The event was organised by local Ismaili institutions. The Chairman of ITREB France, Aziz Khetani, spoke of the importance of the launch of this book in French. He said that Dr Daftary’s seminar would enable those present to understand the elaboration of a myth over a period of thousand years. He further said that the talk would explain the nature of modern research studies based on original Ismaili manuscripts from various regions of the world (Syria, Yemen, Central Asia, etc.) and which laid the foundation for modern Ismaili studies from 1930 onwards.
In his remarks, Dr Daftary explored the historical context in which the assassin legends were fabricated and transmitted. He said that, until recently, the Ismailis were studied and judged almost entirely on the basis of evidence collected or fabricated by their detractors. As a result, a whole series of myths and legends circulated about their teachings and practises. In this book, Dr Daftary has identified four different levels of misrepresentation of the Ismailis, each layer adding new embellishments to the popular tales. He talked about specific tales and explained their genesis and concluded by explaining how modern scholarship in Ismaili studies has deconstructed these legends, replacing fact for fiction regarding the actual beliefs and practises of the Shia Ismaili Muslim community.
Attended by over 80 people, the talk was held at Hotel Mercure: Tour Eiffel. For those not fluent in English, Salima Bandjy, an alumna of the Graduate Programme in Islamic Studies and Humanities from France, translated Dr Daftary’s lecture into French. The hour-long talk was followed by lively questions and answers and a book signing session.
Originally published in English (1994), The Assassin Legends has also been translated into Arabic (1996), Farsi (1997), Hungarian (2000), Portuguese (2006) and Russian (2007). It has generated considerable interest in the academic field and has been warmly received, especially amongst those concerned with Ismaili studies, the history of Islam and the Middle East, and the mediaeval history of Europe.