Iran's Chief Rabbi has blamed the Charlie Hebdo attack on the magazine's publishers themselves, Iranian media reported Tuesday night, saying that the attack was only a matter of time after the weekly published cartoons of the founder of Islam Mohammed.
In a rare statement Iranian media attributed to Rabbi Mashallah Golestan Ahmadinejad, the Iranian Jewish leader said that in his view, the French government should close the magazine for stirring up tensions.
"To harm any religion is an offense to God, and violation of God's prophets is forbidden," he allegedly said.
The statement also gave an ostensibly halakhic (Jewish law) ruling that publications which violate this rule "are subject to one of the four forms of capital punishment- burning, stoning, strangling, and decapitation," according to "Jewish customs" which "of course have nothing to do with contemporary Zionism."
Rabbi Mashallah Golestan Ahmadinejad replaced Iran's former chief rabbi, Rabbi Yosef Hamadani Cohen, after his death last year. Iran had between 80,000 and 100,000 Jews before the revolution but most have since fled, mainly to the United States, Israel and Europe; there are now only about 8,500, mostly in Tehran but also in Isfahan and Shiraz, major cities south of the capital.
Iranian Jews in Israel have noted that while Tehran outwardly presents a tolerant face regarding its Jewish community, Iranian Jews, like other minority groups in the country, still face forms of persecution – including a functional ban on speaking about or supporting Israel, the Islamic Republic's sworn enemy.
Iranian Jews living abroad – and thus able to speak freely – have noted that the regime often coerces or otherwise pressurizes the country's remaining Jews to exhibit their "support" for Tehran's stances, including enmity towards Israel.
Indeed, Rabbi Ahmadinejad's statement appears forced to say the least: capital punishment in Jewish law can only be carried out by the currently non-extant Sanhedrin, or supreme religious court, and has never applied to insulting any prophets – let alone those of other religions.
In March 2014, it was revealed that eight Iranian Jews between 1994 and 1997 were murdered on their way to Israel; more recently, an Iranian Jewish community member told AFP that a glass ceiling still exists in Iran for Jews in various fields and that murderers convicted of killing Jews receive light sentences.