The Ayatollahs’ Final Solution?
By Andrew G. Bostom
Danish translation: Ayatollahernes endelige løsning?
Source:, Monday, July 05, 2004
Published on December 9, 2011

There is burgeoning evidence of the Iranian mullahcracy’s steadfast pursuit of nuclear weapons [1]. Moreover, Iranian President Mohammed Khatami, typically hailed as “moderate” or even a “progressive” by Western media and academic elites [2], has denounced U.S. and European Union demands that Iran sign an agreement to terminate such efforts, transparently and verifiably. Writing with informed candor and remarkable foresight, in March /April, 2002, Dr. Michael Rubin warned,

“Nearly five years after his first election, Khatami has enacted few if any tangible reforms. Indeed, while many younger Iranians do enjoy some additional flexibility in dress, freedoms have actually declined under the Khatami administration.
Khatami has accomplished one important task, though. With a gentle face, soft rhetoric, and numerous trips abroad, Khatami has succeeded in softening the image of the Islamic Republic. No longer is Iran associated with waves of 14-year-olds running across minefields, nor do many Western academics and commentators dwell on Iran's export of terror, so long as Tehran keeps its assassination squads away from Europe. However, the fundamentals of the regime' behavior have not changed. Indeed, under Khatami, Iran has accelerated not only its drive for a nuclear capability, but also actively increased its pursuit of chemical and biological weapons, as well as long-range ballistic missiles.” [3]

Under continued pressure to be truthful about its nuclear activities and ambitions, Khatami has further suggested that Iran will withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. [4] Regardless, Iran has just announced its intention to resume centrifuge production - a move that would facilitate the development of weapons grade nuclear material. [5] In light of these disturbing events, it is imperative to recall the “Al-Quds Day”, December 14, 2001 sermon of former Iranian President Ali Akhbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. During this “pious” address, Rafsanjani, who was also deemed a “moderate” while President, argued that nuclear weapons could solve the “Israel problem”, because, as he observed, “…the use of a nuclear bomb in Israel will leave nothing on the ground, whereas it will only damage the world of Islam” [6].

Visceral, even annihilationist animus towards Jews is a deep-rooted phenomenon in Shi’ite Iran, hardly unique to the contemporary post-Khomeini Shi’ite theocracy. The Safavid rulers, at the outset of the 16th century, formally established Shi’a Islam as the Persian state religion, while permitting a clerical hierarchy nearly unlimited control and influence over all aspects of public life. [7] The profound influence of the Shi’ite clerical elite, continued for almost four centuries (although interrupted, between 1722-1795 [8]), through the later Qajar period, as characterized by the noted scholar E.G. Browne:

“The Mujtahids and Mulla are a great force in Persia and concern themselves with every department of human activity from the minutest detail of personal purification to the largest issues of politics.” [9]

These Shi’ite clerics emphasized the notion of the ritual uncleanliness (najas) of Jews, in particular, but also Christians, Zoroastrians, and others, as the cornerstone of inter-confessional relationships toward non-Muslims. [10] The impact of this najas conception was already apparent to European visitors to Persia during the reign of the first Safavid Shah, Ismail I (1502-1524). The Portuguese traveler Tome Pires observed (between 1512-1515), “Sheikh Ismail…never spares the life of any Jew” [11], while another European travelogue notes, “…the great hatred (Ismail I) bears against the Jews…” [12]. During the reign of Shah Tahmasp I (d. 1576), the British merchant and traveler Anthony Jenkinson (a Christian), when finally granted an audience with the Shah,

“…was required to wear ‘basmackes’ (a kind of over-shoes), because being a giaour [infidel], it was thought he would contaminate the imperial precincts…when he was dismissed from the Shah’s presence, [Jenkinson stated] ‘after me followed a man with a basanet of sand, sifting all the way that I had gone within the said palace’- as though covering something unclean.” [13]

The latter part of the reign of Shah Abbas I (1588-1629) was marked by progressively increasing measures of anti-Jewish persecution, from the strict imposition of dress regulations, to the confiscation (and destruction) of Hebrew books and writings, culminating in the forced conversion of the Jews of Isfahan, the center of Persian Jewry. [14] After a relatively brief respite under Shah Saf’i (1629-1642), the severe persecutions wrought by his successor Shah Abbas II (1642-1666), nearly extinguished the Jewish community outright. The pre-eminent historian of Persian Jewry, Walter Fischel, explains:

“Determined to purify the Persian soil from the ‘uncleanliness’ caused by the presence of non-believers (Jews and Christians in Isfahan) a group of fanatical Shi’ites obtained a decree from the young Shah Abbas II in 1656 which gave the Grand Vizier, I’timad ad-Daula, full power to force the Jews to become Muslims. In consequence, a wave of persecution swept over Isfahan and the other Jewish communities, a tragedy which can only be compared with the persecution of the Jews in Spain in the fifteenth century [15] …The sources [16] describe in great detail how the Jews of the capital were forced to abandon their religion, how the synagogues were closed.” [17]

Mohammad Baqer Majlesi (d. 1699), the highest institutionalized clerical officer under both Shah Sulayman (1666-1694) and Shah Husayn (1694-1722), was perhaps the most influential cleric of the Safavid Shi’ite theocracy in Persia. By design, he wrote many works in Persian to disseminate key aspects of the Shi’a ethos among ordinary persons. His treatise, “Lightning Bolts Against the Jews”, was written in Persian, and despite its title, was actually an overall guideline to anti-dhimmi regulations for all non-Muslims within the Shi’ite theocracy. Al-Majlisi, in this treatise, describes the standard humiliating requisites for non-Muslims living under the Shari’a, first and foremost, the blood ransom jizya, a poll-tax, based on Qur’an 9:29. [18] He then enumerates six other restrictions [19] relating to worship, housing, dress, transportation, and weapons (specifically, i.e., to render the dhimmis defenseless), before outlining the unique Shi’ite impurity or “najas” regulations. It is these latter najas prohibitions which lead Anthropology Professor Laurence Loeb (who studied and lived within the Jewish community of Southern Iran in the early 1970s) to observe, “Fear of pollution by Jews led to great excesses and peculiar behavior by Muslims.” [20] According to Al-Majlisi,

“And, that they should not enter the pool while a Muslim is bathing at the public baths…It is also incumbent upon Muslims that they should not accept from them victuals with which they had come into contact, such as distillates, which cannot be purified. In something can be purified, such as clothes, if they are dry, they can be accepted, they are clean. But if they [the dhimmis] had come into contact with those cloths in moisture they should be rinsed with water after being obtained. As for hide, or that which has been made of hide such as shoes and boots, and meat, whose religious cleanliness and lawfulness are conditional on the animal’s being slaughtered [according to the Shari’a], these may not be taken from them. Similarly, liquids that have been preserved in skins, such as oils, grape syrup, [fruit] juices, myrobalan, and the like, if they have been put in skin containers or water skins, these should [also] not be accepted from them…It would also be better if the ruler of the Muslims would establish that all infidels could not move out of their homes on days when it rains or snows because they would make Muslims impure.” [21]

Far worse, the dehumanizing character of these popularized “impurity” regulations appears to have fomented recurring Muslim anti-Jewish violence, including pogroms and forced conversions, throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, as opposed to merely unpleasant, “odd behaviors” by individual Muslims towards Jews. Indeed, the oppression of Persian Jewry continued unabated, perhaps even intensifying, during both Safavid successors of Shah Abbas II, Shah Sulayman (1666-1694), and Shah Husayn (1694-1722). [22] Fischel highlights the prominent role played by the conception of najas in this sustained anti-dhimmi persecution:

“Day by day accounts of eyewitnesses establish beyond doubt how the notion of the ritual uncleanliness of the non-Muslims raged wildly all over the country, affecting Christians and Jews alike, and how the times of Shah Abbas II seem to have been revived.” [23]

The overthrow of the Safavid dynasty was accompanied by an initial period of anarchy and rebellion. [24] A contemporary Jewish chronicler of these struggles, Babai ibn Farhad, lamented, “At a time when the Muhammadans fight amongst each other, how much less safe were the Jews”. [25] However, beyond this early stage of instability, Fischel maintains,

“Only the downfall of the Safavid dynasty, through the successful invasion of the Afghans and the subsequent rise of a new tolerant [Sunni] ruler, Nadir Shah (1734-1747), saved the Jews of Isfahan and The Jews of Persia as a whole from complete annihilation.” [26]

The advent of the Qajar dynasty in 1795 marked a return to Shi’ite theocratic orthodoxy. Thus, according to Fischel,

“Since the religious and political foundations of the Qajar dynasty were but a continuation of those of the Safavids, the ‘law of apostasy’ and the notion of the ritual uncleanliness of the Jews remained the basis of the attitude toward the Jews.” [27]
“The Jew being ritually unclean, had to be differentiated from the believer externally in every possible way. This became the decisive factor making the life of the Jews in the 19th century an uninterrupted sequence of persecution and oppression. They could not appear in public, much less perform their religious ceremonies, without being treated with scorn and contempt by the Muslim inhabitants of Persia.” [28]

European travelers confirm that the najas conception was applied to Jews with fanatical rigidity throughout 19th century Persia. Rabbi David d’Beth Hillel, who traveled in Persia during the reign of Shah Fath Ali (1797-1834), provided these characterizations, based on personal experience:

“They (the Shi’ites) do not eat with anyone of another nation, even touching their bread and liquids or fresh fruits; they consider it as defiled and will never eat it…[It is their belief] that all the other nations are unclean, that no one who believes in Mohammad ought to be well acquainted with them and ought not to touch their victuals- and only to be acquainted with them in trade…[Arriving one night at a village near Bashaka] nobody would receive me into their houses for any money I offered them, saying that the house would be defiled by my coming in, because they knew me to be a Jew and the same night was a very cold one and abundance of snow had fallen and it was impossible to sleep in the street. After many supplications, I gave half a rupee to be allowed to sleep in a stable among their cattle” [29]

Rabbi d’Beth Hillel also described incidences of violent persecutions, including murder and forced conversions, directed at Persian Jews in Urmia and Shiraz:

“[From Urmia, 1826] A Mohammedan child being missing, the Persians accused the Jews of having murdered him in order to use his blood for the coming Passover (which was, however, a full five months away). Consequently, they rounded up all the Jews and removed them to prison, with the exception of their chief [Rabbi], he being a very old man and much respected…His children, however, were taken prisoner. One of the Jews was hewn in two in the gate of the town and the others were nearly beaten to death.”
“[Forced conversions in Shiraz]…some years ago a number of Jews turned Mohammedan owing to great oppression from the Mohammedans. They are not, however, connected with them in marriage, but with their own people, and it is the same in many parts of Persia where Jews have become Mohammedan by reason of great oppression.” [30]

Fischel offers these observations based on the narrative of d’Beth Hillel, and other confirmatory eyewitness accounts:

“Due to the persecution of their Moslem neighbors, many once flourishing communities entirely disappeared. Maragha, for example, ceased to be the seat of a Jewish community around 1800, when the Jews were driven out on account of a blood libel. Similarly, Tabriz, where over 50 Jewish families are supposed to have lived, became Judenrein towards the end of the 18th century through similar circumstances.” [31]
“The peak of the forced elimination of Jewish communities occurred under Shah Mahmud (1834-48), during whose rule the Jewish population in Meshed, in eastern Persia, was forcibly converted, an event which not only remained unchallenged by Persian authorities, but also remained unknown and unnoticed by European Jews” [32]

During the nearly 50 year reign of Nasr ad-Din Shah, reform efforts to improve the plight of non-Muslims, in particular Jews, were opposed strenuously and effectively by the Shi’ite clerical hierarchy. Accordingly,

“Under Nasr ad-Din Jews continued to suffer, not only in consequence of the deep-rooted hatred against them and the conception of ritual uncleanliness, but also as a result of legal discrimination of a most severe nature. Thus the entire community of Jews was held responsible for crimes and misdemeanors committed by its individual members; the oath of a Jew was not received in a court of justice; a Jew converted to the Muslim religion could claim to be the sole inheritor of family property, to the exclusion of all relatives who had not changed their religion, thereby causing the greatest possible distress to those Jews who preferred death to apostasy. In many towns the Jew was prohibited from keeping a shop in the bazaars, while in addition to the legal taxes the local authorities levied arbitrary exactions on the Jews. Although the Jew had the nominal right of appeal to a superior court of justice he did not exercise that right because of the fear of vengeance of the lower tribunal. The life of a Jew was not protected by law, inasmuch as the murderer of a Jew could purchase immunity by payment of a fine.” [33]

And despite a number of direct, hopeful meetings between the Shah and prominent European Jews and Jewish organizations throughout Western Europe in 1873, Fischel concludes,

‘The intervention of European Jewry in favor of their Persian brothers did not bring about the hoped-for improvement and scarcely lessened the persecution and suffering of the Jews after the return of the Shah from Europe.” [34]
“After his visit to Europe Nasr ad-Din issued a number of decrees and firmans which brought about some social and administrative changes in favor of the Jews, but the government was apparently too weak to prevent the recurrence of public outbreaks against the Jews. Even the law which provided that a Jew who turned Muslim had the right to claim the entire property of his family, although abolished in Teheran in 1883, was still in force in some provinces in the Persian empire as a result of the opposition of the clergy. In 1888, a massacre of the Jews occurred in Isfahan and Shiraz, which brought about intervention and investigation of the British consulate.” [35]

The reigns of Muzafar ad-Din Shah (1896-1907; following the assassination of Nasr ad-Din) , Shah Muhammad (1907-1909), and Shah Ahmad (1909-1925), included a nascent constitutional movement, which again aroused hopes for the elimination of religious oppression against Persian Jews and other non-Muslims. However,

“…neither the Jews nor the Armenian Christians or Parsee Zoroastrian minorities were yet permitted to send a deputy of their own group to parliament. At first the Jews were compelled to agree to be represented by a Muslim…Unfortunately, three months after the convening of Parliament Shah Muzaffar ad-din died, and under Shah Muhammad (1907-1909) the constitutional movement very quickly disappointed the high hopes which the liberal elements of the Muslims and the Jews in Persia had entertained. Anti-Jewish riots became common, particularly in Kermanshah in 1909…” [36]

Reza Pahlavi’s spectacular rise to power in 1925 was accompanied by dramatic reforms, including secularization and westernization efforts, as well as a revitalization of Iran’s pre-Islamic spiritual and cultural heritage. [37] This profound sociopolitical transformation had very positive consequences for Iranian Jewry. Walter Fischel’s analysis from the late 1940s (published in 1950), along with Laurence Loeb’s complementary insights three decades later, underscore the impact of the Pahlavis’ (i.e., Reza Shah and Mohammad Reza Shah) reforms:

“In breaking the power of the Shia clergy, which for centuries had stood in the way of progress, he [Reza Shah] shaped a modernized and secularized state, freed almost entirely from the fetters of a once fanatical and powerful clergy” [38]
“The rebirth of the Persian state and the manifold reforms implied therein tended also to create conditions more favorable to Jews. It enabled them to enjoy, along with the other citizens of Persia, that freedom and liberty which they had long been denied.” [39]
“The Pahlavi period…has been the most favorable era for Persian Jews since Parthian rule [175 B.C. to 226 C.E.]…the ‘Law of Apostasy’ was abrogated about 1930. While Reza Shah did prohibit political Zionism and condoned the execution of the popular liberal Jewish reformer Hayyim Effendi, his rule was on the whole, an era of new opportunities for the Persian Jew. Hostile outbreaks against the Jews have been prevented by the government. Jews are no longer legally barred from any profession. They are required to serve in the army and pay the same taxes as Muslims. The elimination of the face-veil removed a source of insult to Jewish women, who had been previously required have their faces uncovered; now all women are supposed to appear unveiled in public… Secular educations were available to Jewish girls as well as to boys, and, for the first time, Jews could become government-licensed teachers…Since the ascendance of Mohammad Reza Shah (Aryamehr) in 1941, the situation has further improved…Not only has the number of poor been reduced, but a new bourgeoisie is emerging…For the first time Jews are spending their money on cars, carpets, houses, travel, and clothing. Teheran has attracted provincial Jews in large numbers and has become the center of Iranian Jewish life…The Pahlavi era has seen vastly improved communications between Iranian Jewry and the rest of the world. Hundreds of boys and girls attend college and boarding school in the United States and Europe. Israeli emissaries come for periods of two years to teach in the Jewish schools…A small Jewish publication industry has arisen since 1925…Books on Jewish history, Zionism, the Hebrew language and classroom texts have since been published… On March 15, 1950, Iran extended de facto recognition to Israel. Relations with Israel are good and trade is growing.” [40]

But Loeb concluded on this cautionary, sadly prescient note, in 1976, emphasizing the Jews tenuous status:

“Despite the favorable attitude of the government and the relative prosperity of the Jewish community, all Iranian Jews acknowledge the precarious nature of the present situation. There are still sporadic outbreaks against them because the Muslim clergy constantly berates Jews, inciting the masses who make no effort to hide their animosity towards the Jew. Most Jews express the belief that it is only the personal strength and goodwill of the Shah that protects them: that plus God’s intervention! If either should fail…” [emphasis added]. [41]

The so-called “Khomeini revolution”, which deposed Mohammad Reza Shah, was in reality a mere return to oppressive Shi’ite theocratic rule, the predominant form of Persian/Iranian governance since 1502. Conditions for all non-Muslim religious minorities, particularly Bahais and Jews, rapidly deteriorated. Historian David Littman recounts the Jews' immediate plight:

“In the months preceding the Shah’s departure on 16 January 1979, the religious minorities…were already beginning to feel insecure…Twenty thousand Jews left the country before the triumphant return of the Ayatollah Khomeini on 1 February…On 16 March, the honorary president of the Iranian Jewish community, Habib Elghanian, a wealthy businessman, was arrested and charged by an Islamic revolutionary tribunal with ‘corruption’ and ‘contacts with Israel and Zionism’; he was shot on 8 May.” [42]

The writings and speeches of the most influential religious ideologues of this restored Shi’ite theocracy- including Khomeini himself- make apparent their seamless connection to the oppressive doctrines of their forbears in the Safavid and Qajar dynasties. For example, Sultanhussein Tabandeh, the leader of a Shi’ite Sufi order, wrote an “Islamic perspective” on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [43]. According to Professor Eliz Sanasarian’s important analysis of religious minorities in the Islamic Republic, Tabandeh’s tract became “…the core ideological work upon which the Iranian government…based its non-Muslim policy.” [44] Tabandeh begins his discussion by lauding Shah Ismail I (1502-1524), the repressive and bigoted [45] founder of the Safavid dynasty, as a champion “…of the oppressed”. [46] It is critical to understand that Tabandeh’s key views on non-Muslims, summarized below, were implemented “…almost verbatim in the Islamic Republic of Iran.” [47]. In essence, Tabandeh simply reaffirms the sacralized inequality of non-Muslims relative to Muslims, under the Shari’a:

“Thus if [a] Muslim commits adultery his punishment is 100 lashes, the shaving of his head, and one year of banishment. But if the man is not a Muslim and commits adultery with a Muslim woman his penalty is execution…Similarly if a Muslim deliberately murders another Muslim he falls under the law of retaliation and must by law be put to death by the next of kin. But if a non-Muslim who dies at the hand of a Muslim has by lifelong habit been a non-Muslim, the penalty of death is not valid. Instead the Muslim murderer must pay a fine and be punished with the lash.” [48]
“Since Islam regards non-Muslims as on a lower level of belief and conviction, if a Muslim kills a non-Muslim…then his punishment must not be the retaliatory death, since the faith and conviction he possesses is loftier than that of the man slain…Again, the penalties of a non-Muslim guilty of fornication with a Muslim woman are augmented because, in addition to the crime against morality, social duty and religion, he has committed sacrilege, in that he has disgraced a Muslim and thereby cast scorn upon the Muslims in general, and so must be executed”. [49]
“Islam and its peoples must be above the infidels, and never permit non-Muslims to acquire lordship over them. Since the marriage of a Muslim woman to an infidel husband (in accordance with the verse quoted: ‘Men are guardians form women’) means her subordination to an infidel, that fact makes the marriage void, because it does not obey the conditions laid down to make a contract valid. As the Sura (‘The Woman to be Examined’, LX v. 10) says: ‘Turn them not back to infidels: for they are not lawful unto infidels nor are infidels lawful unto them (i.e., in wedlock).” [50]

And Sanasarian emphasizes the centrality of this notion of Islam’s superiority to all other faiths:

“…even the so-called moderate elements [in the Islamic Republic] believed in its truth. Mehdi Barzagan, an engineer by training and religiously devout by family line and personal practice, became the prime minister of the Provisional Government in 1979. He believed that man must have one of the monotheistic religions in order to battle selfishness, materialism, and communism. Yet the choice was not a difficult one. ‘Among monotheist religions, Zoroastrianism is obsolete, Judaism has bred materialism, and Christianity is dictated by its church. Islam is the only way out’. In this line of thinking, there is no recognition of Hindusim, Buddhism, Bahaism, or other religions” [51]

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].

Appendix 1

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.

Appendix 2

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
1. 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.
2. They have no right to carry on trade in stuff goods.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. A Jew who travels in Persia 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.
14. 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.
15. 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
1. 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]
2. Jewish women are obliged to expose their faces in public [like prostitutes].
3. They must cover themselves with a two colored izar (an izar is a big piece of material with which eastern women are obliged to cover themselves when leaving their houses].
4. The men must not wear fine clothes, the only material being permitted them being a blue cotton fabric.
5. They are forbidden to wear matching shoes.
6. Every Jew is obliged to wear a piece of red cloth on his chest.
7. A Jew must never overtake a Muslim on a public street.
8. He is forbidden to talk loudly to a Muslim.
9. A Jewish creditor of a Muslim must claim his debt in a quavering and respectful manner.
10. If a Muslim insults a Jew, the latter must drop his head and remain silent.
11. A Jew who buys meat must wrap and conceal it carefully from Muslims.
12. It is forbidden to build fine edifices.
13. It is forbidden for him to have a house higher than that of his Muslim neighbor.
14. Neither must he use plaster for whitewashing.
15. The entrance of his house must be low.
16. The Jew cannot put on his coat; he must be satisfied to carry it rolled under his arm.
17. It is forbidden for him to cut his beard, or even to trim it slightly with scissors.
18. It is forbidden for Jews to leave the town or enjoy the fresh air of the countryside.
19. It is forbidden for Jewish doctors to ride on horseback [this right was generally forbidden to all non-Muslims, except doctors].
20. A Jew suspected of drinking spirits must not appear in the street; if he does he should be put to death immediately.
21. Weddings must be celebrated in the greatest secrecy.
22. Jews must not consume good fruit.

From a letter by S. Somekh, Alliance Israélite Universelle, 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. Can be found here: Jews under Muslim Rule. The Case of Persia. 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]



[2] Gary Sick, "US can exploit peaceful Iran revolution," Newsday, June 11, 1997.

[3] Michael Rubin, “Iran's Burgeoning WMD Programs”, Middle East Intelligence Bulletin, Volume 4, Number 3, March-April 2002,


[5] Linzner, Dafna. Iran Says It Will Renew Nuclear Efforts, The Washington Post, June 25, 2004
"All Iran would have to do now is put uranium into the centrifuges, and then they can start producing a key ingredient for nuclear weapons," said David Albright, a former nuclear inspector;
Dareini, Ali Akbar. Tehran to Resume Building Centrifuges, The Washington Times, June 28, 2004,
“The White House called Iran's decision further proof that it was trying to build an atomic bomb.”

[6] “Former Iranian President Rafsanjani on Using a Nuclear Bomb Against Israel”, Middle East Media Research Bulletin, January 3, 2002,

[7] Minorsky, V. Tadhkirat al-Muluk. A Manual of Safavid Administration, 1725, Facsimile with Translation and Commentary, London, 1943; Fischel, Walter. “The Jews in Medieval Iran from the 16th to the 18th centuries: Political, Economic, and Communal aspects”, Irano-Judaica, Jerusalem, 1982, p. 266.; Al-Amili (d. 1622), Jami i Abbasi; discussed in Browne, E.G., A Literary History of Persia, vol. IV, Cambridge, 1930, p. 407; Al-Majlisi (d. 1699), The Treatise Lightning Bolts Against the Jews. Translated by V.B. Moreen, in: Die Welt des Islams, Vol. 32, 1992, pp. 187-193. Also, see Appendix I, the section entitled, “Restrictions of the Safavid Period”.

[8] i.e., the combined Safavid (1502-1722) and Qajar (1795-1925) periods comprised 350 years of Shi’ite theocracy, interrupted by Sunni Afghan rule from 1722-1795, most notably under Nadir Shah, 1734-1747.

[9] Browne, E.G., A Literary History of Persia, p. 371.

[10] Fischel, W. F. “The Jews in Medieval Iran”, p. 266.

[11] Pires, Tome. Suma Oriental (1512-1515) Haklyut Society Publications, Vol. I (London, 1944), p. 27.

[12] du Mans, Raphael. Estat de la Perse, 1660, ed. Schefer (Paris, 1890), pp. 193-194; cited in, Fischel, W.J. “The Jews in Medieval Iran”, p. 266.

[13] Chew, Samuel C. The Crescent and the Rose, Oxford University Press, 1937, p. 211.

[14] Fischel, W. F. “The Jews in Medieval Iran”, p. 275.; Fischel, W.F. “Isfahan- The Story of a Jewish Community in Persia”, The Joshua Starr Memorial Volume, Jewish Social Studies, Publication No. 5, 1953, pp. 122-123. Fischel elaborates:

“One of the most dangerous measures which threatened the very existence of the Jewish community in Isfahan and elsewhere was the so-called ‘law of apostasy’ promulgated at the end of Abbas I’s rule and renewed in the reign of Abbas II. According to this law, any Jew or Christian becoming a Muslim could claim the property of his relatives, however distant. This decree, making the transfer of goods and property a reward for those who became apostates from their former religion, became a great threat to the very survival of the Jews. While the Christian population in Isfahan protested, through the intervention of the Pope, and the Christian powers in Europe, against the injustice of this edict, there did not arise a defender of the rights of Jews in Persia. [emphasis added] Although the calamity which this law implied was lessened by the small number of Jewish apostates who made use of this inducement, it was a steady threat to the existence of Jewish community life and brought about untold hardship. It was only in the 19th century that leaders of European Jewry such as Sir Moses Montefiore and Adolph Cremieux took up the fight for their brethren in Persia against this discriminatory law. Apart from this legal discrimination, the Jews of Isfahan were particularly singled out for persecution and forced conversion in the seventeenth century. It is reported that they were forced to profess Islam publicly; that many of their rabbis were executed, and that only under Shah Safi (1629-1642), the successor of Abbas I, were the Jews of Isfahan, after seven years of Marrano life, permitted to return publicly to their Jewish religion…”[emphasis added]

[15] Fischel omits an earlier more apposite Muslim equivalent (and possible learned prototype) of the persecutions in late 15th century Spain, i.e., the Muslim Almohad persecutions in both Spain and North Africa, of the mid to late 12th century. Professor H.Z. Hirschberg (in The Jews of North Africa, Leiden, Vol. 1, 1974, pp. 127-128) includes this summary of a contemporary account from January 1148 C.E.:

“Abd al-Mumin…the leader of the Almohads after the death of Muhammad ibn Tumart the Mahdi [note: ibn Tumart was a cleric whose writings bear a striking resemblance to Khomeini’s rhetoric eight centuries later] …captured Tlemcen [in the Maghreb] and killed all those who were in it, including the Jews, except those who embraced Islam…[In Sijilmasa] One hundred and fifty persons were killed for clinging to their [Jewish] faith…All the cities in the Almoravid [dynastic rulers of North Africa and Spain prior to the Almohads] state were conquered by the Almohads. One hundred thousand persons were killed in Fez on that occasion, and 120,000 in Marrakesh. The Jews in all [Maghreb] localities [conquered]…groaned under the heavy yoke of the Almohads; many had been killed, many others converted; none were able to appear in public as Jews [emphasis added]…Large areas between Seville and Tortosa [in Spain] had likewise [emphasis added] fallen into Almohad hands.”

[16] i.e., contemporary chronicles and eyewitness accounts, both Christian (Armenian, Jesuit, and Carmelite) and Jewish (the Kitab i Anusi: The Book of Events of the Forced Conversions of Persian Jewry to Islam). For example, the Armenian chronicler Arakel of Tabriz, included a chapter entitled, “History of the Hebrews of the City of Isfahan and of all Hebrews in the Territory of the Kings of Persia-the Case of Their Conversion to Islam”. Arakel describes the escalating brutality employed to convert the hapless Jewish population to Islam- deportation, deliberately harsh exposure to the elements, starvation, imprisonment, and beatings. According to his account [English translation from Bat Ye’or, The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam, Cranbury, NJ, 1996, pp. 372-373.], the forced conversion of a rabbi marked a turning point in this ugly sequence of events:

“…after many words and promises, the Hakham’s [rabbi’s] sentence was pronounced. ‘If he does not embrace the Muslim faith, his stomach will be split open and he will be paraded through the town attached to a camel *; his property and his family would be consigned to pillage’. The sentence given, a camel was brought, on which he was seated, the executioners came and bared his stomach, then they beat him with a naked sword, saying that either he apostasized or his stomach would be split open. Fear of death as well as affection for those close to him having lead him to weaken, he was made to pronounce his belief in the Muslim faith, and he was incorporated into the religion of Muhammad, which was cause of untold joy to the [Muslim] Persians… Those [Jews following their rabbi’s forced conversion] who resisted were kept in prison; then they were brought back to the tribunal two or three times, even more often, and were urged to apostasize. By these actions, all the prisoners were lead to the religion of Muhammad; in the space of a month, three hundred and fifty men became Muslims. Ever since then, half the Jews having adopted the religion of the Persians, their nation lost what the Persians gained by their ascendancy over them: they were not even allowed to exist any longer, for every day they were dragged by force before the ehtim al-dawla [ranking Muslim official] and there they were forced to become Persians. The Persians put so much determination into their violence, aimed at conversion, that all Jews living in Isfahan…about three hundred families, adopted the religion of Muhammad.”
[*this threat is confirmed in an independent account from the Kitab-i-Anusi [excerpts translated by V.B. Moreen, Iranian Jewry’s Hour of Peril and Heroism- A Study of Babai Ibn Luft’s Chronicle (1617-1662), New York-Jerusalem, 1987, p. 188]

From A Chronicle of the Carmelites in Persia and the Papal Mission of the 17th and 18th Centuries (London, 1939), pp. 364-366, we learn:

“The Jews have been forced to become Muhammadans, and in order to ‘purify’ the city of Isfahan they are obliging all the Armenians who were near the city to go and live outside…” [February 24, 1657]
“I cannot say all, but shall only tell you that the King of Persia has thrown off the mask, and let the venom he has in his heart be seen. He has ordered that all the Jews in his realm should become Muslims, to the number of 100,000.” [May 12, 1657]
“Everything is done by one of his (Abbas II’s) ministers called Itimad-ud-Dauleh, who is very hostile to Catholics and Christians, whom he expelled from Isfahan. Armenians in Julfa and the Hebrews he has forced to become Muslims, and many of the Armenians at the present day are becoming Muslims, especially the sons, in order to inherit their father’s property; because they have made an accursed law, by which all Christians who become Muslims inherit everything.” [August 20, 1660]

Finally, Fischel (“The Jews in Medieval Iran”, pp. 279-280.) summarizes the contents of the important eyewitness Jewish chronicles, the Kitab i Anusi, which,

“…describe in great detail how the Jews were compelled to abandon their religion, how they were drawn out of their quarters on Friday evening into the hills around the city and, after torture, 350 Jews are said to have been forced to [convert] to Islam. Their synagogues were closed and the Jews were lead to the Mosque, where they had to proclaim publicly the Muslim confession of faith, after which a Mullah, a Shi’a religious leader, instructed the newly-converted Muslims in the Qur’an and Islamic tradition and practice. These newly-converted Muslims had to break with the Jewish past, to allow their daughters to be married to Muslims, and to have their new Muslim names registered in a special Divan [council]. To test publicly their complete break with the Jewish tradition, some were even forced to eat a portion of camel meat boiled in milk. After their forced conversion, they were called New Muslims, Jadid al-Islam. They were then, of course, freed from the payment of the poll tax and from wearing a special headgear or badge.”

[17] Fischel, W.F. “Isfahan”, p. 14.

[18] Al-Majlisi (d. 1699), Lightning Bolts Against the Jews.

“So if they observe the conditions of the jizya and live in baseness and abjectness among Muslims, bias and obstinacy will not prevent them from accepting the true religion, and they will soon accept Qur’an… Some say that they [the dhimmis] should not be informed of the amount of the jizya so that they should live continuously, in the course of the year, in a state of anxiety and agitation. [They say that] at the time of paying the jizya they should stand on the ground in front of him who takes the jizya. [The official] should say to him: “Count it!” And he [the payer] should count the money until the Muslims speak up and say that it is enough. And some [also] say that he should lower his head while handing it over, and that he who takes the jizya should pull his beard and slap his face at the time of praying.”

[19] Al-Majlisi (d. 1699), Lightning Bolts Against the Jews.

“First, that they should not openly publicize those things which are prohibited by the sharia but are permitted to them and there is not harm from them to the Muslims such as wine, eating pork, contracting marriages with close family members, etc.; second, that they should not erect churches, temples or places of fire worship in the lands of Islam, but if they [already] have some, and these are in need of repair, they may repair them. If they are ruined entirely there is a difference of opinion regarding whether or not they may rebuild them in the same place; third, that they should not read out very loudly from their [holy] books, nor ring any bells. And some say that they may ring them softly so that Muslims would not hear them; fourth, that they may not build their own homes higher than the houses of their Muslim neighbors (or their part of the house), nor higher than those of the Muslims dwelling in other parts of the same house. And some say that they may not build them of the same height with them either but that they must be lower; fifth, most of the ulama believe that it is appropriate that the ruler of the Muslims imposed upon them clothing that would distinguish then from Muslims so that they would not resemble Muslims. It is customary for Jews to wear yellow clothes while Christians wear black and dark blue ones. Christians [also] wear a girdle on their waists, and Jews sew a piece of silk of a different color on the front part of their clothes. And some [jurists] say that they should be recognizable by their wearing different shoes than Muslims, for instance, one of their shoes be of one color and the other of another color, such as one yellow and one red. [And they also say that] they should wear a ring of iron, lead or copper, and that they should tie a bell on their feet at the [public] baths so as to be distinguishable from Muslims. Similarly, their women should be distinguished through their clothing from Muslim women in the manner stated above or by other means; sixth, that they should not ride upon Arabian steeds, or that they should not ride any horses at all, only mules or asses, and that they should not ride upon saddles, only on pack saddles, with [both] legs on one side, and have no sword, dagger or any [other] weapon with them, nor should they keep any of these within their homes”.

[20] Loeb, Laurence. Outcaste-Jewish Life in Southern Iran, New York, 1977, p.21

[21] Al-Majlisi (d. 1699), Lightning Bolts Against the Jews. The great Islamophilic scholar Ignaz Goldziher believed that Shi’ism manifested greater doctrinal intolerance toward non-Muslims, relative to Sunni Islam, because of the Shi’ites “literalist” conception of najas [From Introduction to Islamic Theology and Law, Princeton, 1981, p. 213.]:

“On examining the legal documents, we find that the Shi'i legal position toward other faiths is much harsher and stiffer than that taken by Sunni Muslims. Their law reveals a heightened intolerance to people of other beliefs...Of the severe rule in the Qur'an (9:28) that 'unbelievers are unclean', Sunni Islam has accepted an interpretation that is as good as a repeal. Shi'i law, on the other hand, has maintained the literal sense of the rule; it declares the bodily substance of the unbeliever to be ritually unclean, and lists the touching of an unbeliever among the ten things that produce najasa, ritual impurity.”

The enduring nature of the fanatical najas regulation prohibiting dhimmis from being outdoors during rain and/or snow, is well established. For examples, see Appendix 2 item 5 of Benjamin’s list of “oppressions”, and item 1 of Hamadan’s 1892 regulations for its Jews, as well as this account provided by the missionary Napier Malcolm who lived in the Yezd area at the close of the 19th century:

“They [the strict Shi’as] make a distinction between wet and dry; only a few years ago it was dangerous for an Armenian Christian to leave his suburb and go into the bazaars in Isfahan on a wet [rainy] day. ‘A wet dog is worse than a dry dog.’ ” [Malcolm, Napier. Five Years in a Persian Town, New York, 1905, p. 107.]

Moreover, the late Persian Jewish scholar Sarah (Sorour) Soroudi related this family anecdote:

“In his youth, early in the 20th century, my late father was eyewitness to the implementation of this regulation. A group of elder Jewish leaders in Kashan had to approach the head clergy of the town (a Shi’i community from early Islamic times, long before the Safavids, and known for its religious fervor) to discuss a matter of great urgency to the community. It was a rainy day and they had to send a Muslim messenger to ask for special permission to leave the ghetto. Permission granted, they reached the house of the clergy but, because of the rain, they were not allowed to stand even in the hallway. They remained outside, drenched, and talked to the mullah who stood inside next to the window.” [from, “The Concept of Jewish Impurity and its Reflection in Persian and Judeo-Persian Traditions”, Irano-Judaica, Vol. 3, 1994, p. 156.]

Souroudi added this note, as well… [p.156, footnote 36]:

“As late as 1923, the Jews of Iran counted this regulation as one of the anti-Jewish restrictions still practiced in the country.”

Lastly, a more disconcerting 20th century anecdote from an informant living in Shiraz, was recounted by Anthropologist Laurence Loeb [in Outcaste, p.21]:

“When I was a boy, I went with my father to the house of a non-Jew on business. When we were on our way, it started to rain. We stopped near a man who had apparently fallen and was bleeding. As we started to help him, a Muslim akhond (theologian) stopped and asked me who I was and what I was doing. Upon discovering that I was a Jew, he reached for a stick to hit me for defiling him by being near him in the rain. My father ran to him and begged the akhond to hit him instead.”

[22] Fischel, W.J. “The Jews in Medieval Iran”, p. 281.

[23] Fischel, W.J. “The Jews in Medieval Iran”, p. 281.;

The Chronicle of the Carmelites, records:

“As all were apprehensive of a great barrenness of the soil from a protracted drought, a general dearness of corn being already experienced, everyone began to pour out prayers to God, each in the fashion of his own religion to implore the gift and succor of rain. But certain zealots of the Muhammadan faith, anxious as they had been unable to obtain anything from God by the rites and prayers enjoined on their own sect, lest some possibly more fortunate result should happen to be attributed to the votive offerings of another religion, complained to the king that the Jews and the Armenians by the unbounded license of their tenets had contrived the harm of the Muhammadan faith, and brought to naught the national religious rites with alien sacrileges. So the Shah [Suliaman], not in possession of his wits, admitting as a serious crime what he had heard exaggerated by the pretended sincerity of the false accusers, orders on the tenth day of the month of May (1678) those of the Jews, whose flight could be forestalled, to be seized and, with a hasty sentence of his furious temper, that the abdomens of their principal men should be ripped open - which was at once put into execution. The bellies of the Rabbi or priest of the Hebrews and of two of their chief men having been slit open, they perished: and their corpses, thrown out into the great royal square, called the Maidan, lay for a week unburied, while for a burial permit a tax of four Tumans was being levied for each. Then for the rest if them (the Jews) fetters and chains were waived on payment of a fine of 600 Tumans (one Tuman is 15 scudi, or piastres). But the Armenians, who were involed with the same accusation and were in peril of being generally slaughtered, having a certain grandee to protect them with the king, obtained pardon by paying some hundreds of Tumans as the price of their remaining unharmed.” [emphasis added; p. 408, Isfahan, July 29, 1678]
“…by the arbitrariness of the now reigning Shah Sultan Husain, whom the flattery of certain of his officials in giving him the surname ‘Din Parwar’ [fosterer of the religion], i.e., ‘zealous promoter of religious law’, has instigated, all races, subjects of his dominions, are obliged to profess the Muhammadan religion; after having begun this by the forced circumcision of the Gabrs [Zoroastrians] of the ancient Persian belief, still remaining worshippers of the perpetual fire, who lived in a very populous suburb above Julfa; passing on to wanting to do the same to all the Christians of Julfa, some four or five years back the decree for which would already have been issued had it not been for its execution being prevented by the king’s grandmother who is the owner and overlord of Julfa; yielding therefore to such powerful patronage for the time being, they attacked the somewhat more remote villages, little short of a hundred, by exactions of an intolerable grievousness, in order to compel them to find escape from these by having recourse to the immunity of Islam…” [p. 474, June 13, 1702]

[24] Fischel, W.J. “The Jews in Medieval Iran”, p. 282.

[25] Fischel, W.J. “The Jews in Medieval Iran”, p. 283.

[26] Fischel, W.J. “Isfahan”, p. 126.

[27] Fischel, W.J. “Isfahan”, p. 127.

[28] Fischel, W.J. “The Jews of Persia”, p. 121.

[29] d’Beth Hillel, David. The Travels of Rabbi David d’Beth Hillel: from Jerusalem, through Arabia, Koordistan, Part of Persia, and India to Madras. p. 115; cited in, Fischel W.J. The Jews of Kurdistan A Hundred Years Ago, New York, 1944, Reprinted from Jewish Social Studies, Vol. VI, No.3, p. 223.

There are many confirmatory 19th century reports of the strict application of najas regulations towards Jews. Appendix 2 includes Benjamin’s listing of mid-19th century “oppressions” related to najas. Also Fraser noted [Fraser, James B. Narrative of a Journey into Khorasan in the Years 1821 and 1822, London, 1825, p. 182.] that Jews were forbidden from using the public baths. Stern [Stern, Henry A. Dawnings of Light in the East, London, 1854, pp. 184-185.] described how in the holy Shi’ite city of Qom,

“…the few [Jews] who are allowed to reside here come from Koshan Isfahan, and the ostentatious vocation which they pursue is peddling; but as the pious living in the religious atmosphere of so many descendants of the Prophet would be shocked at the idea of touching anything that has passed the hands of a defiled and impure Jew, they have had recourse to a more profitable traffic, the sale of spirituous liquors.”

Napier Malcolm reported [Five Years in a Persian Town, p.108],

“It is more easy to get the Mussulmans to eat food with the Parsis than with the Jews, whose religion ranks higher than Zoroastrianism in the popular regard.”

And Adams reported [Adams, Reverend Isaac. Persia by a Persian, Washington, D.C., 1900, p. 120]:

“Christians and Jews are not subject to decapitation as they are considered unclean by the Mohammedans and not sufficiently worthy of this privilege.”

Regardless, as Soroudi notes with bitter irony ["The Concept of Jewish Impurity”, p. 157]:

“The impurity of the non-Muslim and his belongings, however, never deterred Shi’ah Muslims from plundering Jewish or Zoroastrian quarters on the smallest pretext or as a result of clerical or official instigation.”

[30] d’Beth Hillel, The Travels of Rabbi David d’Beth Hillel, pp. 74-75, cited in Fischel W.J. The Jews of Kurdistan, pp. 223-224. The missionary Asahel Grant reported [Grant, A. The Nestorians, New York, 1841, pp. 382-383.],

“During my residence in Ooroomiah, a Jew was publicly burned to death in the city by order of the governor, on an allegation of that pretended crime! [i.e., a blood libel] Naphtha was freely poured over him, the torch was applied, and the miserable man was instantly enveloped in flame!”

[31] Fischel, W.J. The Jews of Kurdistan, pp. 224-225. After exhaustive research on the late 18th century fate of the Jews of Tabriz, Amnon Netzer concluded [Netzer, A. “The Fate of the Jewish Community of Tabriz”, in: Studies in Islamic History and Civilization in Honor of Professor David Ayalon, Jerusalem, 1986, p. 419.],

“…that there was, indeed, a terrible massacre of the Jews in Tabriz at some time between the years 1790-1797, and that Tabriz ceased to become a dwelling place where Jews could have a communal life for many.”

[32] Fischel, W.J. The Jews of Persia, p. 124. Reverend Joseph Wolff provided a contemporary travelogue account of events in Meshed [cited in Curzon, G.N. Persia and the Persian Question, Vol. 1, 1892, p. 166.]:

“The occasion was as follows: A poor woman had a sore hand. A Mussulman physician advised her to kill a dog and put her hand in the blood of it. She did so; when suddenly the whole population rose and said that they had done it in derision of their prophet. Thirty-five Jews were killed in a few minutes; the rest, struck with terror, became Mohammedans. They are now more zealous Jews in secret than ever, but call themselves Anusim, the Compelled Ones.”

Fischel wrote this modern analysis of the Meshed pogrom and forced conversions (in, Fischel, W.J. “Secret Jews of Persia”, Commentary, January 1949, p. 29):

“The [Jewish] woman [see Wolff’s account above] hired a Persian boy to catch a dog in the street and then kill it in her courtyard. Following a dispute about payment, the boy ran off in a rage. A rumor that the Jews had killed a dog on the holiest of holy days [the day of mourning for Husain, the grandson of Muhammad] and had even called it Husain to insult the Mohammedans. When this rumor reached the thousands assembled in mourning at the Mosque of the Imam Riza, hundreds of the devout, together with Shaikhs, Mullahs, Sayyids, and other spiritual leaders, rushed to the Jewish quarter. There they plundered, robbed, and burned. Soon the synagogue and the scrolls of the Law stood in flames; many scores of Jews were wounded and some thirty-five were left dead in the streets. The mob would have destroyed the entire Jewish quarter had not a group of priests given their word that the survivors would be converted to Islam. For the remaining Jews the only chance of survival was to recite the Moslem confession of faith. This they did, and on the following day they were officially accepted into Islam…They were now called, ‘Jadid al-Islam’, or ‘neo-Moslem’. With this acceptance of Islam, the convert was immediately freed from all his previous restrictions; he was no longer required to wear a special hat or have his hair dressed in a special way or wear any particular Jewish badge on his clothes, nor was he required to pay the poll-tax (jizya). His ‘uncleanliness’ was gone- he was now a Moslem among Moslems… The mosque became the legal meeting place of the Jedidim. There, they were under the supervision of the chief priest, the Mujtahid, who exercised the dual role of instructor in Mohammedanism and inquisitor for Islam [emphasis added]. He acted as the official head of the Jews as well as their supreme judicial authority. Demanding the diligent study of the Koran and the traditional books, he forbade ritual slaughtering, circumcision on the 8th day, ordered mixed marriages between Jedidim and Moslems, and was empowered to grant permission for burial. In 1839, then, the Jewish community in Meshed officially ceased to exist. Yet this forced conversion could not extinguish Judaism in the hearts of the Jedidim; the hope that they might one day return to their own religion remained alive in them.”

[33] Fischel, W.J. The Jews of Persia, pp. 124-125. Loeb [Outcaste, p. 57] maintains that tax farming throughout the 19th century, “…reduced the Jews to virtual serfdom.” Wills illustrates this abusive practice in a contemporary late 19th century account [Wills, C.J. Persia As It Is. London, 1887, pp. 229-230]:

“The principle is very simple. The Jews of a province are assessed at a tax of a certain amount. Someone pays this amount to the local governor together with a bribe; and the wretched Jews are immediately placed under his authority for the financial year. It is a simple speculation. If times are good, the farmer of the Jews makes a good profit; if they are bad he gains nothing, or may fail to extract from them as much as he has paid out of pocket- in that case, woe betide them. During the Persian famine the Jews suffered great straits before the receipt of subsidies sent from Europe by their co-religionists. The farmer of the Jewish colony in a great Persian city (of course a Persian Mohammedan) having seized their goods and clothes, proceeded, in the cold of Persian winter, to remove the doors and windows of their hovels and to wantonly burn them. The farmer was losing money, and sought thus to enforce what he considered his rights. No Persian pitied the unfortunates; they were Jews and so beyond the pale of pity. Every street boy raises his hand against the wretched Hebrew; he is beaten and buffeted in the streets, spat upon in the bazaar. The only person he can appeal to is the farmer of the Jews. From him, he will obtain a certain amount of protection if he be actually robbed of money or goods; not from the farmer’s sense of justice, but because the complainant, were his wrongs unredressed, might be unable to pay his share of the tax.”

Wills also provides these acerbic descriptions of two of the most egregious forms of degradation, both public and private, suffered by the Jews throughout the 19th century:

“At every public festival - even at the royal salaam [salute], before the King’s face - the Jews are collected, and a number of them are flung into the hauz or tank, that King and mob may be amused by seeing them crawl out half-drowned and covered with mud. The same kindly ceremony is witnessed whenever a provincial governor holds high festival: there are fireworks and Jews.” [Persia As It Is , p. 23.]
“When a Jew marries, a rabble of the Mahommedan ruffians of the town invite themselves to the ceremony, and, after a scene of riot and intoxication, not infrequently beat their host and his relations and insult the women of the community; only leaving the Jewish quarter when they have slept off the drink they have swallowed at their unwilling host’s expense.” [Persia As It Is, p. 24.]

[34] Fischel, W.J. The Jews of Persia, p. 134.

[35] Fischel, W.J. The Jews of Persia, p. 137.

[36] Fischel, W.J. The Jews of Persia, p. 142.

[37] Fischel, W.J. The Jews of Persia, pp. 143-144.; Loeb, L. Outcaste, pp. 289-291.

[38] Fischel, W.J. The Jews of Persia, p. 143.

[39] Fischel, W.J. The Jews of Persia, p. 144.

[40] Loeb, L. Outcaste, pp. 289-290.

[41] Loeb, L. Outcaste, pp. 291.

[42] Littman, D.G. “Jews Under Muslim Rule: The Case of Persia” The Weiner Library Bulletin, Vol. XXXII, Nos. 49/50, 1979, p. 5. Littman provides a remarkably concise overview of the history of the Jewish community of Persia under Muslim rule, complemented by an impressive array of primary source documents from the archives of the Alliance Israélite Universelle (pp. 5-15), translated elegantly by the author into English, with but one exception, for the first time. The full text of Littman’s landmark article (i.e., The Weiner Library Bulletin, Vol. XXXII, Nos. 49/50, 1979, pp. 2-15), from which Bernard Lewis borrowed liberally for his discussion of Persian Jewry in The Jews of Islam (Princeton, 1984, see especially pp. 181-183), is now available online:
or as a HTML version: Jews under Muslim Rule. The Case of Persia

[43] Tabandeh, Sultanhussein. A Muslim Commentary on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, English translation by F. J. Goulding, London, 1970.

[44] Sanasarian, Eliz. Religious Minorities in Iran, Cambridge University Press, 2000, p. 173, footnote 92.

[45] See earlier notes 10-12, and Seddon, C.N. (translator), A Chronicle of the Early Safawis [Being the Ahsanu’t-Tawarikh of Hasan-i-Rumlu], 1934, Vol. II, p. xiv.

[46] Tabandeh, Sultanhussein. A Muslim Commentary on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, p. 4.

[47] Sanasarian, Eliz. Religious Minorities in Iran, p. 25.

[48] Tabandeh, Sultanhussein. A Muslim Commentary on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, p. 17.

[49] Tabandeh, Sultanhussein. A Muslim Commentary on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, pp. 18-19.

[50] Tabandeh, Sultanhussein. A Muslim Commentary on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, p. 37.

[51] Sanasarian, Eliz. Religious Minorities in Iran, p. 28.

[52] Sanasarian, Eliz. Religious Minorities in Iran, p. 85. Khomeini elaborated, his views non-Muslims and najas, here [Khomeini, S.R. Principles, Politiques, Philosophiques, Sociaux et Religieux. Translated into French and edited by J.-M. Xaviere, Paris, 1979; English translation of these excerpts in, Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi- Jews and Christians Under Islam, 1985, Cranbury, NJ, 1985, pp. 396-397.]:

“Eleven things are unclean: urine, excrement, sperm, blood, a dog, a pig, bones, a non-Muslim man and woman [emphasis added], wine, beer, perspiration of a camel that eats filth…The whole body of a non-Muslim is unclean, even his hair, his nails, and all the secretions of his body…A child below the age of puberty is unclean if his parents and grandparents are not Muslims; but if he has a Muslim for a forebear, then he is clean…The body, saliva, nasal secretions, and perspiration of a non-Muslim man or woman who converts to Islam automatically become pure. As for the garments, if they were in contact with the sweat of the body before conversion, they will remain unclean…It is not strictly prohibited for a Muslim to work in an establishment run by a Muslim who employs Jews, if the products do not aid Israel in one way or another. How ever it is shameful [for a Muslim] to be under the orders of a Jewish departmental head.”

[53] Sanasarian, Eliz. Religious Minorities in Iran, p. 85.

[54] Sanasarian, Eliz. Religious Minorities in Iran, p. 84-85.

[55] Bostom, Andrew. “Muhammad, the Qurayza Massacre, and PBS”,, December 20, 2002.

[56] Sanasarian, Eliz. Religious Minorities in Iran, p. 29.

[57] Professor Eliz Sanasarian provides one particularly disturbing example of this Islamic state-sanctioned Judenhass, involving the malevolent indoctrination of young adult candidates for national teacher training programs. Affirming as objective, factual history the hadith* account of Muhammad’s supposed poisoning by a Jewish woman from ancient Khaybar, Sanasarian notes,

“Even worse, the subject became one of the questions in the ideological test for the Teachers’ Training College where students were given a multiple-choice question in order to identify the instigator of the martyrdom of the Prophet Muhammad, the ‘correct’ answer being ‘a Jewess.’ ” [Sanasarian, E. Religious Minorities in Iran, p. 111]

[* Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 47, Number 786: Narrated Anas bin Malik: ‘A Jewess brought a poisoned (cooked) sheep for the Prophet who ate from it. She was brought to the Prophet and he was asked, ‘Shall we kill her?’ He said, ‘No.’ I continued to see the effect of the poison on the palate of the mouth of Allah's Apostle’]

[58] Afshari, Reza. Human Rights in Iran-The Abuse of Cultural Relativism, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001, p.136. Sanasarian observes that beyond the well publicized execution of Habib Elganian in May 1979,

“…many more Jews compared to other RRMs [recognized religious minorities], were imprisoned, and by December 1980 seven known Jews were executed; by 1982 there were two more.” [Sanasarian, E. Religious Minorities in Iran, p. 113.]

[59] In his detailed psychosocial analysis of the Serbian dhimmis under Turkish Muslim rule, early 20th century sociologist and geographer Jovan Cvijic described how the Serbs “moral mimicry” accentuated their submission. Thus the Serbs (exemplifying prototypical dhimmi adaptive behaviors), became,

“…increasingly accustomed to forming an inferior servile class whose duty it is to win his master’s approval, to cringe before him, and to please him…used to hypocrisy and lowliness, because this is necessary for them to live and to protect themselves from violence.” [Cvijic, J. La Peninsule Balkanique, Paris, 1918, pp. 387-388.]

[60] Afshari, Reza. Human Rights in Iran, p. 138.

[61] See note 59 above; Bat Ye’or has provided this recent historical definition of dhimmitude, which applies to all non-Muslim populations subjugated under the Shari’a:

“Dhimmitude derives from the surrender of the Christian clergy and political leaders to the Muslim jihad armies, and their submission to Islamic domination of both their lands and peoples. In exchange, they received a pledge of protection ('dhimma') from the Muslim sovereign - and the cessation of the jihad war. This "protection" was conditioned on a ransom payment (jizya) that was extorted from the vanquished Christian and Jewish populations (dhimmis). Sometimes, Christian submission to Islam was rooted in personal ambition. Dhimmitude often induced self-hatred, and hatred against Jews and Christians who resisted the jihad and Muslim domination. Christian dhimmitude has been a world force for Islamization throughout history”

“European Fears of the Gathering Jihad”,, February 21, 2003.

[62] Goldhagen, D.J. Hitler’s Willing Executioners, New York, 1997. Goldhagen’s summary observation from his Epilogue, p. 455, is of particular relevance:

“This study of the Holocaust and its perpetrators assigns their beliefs paramount importance…Its conclusion that the eliminationist anti-Semitic German political culture, the genesis of which must be and is explicable historically [emphasis added], was the prime mover of both the Nazi leadership and ordinary Germans in the persecution and extermination of the Jews, and therefore was the Holocaust’s principal cause, may at once be hard to believe for many and commonsensical for others.”

[63] Ledeen, Michael “A Proper Policy”, The Jerusalem Post, July 1, 2004.

Andrew G. Bostom, MD, MS, is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Brown University Medical School.
He is the author of:
The Legacy of Jihad, Prometheus Books (2005),
The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, Prometheus Books (2008),
Sharia Versus Freedom. The Legacy of Islamic Totalitarianism, Prometheus Books (2012),
The Mufti's Islamic Jew Hatred. What the Nazis Learned From the 'Muslim Pope', Bravura Books (2013), and
Iran's Final Solution for Israel. The Legacy of Jihad and Shi'ite Islamic Jew-Hatred in Iran, Bravura Books (2014).