been reaffirmed. Ayatollah Khomeini stated explicitly, “Non-Muslims of any religion or creed are najas.” 52 The Iranian Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri further elaborated that a non-Muslim (kafir’s) impurity was, “a political order from Islam and must be adhered to by the followers of Islam, and the goal [was] to promote general hatred toward those who are outside Muslim circles.” This "hatred" was to assure that Muslims would not succumb to corrupt, i.e., non-Islamic, thoughts. 53 Sanasarian provides a striking example of the practical impact of this renewed najas consciousness:
“In the case of the Coca-Cola plant, for example, the owner (an Armenian) fled the country, the factory was confiscated, and Armenian workers were fired. Several years later, the family members were allowed to oversee the daily operations of the plant, and Armenians were allowed to work at the clerical level; however, the production workers remained Muslim. Armenian workers were never rehired on the grounds that non-Muslims should not touch the bottles or their contents, which may be consumed by Muslims."54
Khomeini’s views were the most influential in shaping the ideology of the revitalized Shi’ite theocracy, and his attitudes towards Jews (both before and after he assumed power) were particularly negative. Khomeini’s speeches and writings invoked a panoply of Judenhass motifs, including orthodox interpretations of sacralized Muslim texts (for e.g., describing the destruction of the Banu Qurayza 55), and the Shi’ite conception of najas. More ominously, Khomeini’s rhetoric blurred the distinction between Jews and Israelis, reiterated paranoid conspiracy theories about Jews (both within Persia/Iran, and beyond), and endorsed the annihilation of the Jewish State. Sanasarian highlights these disturbing predilections:
“The Jews and Israelis were interchangeable entities who had penetrated all facets of life. Iran was being ‘trampled upon under Jewish boots’. The Jews had conspired to kill the Qajar king Naser al-Din Shah and had a historically grand design to rule through a new monarchy and a new government (the Pahlavi dynasty): ‘Gentlemen, be frightened. They are such monsters’. In a vitriolic attack on Mohammad Reza Shah’s celebration of 2500 years of Persian monarchy in 1971, Khomeini declared that Israeli technicians had planned the celebrations and they were behind the exuberant expenses and overspending. Objecting to the sale of oil to Israel, he said: ‘We should not ignore that the Jews want to take over Islamic countries’…In an address to the Syrian foreign minister after the Revolution Khomeini lamented: ‘If Muslims got together and each poured one bucket of water on Israel, a flood would wash away Israel’…” 56
Professor Reza Afshari’s seminal analysis of human rights in contemporary Iran summarizes the predictable consequences for Jews of the Khomeini “revolution”:
“As anti-Semitism found official expression 57…and the anti-Israeli state propaganda became shriller, Iranian Jews felt quite uncertain about their future under the theocracy. Early in 1979, the execution of Habib Elqaniyan, a wealthy, self-made businessman, a symbol of success for many Iranian Jews, hastened emigration. The departure of the chief rabbi for Europe in the summer of 1980 underlined the fact that the hardships that awaited the remaining Jewish Iranians would far surpass those of other protected minorities”. 58
Afshari also captures the crushing psychosocial impact on Iran’s remaining Jews of restored Shi’ite theocratic rule- the recrudescence of a fully servile dhimmi mentality:
“The Jewish leaders had to go so far as to openly denounce the policies of the State of Israel. It was disquieting to read a news item that reported the Jewish representative in the Majlis criticizing, in carefully chosen words…actions of his co-religionists in Israel, especially when upon the conclusion of his remarks the other (Shi’ite) deputies burst into the chant ‘Death to Israel!’ The contemporary state violating the human rights of its citizens left behind a trail of pathological behaviors [emphasis added] 59…Equally baffling, if not placed against the Jewish community’s predicament, was the statement by the Jewish leaders concerning the arrests of thirteen Jews charged with espionage for Israel in June 1999. ‘The Islamic Republic of Iran has demonstrated to the world that it has treated the Jewish community and other religious minorities well; the Iranian Jewish community has enjoyed constitutional rights of citizenship, and the arrest and charges against a number of Iranian Jews has nothing to do with their religion.’ The bureaucratic side of the state needed such a statement, and the Jewish leaders in Tehran had no choice but to oblige.” 60
An ethos of Jew-hatred, including paroxysms of annihilationist fanaticism, has pervaded Persian/Iranian society, almost without interruption (i.e., the two major exceptions being Sunni Afghan rule from 1725-1784, and Pahlavi reign, with its Pre-Islamic revivalist efforts, from 1925-1979), since the founding of the Shi'ite theocracy in 1502 under Shah Ismail, through its present Khomeini-inspired restoration. Having returned their small remnant Jewish community to a state of obsequious dhimmitude 61, Iran’s current theocratic rulers focus their obsessive anti-Jewish animus on the free-living Jews of neighboring Israel.
Holocaust scholar Daniel Jonah Goldhagen has argued persuasively that the Nazis melded centuries of annihilationist Jew hatred to a state machinery capable of implementing the systematic, mass murder of Jews.62 Former Iranian President Rafsanjani's December 2001 "Al Quds Day" sermon threatened, explicitly, the nuclear annihilation of the largest concentration of autonomous Jews in history- the Jewish State of Israel. Four centuries of "najas-inspired" Jew hatred in Shi'ite Iran, accompanied by pogroms, forced conversions, and other less violent, but continuous forms of social and religious persecution, surely meets Goldhagen's Nazi standard of an established "annihilationist" mentality. Iran must not be permitted to acquire a nuclear weapons capability, certainly now, under the current mullahcracy, and into the foreseeable future. As elucidated recently by Dr. Michael Ledeen, encouraging peaceful regime change in Iran is not only plausible, such policy “…is a life-or-death imperative” 63.
Restrictions of the Safavid Period (1502-1725)
Behavior Code of Abul Hassan Lari (1622)
- Houses that are too high (higher than a Muslim’s) must be lowered.
- Jews may not circulate freely among the Believers
- In their stores, Jews must sit on low stools, in order they not see the purchaser’s face.
- Jews must wear a specially constructed hat of eleven colors.
- Around this hat they must sew a yellow ribbon, three meters long.
- Women must tie many little bells on their sandals
- Jewish women must also wear a black chador
- When a Jew speaks to a Muslim, he must humbly lower his head.
The Jam Abbasi, Instituted by Shah Abbas I (1588-1629) and Administered in Some Measure Until 1925
- Jews are not permitted to dress like Muslims
- A Jew must exhibit a yellow or red “badge of dishonor” on his chest
- A Jew is not permitted to ride on a horse
- When riding on an ass, he must hang both legs on one side
- He is not entitled to bear arms.
- On the street and in the market, he must pass stealthily from a corner or from the side
- Jewish women are not permitted to cover their faces
- The Jew is restricted from establishing boundaries of private property.
- A Jew who becomes a Muslim, is forbidden to return to Judaism.
- Upon disclosure of a disagreement between Jew and Muslim, the Jew’s argument has no merit.
- In Muslim cities, the Jew is forbidden to build a synagogue
- A Jew is not entitled to have his house built higher than a Muslim’s
From- Loeb, Laurence. Outcaste- Jewish Life In Southern Iran, New York, 1977, p. 292.
Restrictions of the Qajar Period (1795-1925)
Observations by Israel Joseph Benjamin (1818-1864) of the “Oppressions” Suffered by Persian Jews, During the Mid-19th Century
- Throughout Persia the Jews are obliged to live in a part of town separated from the other inhabitants; for they are considered as unclean creatures, who bring contamination with their intercourse and presence.
- They have no right to carry on trade in stuff goods.
- Even in the streets of their own quarter of the town they are not allowed to keep open any shop. They may only sell there spices and drugs, or carry on the trade of a jeweler, in which they have attained great perfection.
- Under the pretext of their being unclean, they are treated with the greatest severity, and should they enter a street, inhabited by Mussulmans, they are pelted by the boys and mob with stones and dirt.
- For the same reason they are forbidden to go out when it rains; for it is said the rain would wash dirt off them, which would sully the feet of the Mussulmans.
- If a Jew is recognized as such in the streets, he is subjected to the greatest of insults. The passers-by spit in his face, and sometimes beat him so unmercifully and is obliged to be carried home.
- If a Persian kills a Jew, and the family of the deceased can bring forward two Mussulmans as witnesses to the fact, the murderer is punished by a fine of 12 tumauns (600 piastres); but if two such witnesses cannot be produced, the crime remains unpunished, even thought it has been publicly committed, and is well known.
- The flesh of the animals slaughtered according to Hebrew custom, but as Trefe declared, must not be sold to any Mussulmans. The slaughterers are compelled to bury the meat, for even the Christians do not venture to buy it, fearing the mockery and insult of the Persians.
- If a Jew enters a shop to buy anything, he is forbidden to inspect the goods, but must stand at respectful distance and ask the price. Should his hand incautiously touch the goods, he must take them at any price the seller chooses for them.
- Sometimes the Persians intrude into the dwellings of the Jews and take possession of whatever pleases them. Should the owner make the least opposition in defense of his property, he incurs the danger of atoning for it with his life.
- Upon the least dispute between a Jew and a Persian, the former is immediately dragged before the Achund [Muslim cleric] and, if the complainant can bring forward two witnesses, the Jew is condemned to pay a heavy fine. If he is too poor to pay this penalty in money, he must pay it in his person. He is stripped to the waist, bound to a stake, and receives forty blows with a stick. Should the sufferer utter the least cry of pain during this proceeding, the blows already given are not counted, and the punishment is begun afresh.
- In the same manner, the Jewish children, when they get into a quarrel with those of the Mussulmans, are immediately lead before the Achund, and punished with blows.
- A Jew who travels in Perdia is taxed in every inn and every caravanserai he enters. If he hesitates to satisfy any demands that may happen to be made on him, they fall upon him, and maltreat him until he yields to their terms.
- If, as already mentioned, a Jew shows himself in the street during the three days of Katel (feast of the mourning for the death of the Persian founder of the religion of Ali) he is sure to be murdered.
- Daily and hourly new suspicions are raised against the Jews, in order to obtain excuses for fresh extortion; the desire of gain is always the chief incitement to fanaticism.
From- Benjamin, Israel Joseph. Eight Years in Asia and Africa- From 1846-1855, Hanover, 1859, pp. 211-213
Conditions Imposed Upon the Jews of Hamadan, 1892
- The Jews are forbidden to leave their houses when it rains or snows [to prevent the impurity of the Jews being transmitted to the Shiite Muslims]
- Jewish women are obliged to expose their faces in public [like prostitutes].
- They must cover themselves with a two colored izar (an izar is a big piece of amterial with which eastern women are obliged to cover themselves when leaving their houses].
- The men must not wear fine clothes, the only material being permitted them being a blue cotton fabric.
- They are forbidden to wear matching shoes.
- Every Jew is obliged to wear a piece of red cloth on his chest.
- A Jew must never overtake a Muslim on a public street.
- He is forbidden to talk loudly to a Muslim.
- A Jewish creditor of a Muslim must claim his debt in a quavering and respectful manner.
- If a Muslim insults a Jew, the latter must drop his head and remain silent.
- A Jew who buys meat must wrap and conceal it carefully from Muslims.
- It is forbidden to build fine edifices.
- It is forbidden for him to have a house higher than that of his Muslim neighbor.
- Neither must he use plaster for whitewashing.
- The entrance of his house must be low.
- The Jew cannot put on his coat; he must be satisfied to carry it rolled under his arm.
- It is forbidden for him to cut his beard, or even to trim it slightly with scissors.
- It is forbidden for Jews to leave the town or enjoy the fresh air of the countryside.
- It is forbidden for Jewish doctors to ride on horseback [this right was generally forbidden to all non-Muslims, except doctors].
- A Jew suspected of drinking spirits must not appear in the street; if he does he should be put to death immediately.
- Weddings must be celebrated in the greatest secrecy.
- Jews must not consume good fruit.
From a letter by S. Somekh, The Alliance Israelite Universale, October, 27, 1892, translated and reproduced in Littman, D.G. “Jews Under Muslim Rule: The Case of Persia” The Weiner Library Bulletin, Vol. XXXII, Nos. 49/50, 1979, pp. 7-8. Regarding these 22 conditions, Somekh, writes,
“The latter [i.e., the Jews] have a choice between automatic acceptance, conversion to Islam, or their annihilation. Some who live from hand to mouth have consented to these humiliating and cruel conditions through fear, without offering resistance; thirty of the most prominent members of the community were surprised in the telegraph office, where they had gone to telegraph their grievances to Teheran. They were compelled to embrace the Muslim faith to escape from certain death. But the majority is in hiding and does not dare to venture into the streets…” [p.7]
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