LONDON (JTA) — The author of a book on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is refuting a British newspaper report that the Iranian president was born to a Jewish family that converted to Islam.
The Daily Telegraph based its report Saturday on Ahmadinejad’s original family name of Sabourjian, which according to the article is a common Iranian Jewish name, especially among those from Aradan, where the Iranian president was born.
The paper claimed that the family converted to Islam when Ahmadinejad was 4 years old and published a picture of the Iranian leader holding up his identity card during last year’s election campaign in a way that shows his family’s previous name.
But in a blog on the Guardian Web site, Meir Javedanfar, co-author of "The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the State of Iran," wrote Monday that rumors that Ahmadinejad’s family converted to Islam from Judaism are false.
Javedanfar, an Iranian-Israeli Middle East analyst, said Ahmadinejad’s father was a religious Shia Muslim who taught the Koran before and after the Iranian president’s birth and their move to Tehran.
The newspaper reported that Sabourjian means cloth weaver, or specifically tallit weaver. It adds that the word "sabour" means tallit, and the suffix "jian" indicates that his family was practicing Jews. The Telegraph also reported that the name is included in an Iranian Home Ministry list of names reserved for Iranian Jews.
Ahmadinejad has never denied that his family changed its name when it moved to Tehran in the 1950s, but has never stated the family’s original name.