Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad has converted to Judaism, the Iranian national newspaper, Hamshahri reported Tuesday.
According to Hamshahri, the president said he was “delighted in my new-found faith. A whole new world has opened up to me.” The report added that he only had one regret: “As a Jew, I will no longer have the same access to the Temple Mount [in Jerusalem] that I had as a Muslim.” The Temple Mount is regarded by Judaism as a holy site. It is also considered sacred by Muslims and is the location of the Islamic Dome of the Rock and Al Aksa Mosque.
The conversion has caused a stir in Muslim and Jewish communities throughout the world. Hamshahri reported riots in Tehran, Cairo and London, with demonstrators in all three cities burning effigies of Ahmedinejad and shouting, “Death to the traitor.” Reports that a number of cartoons lampooning the president were slated for publication by the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, were unconfirmed at press time.
Israeli newspaper, The Jerusalem Post, reported Tuesday that Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar of Jerusalem called the conversion “unprecedented.” Amar is also reported to have said that some of his colleagues are “suspicious.” The newspaper quotes him as saying, “Some of [President] Ahmedinejad’s statements to the Beth Din have been called into question.” A Beth Din is a panel of three judges who interview an applicant as part of the formal Jewish conversion process.
“Apparently the Farsi he used in some of his answers is ambiguous,” Amar is quoted as saying. “For example, he either stated ‘I am anxious to embrace the true faith of Abraham as revealed to Moses in the Holy Torah,’ or the less favorable, ‘I am anxious to strangle the infidels who have exposed themselves as lawless Zionist pigs.'”
A Jerusalem Post editorial by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin states, “We have yet to see whether Mr. Ahmedinejad has truly changed his stripes. The Jewish people have ways of finding this out. The true test of loyalty will be when he visits Israel: whether he is willing to shake hands with [Israeli President] Shimon Peres.”