Bashy Quraishy

on: "Light and Shadows" (exhibition on the Story of Iran and the Jews), by Gundula M. Tegtmeyer

Gundula M. Tegtmeyer's article "Light and Shadows" (exhibition on the Story of Iran and the Jews) provides a lot of information but also has many shortcomings. Let me point out two. Tegtmeyer first says that: "In the year A.D. 636, a date that marks the beginning of the Islamisation of the Persians, the Arabs invaded the Persian Empire. Ever since, i.e. for the past 1,400 years, Jews have been living under Muslim rule in Iran."

After that she stops and does not explain how the Arab conquest stopped the persecution of Jews under the Sassanid Empire right up to A.D. 651. Arabs treated Jews with respect and provided them with safety. Then Tegtmeyer jumps directly to the sixteenth century and mentions the Safavid dynasty that "made Shi'a Islam the official religion of the empire, and non-Muslims were seen as unclean infidels. Forced conversion was one of the consequences to be faced, among others by the Jewish community in the city of Mashad."

It is interesting that up until the creation of Israel and the migration of some Iranian Jews to Israel, the relationship between the Jewish community and the Iranian authorities was very amicable. It was not only under the Shahs but also under the present regime that Jews enjoyed full rights in Iran and have had large communities in the southern part of Iran. It is political interference from outside Iran that has strained relations between Jews and the Iranian people, not Islamisation, as Tegtmeyer claims. It is important to criticise the regimes and governments that oppress minorities, but it should be done with facts.

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