Opinion

Entries arguing a particular point of view

Treatment of Bahais: A Test of Human Rights in Iran

On May 14, the Iranian government arrested six prominent Bahai leaders and accused them of "endangering national security." The timing of the arrests has led some to speculate that the Iranian government is trying to link these leaders to the April explosion at a religious center in Shiraz that killed fourteen people. Considering Iran's clerical establishment believes the existence of religious minorities undermines official Shiite orthodoxy, these latest arrests are just another black mark on Iran's long and dismal record of protecting individual human rights and religious freedom.

Bahais: A Threat to Shiite Orthodoxy

{josquote}Mehdi Khalaji is a visiting fellow at The Washington Institute, focusing on the role of politics in contemporary Shiite clericalism in Iran and Iraq.{/josquote}

Unlike Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Christianity, Bahaism emerged after Islam and claims to supercede the Shiite faith. A centerpiece of Shiism is the belief in the Twelfth (or Hidden) Imam, a descendent of Ali who is said to reappear at the end of days. The Bahai religion originated from Ali Muhammad Shirazi (1819-1850), who claimed to be the gateway to the Hidden Imam and then later proceeded to declare himself the Imam. By claiming to be this important religious figure, he challenged not only the clerical establishment but also the official interpretation of the sacred texts. Although the Bahai faith explicitly asks its worshipers not to participate in political activities, Persia's leaders at that time (the Qajar kings) viewed Shirazi's claims as a challenge to the legitimacy of the state, in so far as the king was the head of a Shiite country. Later on, the Pahlavi dynasty resisted clerical pressure to make anti-Bahaism official government policy.

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Why Islamists Persecute the Baha'is

This is the best of times and the worst of times, as the saying goes. Humanity is struggling on the one hand to free itself from the vestiges of its barbaric past while embarking on an exhilarating new way of life. It is the same story. The old is doggedly fighting the new on many fronts. And the new in this case is a huge paradigm shift of ideas and beliefs that demands total eradication of all.  This has kept mankind in a quagmire of wars, injustice and misery.

In this realm of ideas, religions play pivotal roles and the old and the new clash, often violently. Ideas and beliefs are our software that determines how we behave. And the software of the past is no longer working because it is out of phase with the needs of the time as well as infected with destructive viruses.

Even a cursory look is enough to show that the software of Islam, over time, is so greatly manipulated by numberless sects, sub-sects and schools that it can hardly be considered a unitary belief system. And people are their ideas. Any assault on beliefs and ideas provokes the assailed to action.

{josquote}Baha’is have a very rosy and possibly unrealistic view of humanity.{/josquote}

This clash of beliefs is the reason for Islamists to unleash their power against the upstart iconoclastic Baha’i faith. In fact, the Baha’is revere Islam and respect all other religions. Baha’i faith has many teachings in common with Islam, so much so that some call it “Islam light,” because, while it retains some of Islam’s principles, it also abrogates a number of outdated and counterproductive Islamic laws and practices. Baha’is say their faith is not a wrecking ball that aims to demolish the schoolhouse of God called religion: a badly divided schoolhouse where everyone claims to worship the same God, yet keep oppressing, fighting and killing each other in the name of the same God.

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The Baha'i Faith (A to Z of Belief, 1 of 3)

The first 10 minutes of a BBC Northern Ireland program, 1990.

[Fast forward about five and a half minutes to cut to the chase. -Steve]

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On Sectarian Hatreds and Other Shackles: O freedom from!

“Freedom from sectarian hatreds and other shackles” has been a phrase used by an individual posting on multiple forums over a several month period this Spring. He described his posting efforts as part of a “liberation movement.” In discussing his “movement” he made a reference to Susan Maneck who responded, after first quoting his premise. -gw

One example I see of sectarian hatreds among Baha’is, which I’ve tried to address, is a kind of Hatfield-McCoy feud on the Internet that has stifled and defamed a liberation movement in the Baha’i community.

Dear Jim,

There are no sects in the Baha’i Faith. What exactly are you calling a ‘liberation movement.” A liberation from what? The Universal House of Justice? The Covenant?  …

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We Have Annulled The Rule Of The Sword

As my fellow Baha’is in Iran face a renewed wave of persecutions, there are some who charge the Baha’i community to be perpetrators of violence.

Of course these charges have no credibility but still I thought it would be fruitful to go to the source and see what Baha’u'llah commands:

Beware lest ye shed the blood of any one. Unsheathe the sword of your tongue from the scabbard of utterance, for therewith ye can conquer the citadels of men’s hearts. We have abolished the law to wage holy war against each other. God’s mercy hath, verily, encompassed all created things, if ye do but understand.
Epistle to the Son of the Wolf

And again, speaking to the Babi and Baha’i community of the time, Baha’u'llah explains not only the injunction to eschew violence but He explains in no uncertain terms that His Cause has no desire to gain or hold power in the form of civil authority:

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