City of Brass

City of Brass


Baha’i persecution in Iran

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

Imagine an ethno-religious group that is treated as second-class citizens by their host country, and actively persecuted, with accusations of divided loyalties and sympathies to enemies of the state. Arabs in Israel? no – the Baha’i in Iran, who have faced increased repression from Iranian authorities of late. As ‘Aqoul ably summarizes,

Several leaders in the Baha’i faith — that other other other other Abrahamic monotheism — have been charged in Iran
with espionage and other crimes, with possible death penalty exposure.
These were generally seen as pretext charges for a broad official
chronic program of persecution. The charges are regarded as probable
pretext most especially because Baha’i have little access to secrets,
being denied official employment, and also because the alleged country
of espionagery, Israel, is naturally going to have relatively extensive
ties with the Baha’i leaders because the city of Haifa, Israel is the
site of the Baha’i Vatican.

Of course, since the Baha’i are not Arab, and outside the muslim mainstream (being an offshoot from the Shi’a Twelver faith), their plight does not get much attention from most muslim groups in the West who concern themselves with more fashionable causes.

The best resource on the Baha’i struggle in Iran is BahaiRights.org, a project of the Middle East Youth. I also highly recommend following @Kawdess on Twitter for timely coverage and links, on the topic of the Baha’i as well as other topic of general interest to middle east and muslim issues.

Incidentally, in my hometown of Chicago there is a magnificent Baha’i temple on the shore of Lake Michigan. It’s a glorious structure which I’ve visited (as a tourist) many times since childhood. On my recent trip back from Colombo last year I was able to take a picture of the temple from the air, which gives a sense of the harmonious yet imposing architecture, but of course is no substitute for actually visiting in person.

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  • http://kk tg

    Since when are bahai an ethnic group?

  • Kawthar

    Thanks for the mention.
    But actually one of the best sources for the current situation in Iran is http://www.IranPressWatch.org
    We have limitations in that we cannot rely too heavily on Baha’i sources (lest the “covert Baha’i organization” accusations come raining in), and we avoid coverage of international condemnation and resolutions as they carry little weight in this region.

  • http://www.truebahai.com/court_case.html Ross Campbell

    While we deplore the abuse and injustices of Iranian authorities towards Bahá’ís in that Nation, we consider that readers should be informed that The National Spiritual Assembly of Bahá’ís of the United States is acting with a similar attitude and plans towards Orthodox Bahá’ís in America as the attitude and plans of Iranian authorities towards Bahá’ís who live in that Mation. The National Spiritual Assembly of Bahá’ís of the United States is attempting to use U.S. Courts to force Orthodox Bahá’ís to stop practicing
    their Faith, stopping them from identifying themselves as Bahá’ís or using the name Bahá’í or the symbols of their Faith. The National Spiritual Assembly failed in its Court Action to deprive Orthodox Bahá’ís of their freedom of religion and now the National Spiritual Assembly filed an appeal to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals of Judge Amy J. St. Eve’s decision in favor of the Orthodox Bahá’í Faith. Here is the link which leads to the details of the Court Action: http://www.truebahai.com/court_case.html
    Evidently the goal/plan of the leadership of the large body of Bahá’ís concerning Orthodox Bahá’ís parallels the goal/plan of Islamic leaders in Iran towards Bahá’ís, and the justification of the leadership of the large body of Bahá’ís for its actions against Orthodox Bahá’ís is identical, namely, that it considers
    Orthodox Bahá’ís to be apostates (heretical/Covenant-breakers).

  • MZR

    I am SHOCKED that the Covenant Breakers would have the gall to compare their situation to the Baha’is in Iran! SHAME ON YOU!!!!!!!

  • http://MZR Rashid Sangi

    Dear MZR,
    Please consider the tone and content of your message, and consider whether or not it is conducive to our high Baha’i principles of avoiding conflict and contention. As outrageous as the comments made by those who would seek to portray the Baha’i Faith in the same light as the Islamic regime in Iran are, we must be very be very careful and ponder how our reactions affect the situation.
    I wish to thank you, Mr. Aziz Poonawalla, for bringing light to this dark chapter in Iran’s history. God surely honors those of any and no religion who publicize the plight of the innocent victims of state-organized bigotry, persecution, and prejudice.
    RS

  • Susan

    My thanks also to Aziz for his concern. Updates of the situation of Iranian Baha’is are continuously posted in Beliefnet’s Baha’i Faith Community discussion boards. Although the Faith began in Persia (now Iran), it can no longer be considered as an ethnic-based religion. The Baha’i Faith, within 170 years, is now second only to Christianity in its global scope and is comprised of hundreds of ethnicities.
    A slight clarification regarding what has been written about any similarity of treatment of “orthodox” Baha’is. The U.S. court case has only to do with copyright infringement of use of the name “Baha’i Faith” and/or the word “Baha’i.” There are no attempts to stop any individual from practicing personally held beliefs.

  • http://bahai-islam.blogspot.com/ Susan Maneck

    Bahairights.org is not a Baha’i website. It is run by Muslims who are concerned that Baha’is are being deprived of their human rights in some Muslims countries. I think we should applaud their efforts and that of Mideast Youth.

  • Susan Maneck

    Dear MZR,
    I would not be overly concerned with the remarks of the Remeyites, though they are as you note, making a rather ludicrous comparison. The current court case has to do with enforcing a court order which was issued in response to a lawsuit which their leader, Mason Remey had filed against *us*. Mason Remey had sought possession of the Baha’i properties in America along with the trademarks of Baha’i symbols. He lost that lawsuit and and a court order was issued barring the Remeyites from using those trademarks. We did not seek to enforce that court order until more recently when one of the Remeyite groups set up a very misleading website using the acronym UHJ which showed the Seat of the Universal House of Justice, something that was built long after the Remeyite group separated themselves from the Baha’i community.
    This isn’t an issue of religious freedom it is an issue of one group masquerading as our organization in violation of an existing court order which came as a result of a lawsuit *they* initiated.
    warmest, Susan

  • BC

    Ross Campbell is the public voice of the so-called “Orthodox Baha’is” – a tiny schismatic group of 40 people very active in posting negative comments against the 5 million member worlwide Baha’i community and its institutions. Mr. Campbell is well aware that the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States is not trying to deprive the “Orthodox Baha’is” of their right to believe as they wish, of their life, property, or any other civil right. Baha’is are bound to uphold these, even for someone who has been expelled from the Baha’i community.
    The court case to which he refers is about the methodology of his organization in misusing identifying trademarks of the Baha’i Faith to make others believe that their organization represents the Baha’i Faith rather than the extremely small schismatic group for which he speaks.
    The Baha’i Faith has a covenant that preserves the unity of the Baha’i Faith. It stems directly and explicitly from the Baha’i scriptures as revealed by Baha’u'llah and ‘Abdu’l-Baha. It explicitly names those who are the Head of the Faith and the conditions under which succession occurs. The 9-member Universal House of Justice is the head of the worldwide Baha’i Faith. One who violates this covenant by attempting to set up a schismatic group and competing institutions is expelled. Mr. Campbell is one such person. One term used in Baha’i scriptures for such excommunicants is “covenant-breakers” or “violators of the covenant.”
    While Mr. Campbell attacks the Baha’i community for using the term “covenant-breaker,” he fails to explain that his own organization has repeatedly attacked the members of the worldwide Baha’i community in the same terms that he claims to abhor. He also fails to note that his organization, while hating and opposing the Universal House of Justice, has set up a decoy site calling itself the “Official Website of the Universal House of Justice.”
    It should be repeated that the worldwide Baha’i Faith does not, nor would ever, seek the persecution of those who have been removed from membership in the Baha’i community for violation of the covenant. Baha’is have spiritual obligations regarding non-association with expelled individuals, but they are absolutely bound, by the teachings of their Faith, to accord those expelled from the Baha’i community the same civil and human rights that are due to all by their common humanity. Mr. Campbell well knows this.

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