For minority faith groups living in nineteenth-century Iran, religious conversion to Islam -- both voluntary and forced -- was the primary means of social integration and assimilation. However, why was it that some Persian Jews instead embraced the emergent Baha'i Faith, which was subject to harsher persecution that Judaism? Mehrdad Amanat explores the conversion experiences of Jewish families during this time, and examines the fluid, multiple religious identities that many converts adopted. The religious fluidity exemplified in the widespread voluntary conversion of Iranian Jews to Baha'ism presents an alternative to the rejectionist view of religion that regards millennia of religious experience as inherently coercive, oppressive, rigidly dogmatic and a consistently divisive social force.
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Mehrdad Amanat holds a PhD in History from the University of California, Los Angeles.Review:
'Mehrdad Amanat's highly original and deeply researched book provides the first convincing and well-documented history of the interactions of the Jewish, Baha'i and Shi'i communities in modern Iran. It demonstrates the changing nature throughout history of all Iran's major religions, and should be read by all interested in modern Iranian history, and also those concerned with the histories of Judaism, Baha'ism and Islam.' - Nikki Keddie, Professor of History, UCLA; 'A fascinating story of Jewish life in nineteenth-century Iran and how some Jews traded one minority status for another by converting to Bahai'ism.' - Janet Afary, Professor of Religious Studies and Feminist Studies and the Mellichamp Chair in Global Religion and Modernity, University of California Santa Barbara; 'Mehrdad Amanat's sleuthing in rare manuscript sources has shed illumination on the otherwise obscure history of Iranian Jews and Baha'is, and has thereby added rich texture to the social and cultural history of modern Iran.' - Juan Cole, Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History, University of Michigan
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