A week after the Chief Rabbi of Iran sharply blamed the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris for causing their deaths by "insulting" Mohammed, the founder of Islam, members of the Iranian Jewish community have revealed he made the statements "under the pressure of the authorities."
In the rare statement to Iranian media, Rabbi Mashallah Golestan Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying those who "violat(e) God's prophets" are liable to the death penalty under Jewish law – despite the fact that Judaism in no way recognizes Mohammed as a prophet, insulting a prophet does not per sa carry a death penalty, and the death penalty can only be issued by the currently non-existent Sanhedrin supreme religious court.
But members of the Islamic regime's small Jewish community this week distanced themselves from the statements, and clarified that he was likely pressured into making them.
At the same time, members of the community said "there's no place for harming religion."
The rabbi was quoted as saying France should shut down the satirical magazine, claiming "to harm any religion is an offense to God, and violation of God's prophets is forbidden."
He added that those who violate this "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 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 in 1979 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 who have left the country have revealed that while Tehran outwardly presents a tolerant face regarding its Jewish community, Iranian Jews still face forms of persecution – including a functional ban on speaking about or supporting Israel, the Islamic Republic's sworn enemy.
They add 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.
Last March 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.