When Jews in Persia were persecuted

When we hear about ‘peace initiatives’ in the Middle East, they usually assume that the Jews in Israel should give up land for peace, and perhaps allow the descendants of Palestinian refugees to return. The problem, from the Jews point of view, is that peace is unlikely because of other factors having to do with religious anti-Semitism. Long before the modern Zionist movement, life could be very precarious for Jews in Muslim lands. For example, in 1892 the Jews in one town in Persia, Hamadan, had to display a red cloth on their chests, they could never put on fine clothes. They were forbidden to wear matching shoes or cloaks. A Jew was never to overtake a Muslim on a public street or talk loudly to him. If he were insulted by a Muslim, then the Jew “must drop his head and be silent.” Jews were not allowed to leave Hamadan at all. They could not even leave their homes when it snowed or rained for fear that their “impurity” would be inadvertently transmitted to Shiite Muslims.
In Hamadan, Muslim mobs were shouting “Death to the Jews” in demonstrations or alternatively demanding their instant conversion. For more than forty days, Jews had remained besieged in their houses, “almost dying of hunger and fright.” (page 831 and 832 from the book “A Lethal Obsession – Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad” by Robert Wistrich).

This example includes a ‘purity’ concept of Shiite Muslims, but even in Sunni Pakistan today, that doctrine seems to apply. The following happened to a Christian (see Wikipedia)

In June 2009, a Christian woman, Aasiya Noreen was harvesting falsa berries with a group of other women farmhands in a field in Sheikhupura. She was asked at one point to fetch water from a nearby well; she complied but stopped to take a drink with an old metal cup she had found lying next to the well. A neighbor of Noreen, Musarat, who had been involved in a running feud with Noreen’s family about some property damage, saw her and angrily told her that it was forbidden for a Christian to drink water from the same utensil from which Muslims drink, and that some of the other workers considered her to be unclean because she was a Christian, referring to the caste system in Pakistan. Noreen recounts that when they made derogatory statements about Christianity and demanded that she convert to Islam, she responded, “I believe in my religion and in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Mohammed ever do to save mankind? And why should it be me that converts instead of you?” An argument ensued.
A mob came to her house, beating her and members of her family before she was taken away by the police. The police initiated an investigation about her remarks, resulting in her arrest under Section 295 C of the Pakistan Penal Code. She was eventually acquitted, however the story is still hair-raising.

An interesting sidelight: Persia is now called Iran because the Shah at the time (1935), who was pro-Nazi, wanted to stress the Indo-European origin of the country’s inhabitants.

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