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Monthly Archives: March 2009
HAIFA, Israel — A new Web site with information for visiting the Baha’i shrines and gardens in Haifa and Acre was introduced today by the Baha’i International Community.
The Web site gives details about tours, hours, and the gardens themselves, as well as information about visiting the Shrine of Baha’u’llah in Acre and the Shrine of the Bab in Haifa. The shrines are the resting places of the founders of the Baha’i Faith.
The site launched in both English and Hebrew and an Arabic version is forthcoming.
English-speaking website address: http://www.ganbahai.org.il/en/
In about 9 articles this year, Roger Cohen of the NY Times has been writing about modern Iranian society. Strangely, except for a brief mention in one article, he does not discuss the Baha’i situation in Iran.
Why the snub?
I guess the Baha’i cause in Iran is just not sexy enough.
Baha’is shun partisan politics, divisiveness, and for the most part, live quiet lives serving humanity. The Baha’i story gets lost in the hubbub of geo- and theo-politics, and the so-called theory of the “Clash of Civilizations.”
Cohen’s articles mention the need for rapproachment between America and Iran. The Baha’i worldview can certainly contribute to that goal; it is inclusive and tolerant, as stated by Baha’u’llah (the founder of the Faith): “…the earth is but one country and mankind its citizens.”
Baha’is have made significant contributions to Iranian society and are touted by ordinary Iranians as being very trustworthy and reliable. Baha’is will be central to the building of a culture of justice in Iran, regardless of who runs the country. Now that’s a real scoop.
Results of PasadenaBahai.com’s efforts
Compared to previous Cohen articles on Iran, I did see an uptick in comments that mentioned the Baha’is in Monday’s article, “Iran, Jews, and Pragmatism”. Maybe it had something to do with alerting my friends and networks about the relative omission of the Baha’is in Cohen’s articles. Let’s keep the momentum going!
How You Can Help
Well, until Mr. Cohen starts writing about the Baha’is more directly, the best way for us to help is to either write comments to his articles, or recommending comments. Many comments for his current article are well-written, and several of them (mentioned below) bring up the need to address the issue of the Baha’is.
If you like these comments, then “vote” for them by 1) clicking on the links below, reading the comment, and clicking on recommend; and 2) if you’re not registered at the NY Times, then please register then–it’s free. Note: you can’t recommend a comment unless you’re registered. It’s really easy and they will not spam you, in case you’re asking.
Voting for articles is important! It shows that you took the time to read someone’s opinion, to think about it, and recommend it.
Comment #11, from JG*, Caesarea, Israel:
*This gentleman let me know about Mr. Cohen’s visit to Sinai Temple in LA, where I got to ask Roger a question. I thank him for his support of the Baha’is!
Summary: a very direct response to Cohen’s assertions, with a brief mention of the Baha’is.
Comment #20, from Philippe Copeland*, Boston:
Summary: An American Baha’i who posits that, “…any discussion of Iran must include the human rights of all religious communities in that country to offer a full picture and context.”
Comment #21, from Samah*, Los Angeles:
*This has got to be my friend Samah–wait, there’s probably 1,000 Persians named Samah in LA! 🙂
Summary: Samah brings up a “…larger point not addressed. Jews are a small minority in Iran, almost negligible. A far better barometer for measuring the repressiveness in Persian society would be to examine the case of the Baha’is, who ARE the largest non-Muslim religious minority in the country.”
Comment #24, from Stefanina Rocco, Canada:
Summary: Stefanina writes: “How does one consistently write about Iran without discussing Iran’s century old and ongoing persecution of its 300,000 + Baha’i community?”
Comment #66, from AW, Florida:
Summary: AW gently asks Mr. Cohen to, “please enlighten your readers about Iran’s treatment of Zoroastrians, Baha’is, Christians and other minorities.”
Comment #68, from A. Foxx, Kansas City:
Summary: Foxx brings up the suffering of all the Iranian people, not just the Bahais.
Comment #84, from Misha, Philadelphia:
Summary: Misha is very direct as well, reminding Cohen to, “don’t forget how Bahai are persecuted, like Jews used to be in Europe.”
Thanks to a reader in Israel, I found out that Roger Cohen, author of the article “Iran, the Jews, and Germany” mentioned in a previous blog posting, would be in Los Angeles on Thursday, March 12th at Sinai Temple for “…a crucial dialogue with the Iranian Jewish community.” The Temple was about 1/3 full, with probably about 200 people there, eagerly awaiting to hear what Cohen had to say.
Mr. Cohen started the evening with an opening statement touching upon the article, “What Iran’s Jews Say” and expressed his desire to defend our right to disagree with him. In the opening statement, he also shared his story of becoming an naturalized American citizen and the first written sentence of the naturalization test was: “I want to be good American.”
I believe that Cohen’s intention is good–to foster greater understanding and unity between Iran and the US. This is desperately needed right now. He also mentioned that is far too easy to demonize a country on tragic misunderstanding and error. That is true as well. The Iranian people have been unfairly portrayed in the US media. He actuallly went to Iran to meet the people and the government–so his reporting was based on first-hand experience of what’s going on in Iran today.
The only issue I have with his columns on Iran is that they miss out on one of the biggest (unreported) stories in Iran: the persecution of the Baha’is. The Baha’is are the largest religious minority in Iran, 300,000 strong. The Baha’is of Iran cannot practice their Faith publicly, nor attend university unless they renounce their Faith, have seen their cemeteries razed, their property confiscated, and have been killed with impunity since the inception of the Faith in the 19th century. None of these details were mentioned in the articles. Mr. Cohen did acknowledge that in his trip to Iran, he did not meet or speak with any Baha’i.
After Mr. Cohen spoke, Rabbi Wolpe asked him several hard-hitting, but generally fair questions. Rabbi Wolpe then opened it up to the audience to ask Mr. Cohen his questions. There was actually another Baha’i in the audience, Dr. Mahmoudi from LA, who made a comment about the suffering of the Baha’is in Iran before my question. I did not know her before that evening. It took a while to be able to ask my question. My arm felt like it was going to fall off waiting to be called! Finally, at the last minute, Mr. Cohen was asked to pick the final questions of the night:
I asked him about the Baha’is, acknowledging him for mentioning the Baha’is, even if in passing in his article, and also pointing out that the ad-hoc leaders of the Faith are currently in prison (see previous articles in this blog), awaiting trial, with no access to their lawyer, Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi, with the possibility of the death penalty. I asked him in the spirit of fairness, in his stated goal to show a more complete image of Iran in the US, “could you please write an article about the situation of the Baha’is in Iran?”
The crowd clapped at this suggestion and several people called out to him to see if he would answer my question. He said that hasn’t written about the Baha’is in Iran and was unsure if he would write about them in the future. Several members of the crowd approached me afterwards thanking me for asking Cohen the question.
Thank goodness the Jewish Journal recorded the entire program, inclusive of all questions. Click here to watch it. Running time is about 1 hr 30 minutes. I ask my question at 1 hr 22 minutes. I am not seen, only a disembodied voice.
I also left a comment on the Jewish Journal page, thanking all participants for having this dialogue. I feel bad because I misspelled Rabbi Wolpe’s name. Sorry, Rabbi!
Before the program started, I was interviewed by a Jewish TV Channel, which unfortunately, I didn’t get the name of or the possible air date. If anyone out there can reply with that info, that would be greatly appreciated.
The Baha’i International community released a statement last week in response to Ayatollah Qorban-Ali Dorri-Najafabadi, the Prosecutor General of the Islamic Republic of Iran, who declared illegal on 15 Feb 2009 the ad hoc arrangements that tend to the spiritual and social affairs of the Baha’i community of Iran. The ad hoc arrangements, which include the Yaran and the Khadimin, the Baha’i administrative leadership at the national and local levels respectively, will close their functioning to remain obedient to the government. To read the letter click here.
The Yaran, which consists of the 7 Baha’is imprisoned since last year (pictured above) remain without access to their lawyer, Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi, and still face trial in Iran with the possibility of the death penalty. Thankfully, there is action in the House of Representatives and the Senate to condemn the Iranian government actions.
If you haven’t already contacted our Congressman, Adam Schiff, to support H. Res 175, then here is his contact form.
Thanks for your support!
The Muslim Network for Baha’i Rights, a group of Muslim interfaith activists, created this multimedia timeline to promote human rights and religious freedom and respect within the Arab and Muslim world. It is very meticulous, listing every infraction from the Islamic Revolution in 1979 to today.
It is also a work-in-progress that the Network asks the public to submit their own content or story to make it more complete. For more information about the timeline and how to submit, visit here.
Concerning the seven, a 22 February 2009 VOA editorial “reflecting the views of the United States Government” (http://www.voanews.com/uspolicy/2009-02-23-voa5.cfm) states:
“More than 9 months have passed since 7 leaders of the Baha’i community in Iran were arrested and sent to prison with no access to legal counsel. Now the Iranian government has announced the 7 have been charged with espionage. The move is the latest in decades of repressive measures against the Baha’is, the largest non-Islamic religious minority group in Iran. Those measures include barring Baha’is from attending public universities or working in public agencies, destroying or closing Baha’i places of worship, bulldozing Baha’i cemeteries, legally confiscating Baha’i property, and killing Baha’is with impunity.”
In your current op-ed, you write: “I was based in Berlin for three years; Germany’s confrontation with the Holocaust inhabited me.” Roger, doesn’t the above remind you of something that occurred in Nazi Germany some 70 years ago?
For your information, tens of thousands of Baha’is have been slaughtered in Iran from the time this religion emerged in the mid-nineteenth century. The most recent murder occurred in July 1998, when Rúhullah Rawhani, a Baha’i businessman and father of four, was executed in Mashad without sentencing and without any semblance of due process.
In “What Iran’s Jews Say”, you stated: “Iranian civility toward Jews tells us more about Iran — its sophistication and culture — than all the inflammatory rhetoric.” I suggest you examine Iranian “civility” toward its gentle Baha’i minority before pronouncing judgment whether Iran is a totalitarian regime. More to the point, go back and try writing an op-ed “What Iran’s Baha’is Say”. I am confident “the consistent warmth” (your description) with which you were received in Iran by this savage theocracy will dissipate with the speed of a uranium enriching centrifuge.”
— JG, Caesarea