Roya Hakakian had a great op-ed in the NYTimes recently discussing the strange dynamic of being rendered "obscure," rather than singled out for being Jewish as an Iranian Jew living in Muslim Iran. Since the piece is now accessible only for Times Select readers, I'll quote some of it here:
Of all the pain that Muslim Iranians have inflicted upon the Jews, the most persistent is obscurity. We have always been admired for being ''completely Iranian,'' the euphemism for being invisible, indistinguishable from Muslims. We speak Persian. We celebrate the Iranian New Year with as much verve as the next Iranian. Our kitchens smell of Persian cuisine. At our Jewish festivities, we dance to Persian music. In the United States, we have often angered our American counterparts for not wishing to pray in their temples, because we insist on conducting our services in Persian.
Yet Muslim Iranians, even those who have loved and befriended us, have never known us as Jews: in our synagogues, wrapped in prayer shawls, at our holiday tables recounting the history of our struggles. They lack even the proper vocabulary by which to speak about the Jews: ''What shall I call you, 'Kalimi' or 'Johoud?' '' they sometimes ask. These words are the Persian equivalents of ''Jew'' and ''kike.'' And occasionally, as if to inflict punishment, they ask: ''Do you consider Iran your real homeland?''
Four years later, the regime did its best to instate policies and practices hostile to religious minorities. Water fountains and toilets at my high school were segregated, some marked with signs that read ''For Muslims Only.'' But by and large, Iranians were not receptive to such bigotry. We crisscrossed among the stalls until the signs became meaningless.
The post-revolutionary regime has had the misfortune of ruling a people reluctant to embrace its radical message. That is why Iran remains home to the second-largest community of Jews in the Middle East -- second only to Israel.
So is Hakakian suggesting that being indistinguishable has preserved the Jewish community in