Persian Jews Flocking to Fold of Bahaism for New Freedom

Persian Jewry, for centuries considered a “bulwark of staunch Judaism and the home of Jewish learning,” is presenting today the strange spectacle of growing disloyalty to the Jewish faith, according to latest advices from all Jewish centers in the Kingdom of Persia, which indicate that Persian Jews are yielding in alarming numbers to the lure of Bahaism, the new religion which has recently made its appearance in the Near East.

It is estimated that the new religion has already attracted more than half of the Jewish population of Persia and the defections persist. The rapid spread of Bahaism among Persian Jews is ascribed to two causes, the degrading position of Persian Jew today and a tendency on the part of many Persian Jews to mistake Bahaism for a new type of Judaism.

Bahaism is an outgrowth of Mohammedanism. It aims at a reform of the Shiite form of Islamism prevalent in Persia, and among other tenets it condemns the Siite attitude toward non-believers, including Jews. It has been welcomed by Jews and other oppressed religious minorities with open arms, because of its progressive and tolerant views, its abolition of the law of impurity of strangers and its advocacy of the principle that all men are leaves of the same tree. The new religion has come like an edict of toleration for the enslaved and persecuted Jews who could not go out into the streets when it rained for fear that the water might pass their impurity on to a true believer, whose money had to be washed before it went into the pocket of native tradesmen, and whose low economical and social position was due to the law of un-cleanliness. Therefore, the Persian Jew flocks to the new religion, because he sees in it redemption.

The second factor, which wins Jewish adherents to Bahaism, is the close connection between the Bahai Movement and Palestine. The Bahai prophets, Baha Allah, M Abdul Baha, and Said Ali Mohammed, when expelled from Persia made their home in Haifa, Palestine, and the holy places of the Bahai religion are all in Palestine. This connection is merely accidental, for Bahai Allah might well have been exiled to any other part of the world, yet it is being utilized as an effective argument among Persian Jews.

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