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American politicians and federal officials are still trying to get straight in their heads that confusing Shia vs. Sunni thingie, but it turns out that the Middle East has a whole bunch of living religions that aren’t exactly part of Islam, Christianity, or Judaism.

Sure, we’ve all heard of the Samaritans in Israel, the mysterious and pugnacious Druze of Lebanon, the heretical Alawites who rule Syria, the Lucifer-worshipping Yezidis of Kurdistan, the millions of angel-worshipping Alevi of Turkey, and the Donme, the crypto-Jewish followers of the False Messiah who wield much influence in modern Istanbul.

But according to this NYT oped “Save the Gnostics,” in 2003 there were also 50,000 Gnostics, known as Mandaeans, who lived in Southern Iraq. They revere Adam, Noah and John the Baptist, and reject Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. Wikipedia informs us, “While they agree with other gnostic sects that the world is a prison governed by the planetary archons, they do not view it as a cruel and inhospitable one.” So, they’ve got that going for them, which is nice…

Wait a minute, did that just say “planetary archons?”

A planetary archon, it appears, is a demiurge, in-between humans and God, who created and rules the world, and does a pretty bad job of it. (It’s basically the same idea as John Tierney’s recent NYT article hypothesizing that our universe is just a simulation game, like World of Warcraft, being played by some superintelligent computer geek somewhere.) The point of the Gnosis or secret knowledge is to get around the layers of bureaucracy in the middle and talk directly to God.

But now thanks to America spreading democracy to Iraq, the Gnostics are being persecuted by the Shia Muslims and are fleeing to Syria. Whether they blame their fate on America or on a planetary archon is not specified. (Better not mention this term to Bill Kristol or he’ll make it the basis of his whole political platform and worldview. The Weekly Standard will run cover stories on “America’s Destiny: Apocalypse or Planetary Archonship? We Must Choose Now!”)

Meanwhile, at GNXP, Razib chips in with “Obscure Middle Eastern religious cults – part n,” in which he unveils the million or so people in Iran who are called various names: Yarsan/Yaresan, Kakeyi, Ahl-e Haqq or Ahl-i Haqq. They believe in reincarnation.

In the comments on GNXP, tommy asks about the Shabak near Mosul, who appear to be sort of like the Yazidis, but also like kind of Muslims, except they drink alcohol and have their own sacred book, written in Turkoman. The Sunnis are beheading them in large numbers.

Are we totally sure we knew what we were getting into over there?

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
 
• Tags: Byzantine, Donme, Iran, Iraq, Israel 
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From the Forward:

Shrine of False Messiah in Turkey May Be Razed
Jay Michaelson | Fri. May 18, 2007

Far away from the eyes of the Jewish mainstream, in modern-day Turkey there live hundreds, if not thousands, of crypto-Jews — and today, one of their most sacred shrines is in danger. Article tools

This is the hidden, fascinating tale of the doenmeh, descendants of the faithful followers of the 17th-century false messiah Sabbetai Tzvi, who converted to Islam in 1666. Tzvi’s own conversion came under duress: The Ottoman sultan demanded that he don the turban or die after nearly one-third of European Jewry had come to believe he was the messiah and had begun swarming into Turkey, expecting the long-awaited triumph of the Jews.

Tzvi chose to convert, and most of his followers lost hope — but not all of them. Many saw the conversion as a heroic act of tikkun, or repair, and followed their messiah’s lead by outwardly becoming Muslims while secretly maintaining their messianic Jewish faith. They were called doenmeh, meaning “turncoats”— a pejorative term not unlike marrano (“pig.”) Among themselves, they were called ma’aminim, “believers.” Sabbateanism did not die out in 1666, or even 10 years later when Tzvi himself died. There were subsequent messiahs — largely forgotten men like Baruchiah Russo and Jacob Frank — and, as recent scholarship has shown, Sabbateanism greatly influenced the 18th-century emergence of Hasidism. And then there are the doenmeh, who live on until the present day, in secretive communities, at first primarily in Salonika and today almost entirely in present-day Turkey.

A move to tear down the Turkish home where Tzvi is said to have lived, however, may now disturb the balance the community has cultivated for centuries.

Over the years, most of the doenmeh assimilated into Islam; many more were annihilated during the Holocaust, and still more have, in modern-day Turkey, come to see their background as a curious but largely irrelevant heritage. But even those who did assimilate usually maintained some knowledge of their ancestry, and doenmeh were among the founders of the secular Turkish republic. Today, many doenmeh are among Turkey’s elite, though it is taboo to speak their names; since doenmeh are regarded as traitors by both Muslims and Jews, it is scandalous to accuse a person of being one of them, even if his or her identity is an open, unspoken secret. (Recently-deceased Turkish foreign minister Ismail Cem, for example, was “outed” by several Turkish newspapers, but he denied being a Sabbatean, and Iglaz Zorlu’s best-selling 1999 memoir, “Yes, I am a Salonikan,” stirred controversy throughout the country.) But the secret is open, like the doenmeh cemeteries outside of Istanbul, with their distinctively unadorned gravestones, and the mosques where doenmeh are known to pray.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
 
• Tags: Byzantine, Donme 
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The port city at the north end of the Aegean Sea, spelled Thessaloniki since Greece seized it from the Ottoman Empire before WWI, would be a fine setting for an Umberto Eco novel or a Dan Brown knock-off of an Eco novel.

Salonika had an appropriately Byzantine social history a century ago. It was the home of both Mustafa Kemal, founder of modern Turkey, and of the Donme, the crypto-Jewish followers of the 17th Century false messiah Sabbetai Zevi, who comprise much of the secular elite of Istanbul today. (In Turkey today, “Salonikan” is a synonym for Sabbatean.) Also, Masonic Lodges in Salonika played a role in the emergence of both the Young Turks who deposed the Sultan and, more indirectly, of the modern yogurt industry. I haven’t found any links between Salonika and the Knights Templar yet, but I’m sure I just haven’t burrowed deep enough into the fever swamps.

Salonika is back in the news as the birthplace of new French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s beloved maternal grandfather Benedict Mallah, who was the scion of a wealthy Sephardic Jewish family in that remarkable city. Salonika was about half Jewish early in the 20th Century, before the great fire of 1917 scattered much of the Jewish community, and then the rest were murdered by the Nazis. (The Donme, as nominal Muslims, were shipped to Turkey in the population exchanges of 1923 that, at great cost, brought peace between Turkey and Greece, so they escaped the fate of the Salonikan Jews.)

Sarkozy’s father, an anti-Communist Hungarian refugee of castle-owning minor aristocratic stock, abandoned his family, so little Sarkozy grew up in the small mansion of his maternal grandfather, who had converted to Catholicism upon marrying a French war widow in 1917 and then became a respected Parisian clap doctor.

“To this day many Mallahs are still active Zionists around the world,” says the Australian Jewish News:

Sarkozy’s grandfather, Aron Mallah, nicknamed Beniko, was born in 1890.

Beniko’s uncle Moshe was a well-known Rabbi and a devoted Zionist who, in 1898 published and edited “El Avenir”, the leading paper of the Zionist national movement in Greece at the time.

His cousin, Asher, was a Senator in the Greek Senate and in 1912 he helped guarantee the establishment of the Technion – the elite technological university in Haifa, Israel.

In 1919 he was elected as the first President of the Zionist Federation of Greece and he headed the Zionist Council for several years. In the 1930’s he helped Jews flee to Israel, to which he himself immigrated in 1934.

Another of Beniko’s cousins, Peppo Mallah, was a philanthropist for Jewish causes who served in the Greek Parliament, and in 1920 he was offered, but declined, the position of Greece’s Minister of Finance. After the establishment of the State of Israel he became the country’s first diplomatic envoy to Greece.

During the Holocaust, 57 members of the Mallah family were murdered by the Nazis. Sarkozy’s grandfather, who had changed his name to Benedict upon his conversion, had to lie low during WWII to keep from being caught by the Nazis in France.

Nicolas was especially close to Benedict, who was like a father to him. In his biography Sarkozy tells he admired his grandfather, and through hours spent of listening to his stories of the Nazi occupation, the “Maquis” (French resistance), De Gaulle and the D-day, Benedict bequeathed to Nicolas his political convictions.

During a visit to Greece in 2006, a visibly moved Sarkozy received a family tree album from a delegation of Thessalonikian Jews, saying “My roots are here.”

By the way, each time I’ve tried to post something about Salonika, my computer acts up and tries to swallow my entry. I blame albino monks.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
 
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Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, VDARE.com columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.


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