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The Guardian: Ahmadinejad Not Jewish, Family Didn't Convert

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Just a couple weeks ago, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took to the podium inside the U.N.'s grand hall and suggested that there was a worldwide Jewish conspiracy.

But a story published Saturday by The Daily Telegraph stood to turn Ahmadinejad's conspiracy theory on its head. According to the newspaper, Ahmadinejad, a practicing Shia Muslim, is descended from Jews and his family converted to Islam, changing their name from Sabourjian to Ahmadinejad.

Just two days later, fellow U.K. daily newspaper The Guardian has published a report refuting the Telegraph's report. According to The Guardian's Meir Javedanfar, Ahmadinejad has no Jewish roots. Ahmadinejad's mother is even thought to be a descendant of the prophet Mohammed.

The Daily Telegraph's Damien McElroy and Ahmad Vahdat based some of their argument on a photograph of Ahmadinejad's identity card, which showed he was previously known as Sabourjian. They wrote that Sabourjian was a "Jewish name meaning cloth weaver."

The short note scrawled on the card suggests his family changed its name to Ahmadinejad when they converted to embrace Islam after his birth.

The Sabourjians traditionally hail from Aradan, Mr Ahmadinejad's birthplace, and the name derives from "weaver of the Sabour", the name for the Jewish Tallit shawl in Persia. The name is even on the list of reserved names for Iranian Jews compiled by Iran's Ministry of the Interior.

The Guardian's Meir Javedanfar:

"There is no such meaning for the word 'sabour' in any of the Persian Jewish dialects, nor does it mean Jewish prayer shawl in Persian. Also, the name Sabourjian is not a well-known Jewish name," he stated in a recent interview. In fact, Iranian Jews use the Hebrew word "tzitzit" to describe the Jewish prayer shawl. Yeroshalmi, a scholar at Tel Aviv University's Center for Iranian Studies, also went on to dispute the article's findings that the "-jian" ending to the name specifically showed the family had been practising Jews. "This ending is in no way sufficient to judge whether someone has a Jewish background. Many Muslim surnames have the same ending," he stated.

The story was posted to The Huffington Post on Saturday and received tens of thousands of pageviews. Huffington Post's headline credited the 124-year-old The Daily Telegraph for the report.

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