Sen's daily

September 1, 2017

Battambang House of Worship opened


Bahai World News Service, September 1, 2017.

Some 2,500 people have gathered this morning at a conference to mark the historic dedication of the local Baha’i House of Worship in Battambang, Cambodia. The program also included remarks by several officials from the national and provincial governments as well as the architect and representatives of the Baha’i community.

The Universal House of Justice addressed a letter to those assembled for the opening. The opening of a new House of Worship intended to serve a local community “is a historic occasion, prefiguring the appearance of many more local as well as national Mashriqu’l-Adhkars (Houses of Worship), in obedience to Baha’u’llah’s commandment … “Build ye houses of worship throughout the lands in the name of Him Who is the Lord of all religions.””

Full story: BWNS

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August 26, 2017

New Pilgrim Reception Centre opens in Haifa

Filed under: Bahai community — Sen @ 14:22
Tags: , , ,


Bahai World News Service, August 25, 2017.

A new Pilgrim Reception Centre has opened this month, ready to receive a growing number of pilgrims and visitors at the spiritual and administrative center of the Baha’i Faith.

The three-story stone structure, which is located immediately to the west of the Shrine of the Bab, will receive the season’s first pilgrim group in October, on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Baha’u’llah.

The new Reception Centre makes it possible for several hundred pilgrims to visit the Baha’i World Centre at the same time. [Full story here]

Short link: http://wp.me/pNMoJ-2WS

Older items can be found in the archive, here. Even older news is here.

May 6, 2017

House of Justice letter on political involvement


Editorial, May 6, 2017.

The National Spiritual Assembly of the United States has distributed a letter written on behalf of the House of Justice to an individual believer regarding political involvement. The file name (which may be given by the NSA) is “Guidance on social action and public discourse” which reflects the broad scope of the letter. The letter will be of especial interest not only to the Bahais in the United States, but to the Bahais in every country where the fever cycle of partisanship is peaking at the moment. While emphasizing the limits of political involvement for Bahais, the letter it is not silent on the recent resurgence of nationalisms in western countries, stating that “prejudice, factionalism, and virulent nationalism are the very negation of Baha’u’llah’s message of peace and oneness.” (paragraph 8)

I have placed a plain text copy of the letter, with paragraph numbers and links to the sources, in the documents archive of my Bahai studies blog.
https://senmcglinn.wordpress.com/documents-archive/guidance-on-social-action-and-public-discourse/

Among the notable points are the expected admonition to Baha’is not to vilify specific individuals, organizations, or governments (paragraph 2) in whatever we may have to say, and not to judge governments as “just or unjust – for each believer would be sure to hold a different viewpoint, and within our own Baha’i fold a hotbed of dissension would spring up and destroy our unity.” (paragraph 3) Yet Bahais “must also guard against the other extreme of never taking part … in conferences or committees designed to promote some activity in entire accord with our teachings.” (Paragraph 5)

The new letter refers to the 2 March 2013 message of the House of Justice to the Baha’is of Iran as setting out how Baha’is seek to effect social change. This letter is also online in my documents archive. This approach includes active involvement in the life of society as well as the possibility of influencing and contributing to the social policies of government by all lawful means. (Paragraph 4) In certain circumstances this can include taking part in demonstrations. (Paragraph 5), but demonstrations are not the only, or even the most effective, means available (paragraph 10). The fundamental partisanship in contemporary political life means policies are often implemented without building consensus (paragraph 7). Bahais are called to three overlapping areas of action: community-building. projects and activities for social action, and involvement in the discourses of society, (paragraph 12)

There is a distinction between activities that can be supported explicitly by Baha’i institutions and those where Baha’i institutions should not participate but individuals can make a personal decision to take part, without implying that they are representing the Bahai Faith (paragraph 6).

The letter is also interesting for containing the first explicit acknowledgement that I know of, that the unity of nations – like the Lesser Peace – was not achieved in the twentieth century, describing this an uncompleted project that has left dangerous gaps in international relations (paragraph 8).

Short link: http://wp.me/pNMoJ-2T9

Older items can be found in the archive, here. Even older news is here.

March 31, 2017

Hate crime targets a Bahai in Oregon, USA.


Portland Tribune, March 29, 2017.

The Sheriff’s Office in Multnomah County, Oregon (USA) is investigating a hate crime reported on Tuesday, March 28, in Troutdale.

Hasel Afshar, 33, who was born in Iran but has lived in America since 2010, returned from a three-day vacation in Canada to find his two-story home on Southeast 26th Court ransacked, the walls coated in racist epithets. The graffiti calls Afshar a “terrorist” and orders the “Muslim” to “get out.” The vandals left a note on Afshar’s coffee table, weighed down with seven .45 caliber bullets arranged in the shape of a cross. ‘”If I see you here next month, I will shoot you and burn your house,'” the note reads, according to Afshar.

Afshar isn’t Muslim. He’s Baha’i. He doesn’t know how long it will take to clean up his home. Walls are covered in red paint, couch cushions deliberately torn and his belongings scattered.

In a week or two, once he finishes cleaning up, Afshar says he will sell his home and leave the United States. He has friends in Australia and Canada who he says never experience discrimination like this.

“I’m not going to be a hero and stay here and fight about it.” Afshar says. “I’m not going to sit here and wait for someone to shoot me.”

This isn’t the immigrant’s first experience with prejudice. In Iran, a Muslim-majority country, Afshar says police entered his family home, stole their books and arbitrarily arrested members of the Baha’i faith community. Later, after his arrival in the United States, Afshar says he was punched in the face while living in California, in what he describes as a racially motivated incident. He goes on to describe conflicts with a former supervisor at the Portland-based company where Afshar works as a machine operator, cutting out mailers and business cards.

More recently, Afshar says he was parking outside a Plaid Pantry when a man in a baseball cap pulled up in a white construction van. Get the (expletive) out of America! We don’t want you here,” the man shouted. That was on Tuesday morning, March 7. Afshar now wonders if the man followed him home.

The attack on his home has been widely reported in the media, and discussed on the social media. The Portland Tribune’s facebook page has received many messages of support for Afshar, and condemnation for the attack. On Thursday, Troutdale Mayor Casey Ryan issued a statement calling the incident “a horrible attack.”

February 27, 2017

Construction of local House of Worship in Agua Azul, Colombia, begins

Bahai World News Service, February 23, 2017.

Construction of a local Bahai House of Worship in Agua Azul, a village in Norte del Cauca, Colombia, began in January, after building contracts were formalized with a local firm in the region. Following the groundbreaking ceremony in May 2016, the three-meter high central mound on which the 18-meter tall Temple will stand has been completed, and the foundational work for the surrounding auxiliary structures has been laid. In time, these structures will be painted in the bright colors traditional to buildings in Colombia.

Since the property for the House of Worship (Mashriqu’l-Adhkar) was acquired in December 2013, the community has been undertaking a reforestation project on an 11-hectare piece of land adjacent to the Temple site. The initiative has helped to reintroduce native vegetation to the area, which was decimated by years of monoculture plantations of sugarcane. The team committed to the project has already successfully raised 43 species of plants on the land, which is designated for a Bosque Nativo, or native forest.

Full report here

Short link: http://wp.me/pNMoJ-2QD

Older items can be found in the archive, here. Even older news is here.

February 26, 2017

Letter from the NSA of the USA focusses on race unity

Editorial, February 26, 2017.

A general letter released by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of the United States on February 25 focusses on the theme of race unity. An earlier letter on this theme, entitled ‘eradicating racial prejudice in the nation’, was timed to coincide with the Feast of Izzat, on September 8, 2014.

American Bahais, it says, “have a twofold mission: to develop within our own community a pattern of life that increasingly reflects the spirit of the Baha’i teachings, and to engage with others in a deliberate and collaborative effort to eradicate the ills afflicting our nation.” (paragraph 6). In the context of involvement in the national discourse on race, the letter speaks of “a national race unity conference under the sponsorship of this Assembly, details of which will be announced in due course.” (Paragraph 11).

The full text of the letter is in the documents archive of my Bahai studies blog.

Short link: http://wp.me/pNMoJ-2Qv

Older items can be found in the archive, here. Even older news is here.

February 16, 2017

Baha’is of Iran website launched

Filed under: Bahai community — Sen @ 10:19
Tags: , , , ,

bahaisofiran
Bahai World News Service, February 15, 2017.

The site of the Bahai community of Iran went online earlier today. The website, in Persian, covers a range of topics and presents the history, activities, and aspirations of the Bahai community in Iran. [It does not present current Bahai news from Iran ~ Sen]

The new “Bahais of Iran” website is the first website of the Baha’i community of Iran. This is especially important at a time when a large volume of anti-Bahai propaganda has proliferated in that country.

Full report in English: here.

Short link:

Older items can be found in the archive, here. Even older news is here.

January 1, 2017

2016: not a good year for the Bahais in Iran

Bahai News (Persian), December 29, 2016.

Bahai News has published an overview of incidents affecting the human rights and civil rights of Bahais in Iran in 2016. The figures, which are ikely to be incomplete, since the Bahais in Iran do not have membership rolls or community organizations, show the human rights situation for Bahais in Iran has deteriorated under President Rouhani. The report lists:

96 arrests
72 prisoners released
12 Bahai prisoners allowed prison furlough
9 trials (presumably this means trials of groups of Bahais ~ Sen)
140 Bahai-run businesses closed down
3 cases of refusal to allow the burial of Bahais
5 Bahai cemeteries destroyed
2 cases of high school students expelled for Bahai beliefs
1 martyrdom, that of Farhang Amiri (فرهنگ امیری) in Yazd.

Short link: http://wp.me/pNMoJ-2Ne

Older items can be found in the archive, here. Even older news is here.

October 26, 2016

BIC report examines persecution of Iranian Bahais

Bahai International Community, October 25, 2016.

Iran’s persecution of Iranian Bahais continues unabated, despite government promises to end religious discrimination and improve human rights, according to a new report from the Bahai International Community.

Officially released today, “The Bahai Question Revisited: Persecution and Resilience in Iran” (PDF format) says Iran has actually stepped up certain elements of its campaign against Bahais, such as the dissemination of anti-Bahai propaganda and a crackdown on Bahai businesses.

The report offers a number of new statistics on the governments oppression of Bahais. Since 2005, it says, when the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began to re-intensify the persecution, there have been more than 860 arrests and some 275 Bahais have been sent to prison.

During that time, at least 240 Bahais have been expelled from university and thousands more have been blocked from enrolling through various ruses. There have been more than 950 specific, documented incidents of economic discrimination, such as shop closings or dismissals.

The report also says the situation has not changed under the administration of President Hassan Rouhani, who came to power in August 2013 with promises to end religious discrimination.

Since President Rouhani’s inauguration, the report says, Bahais have faced no less than 388 documented incidents of economic persecution and at least 151 Bahais have been arrested. The government’s campaign to incite hatred against Bahais has also intensified under his presidency, with more than 20,000 pieces of hateful anti-Bahai propaganda disseminated in the Iranian media.

“Taken altogether, what we have seen is an overall shift in tactics by the Iranian government, apparently as part of an attempt to conceal from the international community its ongoing efforts to destroy the Bahai community as a viable entity,” said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Bahai International Community to the United Nations.

“While arrests and imprisonments certainly continue, the government has relied increasingly on less blatant forms of persecution, such as economic, educational, and cultural discrimination.

“All this comes despite steadfast condemnation from the international community, activists, and, increasingly, ordinary citizens inside Iran,” said Ms. Dugal.

The 128-page report contains numerous human stories about the impact of the persecution on the lives of Bahais in Iran, showing how they have responded with surprising reserves of resilience and, even, small initiatives aimed at the betterment of Iranian society as a whole.

The report also examines the history of the persecution, offering an explanation for why it continues in the face of international pressure. An extensive appendix reproduces numerous secret government documents that show unequivocally that such persecution is official policy.

Short link: http://wp.me/pNMoJ-2K5

Older items can be found in the archive, here. Even older news is here.

October 12, 2016

Interfaith group asks US government to reject report of U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

Editorial, October 12, 2016.

Kit Bigelow, who was Director of external affairs for the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of the U.S. until her retirement in June 2010, has appeared as co-signer of a controversial letter from an ad-hoc group of religious leaders. Kit Bigelow is not a leader of the Bahai community. The letter was sent to President Barack Obama, Orrin Hatch as Senate leader (pro-tem) and House Speaker Paul Ryan. The letter states:

We wish to express our deep concern that the Commission has issued a report, Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Non-Discrimination Principles with Civil Liberties, that stigmatizes tens of millions of religious Americans, their communities, and their faith-based institutions, and threatens the religious freedom of all our citizens.

The Commission asserts in its Findings that religious organizations “use the pretext of religious doctrines to discriminate.”

What we find even more disturbing is that, in a statement included in the report, Commission Chairman Martin Castro writes:

“The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.”

Kit Bigelow’s name appears as a signatory in her individual capacity as “Religious Freedom Advocate.” The term has been tainted in the USA in the last two election seasons because of its use as a cover for religiously-motivated discrimination, but Kit Bigelow’s activism for real religious liberties goes back much further, and not primarily in relation to the USA.

Current policies in the Bahai community do not allow for the recognition of the legally performed civil unions or marriages of same-sex couples. The policy of the Universal House of Justice is that individuals who are in same-sex marriages should not be allowed to enrol in the Bahai community. This means that they cannot vote, or be elected, for the Spiritual Assemblies that govern the affairs of local Bahai communities, and cannot participate in the open consultations on community affairs by enrolled members which are part of the ‘Feasts’ held in each local community 19 times every year. Those who are excluded from enrollment are not shunned and are not barred from other occasions of worship. The Bahai community today does not campaign against the legal recognition of same-sex marriages.

While the exclusion of individuals in same-sex marriages from membership of the Bahai community is discriminatory, this has not been justified by Bahais under the highly politicized banner of preserving religious freedom. There is nothing in the Bahai teachings that would justify Bahais in discriminating against homosexuals in their business activities, or in any role they might have as public officials. It would be unfortunate if the description of Kit Bigelow as “Religious Freedom Advocate” gave the impression that she, or the Bahai community, were aligned with the political movement that has claimed a religious liberties justification for discrimation in public life.

A PDF of the controversial letter is available here.

The report it criticizes is available as a PDF here.

An example of the dialogues within the Bahai community on this question can be found here.

Short link: http://wp.me/pNMoJ-2Jx

Older items can be found in the archive, here. Even older news is here.

September 27, 2016

Baha’i murdered in Yazd: two arrests


Bahai News, September 27, 2016.

Farhang Amiri (فرهنگ امیری), a Bahai living in Yazd, was murdered by two persons who came to the door of his house on the evening of September 26. He suffered multiple stab wounds, including to the heart. According to one report he was first hit on the head with a brick. Initial reports are that the murder was not related to his Bahai beliefs, and that two persons have been arrested but not yet charged. The Bahai News report says that two persons came to the door, and when his son Puya opened the door, they made the excuse of asking whether his car was for sale, and then went away. Another report based on a statement from the family says that the same happened on a previous occasion, when Mr. Amiri’s wife opened the door. On the evening of September 26, Mr. Amiri himself opened the door and was immediately attacked. He was taken to hospital, but his injuries were fatal. The two assailants fled but were later arrested on the basis of “information received.” Mr. Amiri’s father was executed for his Bahai beliefs.

Short link: http://wp.me/pNMoJ-2Ie

Older items can be found in the archive, here. Even older news is here.

 

August 17, 2016

House of Baha’u’llah in Tehran in the news in Iran


Gold News, August 15, 2016.

On May 1 this year, the House of Baha’u’llah in an alley off Pamenar Street (خیابان پامنار) in Tehran was closed in accordance with a court order, and it was stressed that any attempt to reopen the house would face prosecution. The House is government-owned, and was renovated in 2013. It is not clear from the reports what was achieved by a physical closure. According to government-controlled media in Iran, Bahais in Iran and elsewhere had been trying to buy the neighbouring properties “to develop the historic building as a site for religious meetings and devotions” (or more likely, to make it difficult for a property developer to raze the area). According to these media, neglect of the historic building and ignorance and maladministration by the responsible officials in the Ministry of Cultural Heritage led them to ask the Bahais to seek — unsuccessfully — to have the house registered as a cultural monument. The age of the building and its beauty leaves no room for doubt, according to these media, that the refusal to register the building was due to anti-Bahai prejudice, yet the house is not linked only to the Bahai community, it is part of Iran’s history and belongs to all Iranians. Although the house is a sacred spot for Bahais, to avoid problems they refrain from activities nearby, and even from walking around the area.

Photographs inside the courtyard are available in this previous report on Sen’s Daily (2013).

My guess – as an outsider trying to read between the lines – is that the issue is that the registration of the building as a cultural monument, especially if it were listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, would prevent the construction of modern buildings in the immediate area. The judicial closure would prevent maintenance and further steps to document and register the site as a cultural heritage. The Ministry of Cultural Sites and Handcrafts, with a responsibility for both protecting heritage and developing tourism, is being blamed for failing to achieve the registration (because of anti-Bahai prejudice), and for working with Bahais to try to achieve registration! It is not clear why this issue should have resurfaced now, when the closure took place in May and was reported in a limited way at the time.

Short link: http://wp.me/pNMoJ-2Gu

Older items can be found in the archive, here. Even older news is here.

 

August 12, 2016

30 Bahai youth arrested in Yemen, trial of Hamed Kamal Muhammad bin Haydara scheduled

Reuters, August 12, 2016.

Armed officers from the National Security Bureau in Yemen, an intelligence agency controlled by the Houthis, raided a Bahai youth convention in Sana’a on Wednesday (or Thursday afternoon, August 12: sources differ) and arrested 30 boys and girls, according to a Reuters report. The Houthis are a Zaidi Shiah group, widely thought to be supported by Iran. Bazdasht reports that 60 youth and adults were arrested, but the youth who were not Bahais were released after providing a surety such as a business licence and promising not to associate with Bahais. A number of the girls were also released.  The Bahais of Yemeni extraction were separated from those from Iran and other countries.

The trial of Hamed Kamal Muhammad bin Haydara (حامد کمال بن حیدرا) is scheduled to resume on August 14. He has been charged with collaborating with Israel by working for the Universal House of Justice, the Bahai supreme governing institution, which is based in Haifa, Israel. It is also alleged that he lured potential Muslim converts to the Bahai faith through charitable giving and tried to establish a homeland for the followers of the Bahai faith in Yemen. He has been detained since December 3, 2013, and has been tortured to extract a confession.

“The charges against Mr. bin Haydara are baseless and nonsensical and come after over a year of mistreatment, including solitary confinement, during which, privately, the authorities have repeatedly admitted their religious motives for the imprisonment,” said Bani Dugal, principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations. “Mr. bin Haydara is a well-respected and sincere family man who has not broken any laws. Baha’is do not proselytize as a matter of principle, and all native Yemenis who have joined the Baha’i Faith have done so of their own conviction,” Ms. Dugal added.

“The accusation of spying for Israel is a grotesque distortion of reality,” said Ms. Dugal. “The historical circumstances that led to the establishment of the administrative and spiritual center of the Baha’i Faith occurred well before the existence of the State of Israel.”

Short link: http://wp.me/pNMoJ-2G2

Older items can be found in the archive, here. Even older news is here.

 

July 22, 2016

UHJ letter on economic restrictions on Bahais in Iran

Editorial, July 22, 2016.

On June 23, the Universal House of Justice issued a letter through its Secretariat, regarding the response of the Bahais in Iran to the economic restrictions imposed upon them. With regard to employees, it restates existing policies that a Bahai employee should try to take leave from work on the Bahai Holy Days on which work is suspended, but can work with a good conscience if this is refused. With regard to Bahai-run businesses and institutions, the letter marks an important development both in Bahai policy and in the willingness of authorities in some parts of Iran to allow Bahai businesses to close for Bahai Holy Days under certain conditions.

The letter refers to a description given by two Bahais of the economic restrictions imposed on the Bahai community in a particular city and to some questions they had presented to the Universal House of Justice. It praises them for their interest in the progress of the Faith, their willingness to endure hardships in the path of God and their determination to remain in Iran. The letter refers to the alarming level of the difficulties imposed on the Bahais in that city, and other places in Iran, because they have closed their shops and work places on the Bahai Holy Days. [The authorities have responded by closing the businesses down] These illegal closures by some authorities are undoubtedly part of a plan for the economic strangulation of the Bahai community in Iran, in the hope of weakening the resolve of the Bahais to remain in Iran. The world and the people of Iran now recognize that, despite this pressure and the diverse restrictions on them, the Bahais uphold their spiritual teachings and high hopes for Iran.

The letter refers to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which guarantees freedom of conscience and religion, and states that the observation of Bahai Holy Days, including the suspension of other community activities, the closure of Bahai-owned businesses, and the suspension of work on the Holy Days form part of the religious practices of Bahais around the world. Every sincere believer is obliged to observe the Bahai Holy Days. In countries where freedom of religion and beliefs is respected, Bahais observe the Holy Days by taking leave from their work, just as the Shiah in Iran close their businesses on their religious festivals. For the Bahais in Iran, the implementation of this religious practice in present circumstances implies:

1. Bahai employees in whatever field, as well as students at all levels, should refrain from working on the holy days on which work is suspended, but if their superiors do not agree to this, they can do their work on that day with a clear conscience.

2. Bahais who control a business should close their businesses on the holy days on which work is suspended, even if they have employees who are not Bahais. However if this would have effects requiring prior arrangements to meet the needs of the public, they should endeavour to make such arrangements and should inform the authorities of the intention to close the business and of the measures they have taken.

3. In exceptional cases, entities linked to Bahais may continue to operate on Bahai Holy Days, for example where they provide services that are essential to society, to protect the life and health of persons, or provide a service that directly impacts the lives of the people around them, to such an extent that a short closure, even where prior arrangements had been made, might disrupt orderly life. In such situations, the Friends may continue the services offered by such institutions, but it is desirable to minimise the work involved in consultation with the authorities.

The authorities in some cities have demanded promises as regards the closure of Bahai businesses on Holy Days [as a condition for allowing a closed business to reopen], or have offered suggestions, such as closing the Bahai business one day before and one day after the Holy Day [as well as on the Holy Day], leaving the lights of a business turned on although nobody is working in the business, or having a worker present although no trading is done. The Bahais, who are always ready to show good will and to be flexible, may in consultation with mature Friends accept such conditions or suggestions providing they do not conflict with the spirit of the Bahai teachings.

With regard to the suggestion made elsewhere, that the Bahais should seek permission from the authorities to close their shops on Bahai Holy Days, if the civil law and trade regulations require such permission, it should be obtained, and the obligations of Bahai individuals in this case will be the same as those of employees and students. But if permission to close is neither required in the case of non-Bahais, nor mentioned in the relevant legislation, then it does not seem necessary to obtain it, as it would only be interference in individuals’ spiritual lives.

Commentary
The above is a precis and explanation rather than a translation. The most important change in practice, for the many Bahais in Iran who run small businesses, will be the possibility of observing the Bahai Holy Days while avoiding conflict with the authorities. The closures of Bahai businesses in Iran appear to have three motives, in a mix that varies from place to place. One is prejudice and superstitions: the belief that Bahais are unclean and that Muslims should not interract with Bahais. This is also the motive behind the exclusion of Bahais from economic sectors involving food, drink and personal services. When Bahais observe a Holy Day by closing their business, the authorities can withdraw the business licence and so reduce interraction between Shiah and Bahai individuals. The second motive is mentioned in the letter: the economic strangulation of the community with the intention of compelling as many Bahais as possible to leave Iran. The third is a desire on the part of some local authorities to remove the visible presence of Bahais from public spaces. A business that is visibly closed on Bahai Holy Days, and only on those days, is a visible statement that the Bahais are still there, despite over 30 years of Islamic education and unremitting state propaganda against the Bahais. A Bahai cemetery is also a visible presence: hence the destruction of old cemeteries near to towns and the allocation of sites for new Bahai cemeteries in remote places.

Since the Bahais observe the Holy Days not to make a public statement, but because of the holiness of the day and events it commemorates, it is logical that the Universal House of Justice says that the Bahais may, in consultation with mature Friends – who will help all the Bahai business in a locality to act together – accept conditions or suggestions from the authorities that are designed to lower the public profile of the Bahai businesses, providing these conditions do not conflict with the spirit of the Bahai teachings.

The Persian text of this letter is available in text format in the documents archive of my Bahai Studies blog, and in PDF format here.

Short link: http://wp.me/pNMoJ-2Fq

<strong>Older items </strong>can be found in the archive, <a href=”https://sensday.wordpress.com/news/”>here</a&gt;. Even older news is <a href=”https://sensday.wordpress.com/old-news/”>here</a&gt;.

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June 24, 2016

Navid Khanjani transfered to hospital


Iran Press Watch, June 23, 2016.

Navid Khanjani, a Bahai social activist, has been transferred from Raja’i Shahr prison to hospital for treatment. He has physical health problems, a weakened immune system and a sudden weight loss, of about 20 kilograms (44 lbs) in two months.

On March 2 2010, after protests against the elections of 20091, under the human rights activists detention project operated by the Intelligence Office of the Islamic Guards, Navid Khanjani was detained at his family home in Isfahan and transferred to section 2-A of the Islamic Guards Detention Center for some time. In August 2012, in the course of helping with earthquake relief in the Iranian province of Azerbaijan, he was arrested, and on September 5, he was moved to Ward 4, Hall 12 of Raja’i Shahr prison to carry out his sentence. He had previously been detained in March 2010, and released on bail after spending two months in solitary confinement.

He was then sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment by Branch 26 of the Iranian Revolutionary Court. In 2015, his 12-year sentence was reduced to 5 years of incarceration. The accusations compiled by the Revolutionary Court against Navid Khanjani are as follows;

Membership of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters and Human Rights Activists
Forming the “Deprived from Education Group”
Perturbation of the public and propaganda against the system by disseminating news, reports, and conducting interviews with foreign radio and TV
Publishing lies to disturb public opinion.

Short link: http://wp.me/pNMoJ-2EJ

Older items can be found in the archive, here. Even older news is here.

June 7, 2016

Egypt again considers the “religion” field on ID cards

Egyptian Streets, June 1, 2016.

Egyptian MP Ala’a Abdel Mone`em (علاء عبد المنعم) has announced he will introduce new legislation within the next two weeks to remove citizens’ religious affiliations from national identity cards. All Egyptians over 16 must have an ID card, which is used for opening a bank account, registering at a school or university, obtaining a mobile or landline telephone, obtaining a driver’s license or passport (which does not have “religion” field), applying for social services, registering to vote, and paying taxes. However the Bahai Faith cannot be entered as a religion: the possibilities are limited to ‘Muslim,’ ‘Christian,’ or ‘Jew.’ Atheists therefore face the same difficulties as the Bahais, and Shiah Muslims are assumed by default to be Sunnis, Catholics are assumed to be Copts, and so on. This matters because ‘personal status’ issues in Egypt are settled in accordance with the religious law of the person concerned – providing his or her faith is one the three main religions.

A report in ‘7 days‘ reports Bahai spokesperson Dr. Basma Moussa (بسمة موسى) as expressing strong support for the abolition of the “religion” field on identity cards, but adding that this “is not sufficient to eliminate discrimination, extremism and sectarianism within the community. We need to reform education to eliminate the problem at its roots.” The need for curriculum reform to combat sectarianism and prejudice has been echoed by others, in what has become a wide debate in Egypt.

Short link: http://wp.me/pNMoJ-2DX

Older items can be found in the archive, here. Even older news is here.

May 25, 2016

House of Justice letter on pioneering

Editorial, May 25, 2016.

The Universal House of Justice has released a letter on the role of international and home-front pioneering in the 5-year Plan that has just begun. It begins by saying, “it is our hope that the friends will continue to consider entering the international arena, whenever their circumstances allow.” In the coming five years, the International Teaching Centre will identify areas that would benefit from international pioneers, “with the expectation that … by the end of the Plan there will be at least one well-advanced intensive programme of growth in every country in the world where external conditions allow …”

As regards home-front pioneers, the House of Justice writes, “Whatever assistance they are able to provide to further the work of the Plan is, of course, most welcome; nevertheless, their efforts will have an even greater effect if, guided by the institutions, their capabilities are directed towards specific needs in clusters where the friends are labouring to intensify the growth process.” Thus, in contrast to pioneering to establish a Baha’i presence, however small, in every town and area across the globe, the emphasis now is on pioneers as assistants to growth programmes in established communities. This also means that those who can stay in an area for only a short period, even “as little as three months” are considered valuable pioneers. “Such friends can kindle a spirit of selfless service and transmit valuable experience from stronger clusters to emerging ones. In time, they return to their communities much inspired and enriched…”

I have placed a plain text version of the message, with paragraph numbers added, in the documents archive of my Bahai Studies blog.

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May 21, 2016

Summary of Iranian media reactions to Faezeh Rafsanjani’s meeting with Fariba Kamalabadi

Iran Human Rights (English), May 20, 2016.

[Editorial] The Persian-language media and social networks have been buzzing with reactions to a home visit by Faezeh Rafsanjani, daughter of a prominent Iranian politician, to visit Fariba Kamalabadi during the latter’s 5-day prison furlough. Mrs. Rafsanjani was imprisoned with Mrs. Kamalabadi for six months. The visit broke social taboos and the propaganda stance of the government, according to which Bahais are ‘unclean’ and Muslims should not have social contact or business dealings with them. Mrs. Rafsanjani is not the first prominent Iranian intellectual to make such a gesture in recent years, but her visit with the Bahais has hit the headlines in government-sponsored media because it gives the enemies of her father a chance to undermine his position. The IHR report gives a compact overview of the flood of reactions, and also explains why, in Iran, a person can be punished by the courts for doing something that is not against the law.
~~~~~~~~~~ Full Report ~~~~~~~~

A high-ranking member of the Iranian Judiciary has said that action will be taken against Faezeh Hashemi, the outspoken daughter of prominent former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, following her meeting with Baha’i leader Fariba Kamalabadi and other well-known civil rights activists in Tehran last week.

Faezeh Hashemi previously shared a prison cell with Kamalabadi.

“This was a very ugly and obscene act,” said the Judiciary’s ultra-conservative spokesman, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, at a press conference on May 18, 2016. “So far as I have gathered, many people, grand ayatollahs, religious scholars, and even her own father have condemned this act.”

“Uglier than this act is that after all these condemnations and the fact that her father told her to remedy her act, she did not apologize, and this is truly regrettable,” he said. “The Judiciary pursues any crimes that have taken place accordingly, and as with all cases this case will be dealt with as required, according to law, and the way the law has stipulated.”

Ejei’s statement comes on the heels of calls from other hardliners for Faezeh Hashemi to be arrested for meeting with Fariba Kamalabadi, an imprisoned leader of the Baha’i community who was home on a five-day furlough, on May 13, 2016.

Simin Fahandej, the faith’s spokesperson at the United Nations in Geneva, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that these calls are aimed at further isolating the Baha’i community, which is one of the most severely persecuted religious minorities in Iran.

“Faezeh Hashemi’s action is a humanitarian gesture to show respect for the beliefs of others, which shows her social maturity,” said Fahandej.

“For 37 years the Islamic Republic has tried to create divisions among various groups of people, but the opposite has happened,” she said. “Today we see a significant change not only in the views of human rights activists [towards Baha’is] but also the general public’s views.”

Fahandej added that the Islamic Republic “should realize that demanding freedom and human rights for others is not the same as following their beliefs. There’s a big difference.”

Bad Timing for Hashemi Rafsanjani

Faezeh Hashemi’s meeting occurred at a particularly sensitive time for her father, whose recent election to the Assembly of Experts—which will choose Iran’s next supreme leader—has been seen as a political comeback for the previously sidelined cleric.

Hashemi Rafsanjani had previously avoided publicly criticizing his daughter—whose activism for civil rights issues, especially women’s rights, is situated to the left of Iran’s reformists on the political spectrum—but he was quick to denounce his daughter’s latest move.

“Faezeh has made a bad mistake and she must correct and redeem herself,” Hashemi Rafsanjani told a group of journalists from the hardline Jomhouri Eslami newspaper on May 15, 2016.

He also described Baha’is as a “deviant sect created by colonialists,” adding, “We always have and always will renounce this sect.”

Hashemi Rafsanjani, a leading founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, began to fall out of favor with hardliners in 2009 when he criticized Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei for the government’s violent reaction to the mass peaceful protests that followed the widely disputed election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president who lost his presidential bid to Ahmadinejad in 2005, subsequently came under various attacks designed to politically marginalize him.

His support was a crucial element of President Hassan Rouhani’s election to office in 2013. Substantial wins by backers of the Rouhani government in Iran’s recent 2016 elections, including by Rafsanjani, have consequently put hardliners on the defensive.

Fariba Kamalabadi and six other leaders of the Baha’i community in Iran were arrested in 2008 and sentenced to 20 years in prison each in 2010 for “espionage,” “propaganda against the state,” and “organizing and expanding an illegal group.” She was on her first furlough after eight years in prison when Faezeh Hashemi visited Kamalabadi at her home. Kamalabadi has since been returned to Evin Prison.

Iranian officials have repeatedly denied prosecuting Baha’is for their religious beliefs, but have routinely accused members of the religious minority of crimes against national security, including espionage, on thin or non-existent evidence. More than 80 Baha’is are currently held in Iranian prisons, according to Fahandej.

Discrimination Campaign

Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, has declared Baha’is “unclean” and forbidden Muslims from having any contact with them. But the faith’s spokesperson at the UN said Baha’is remain determined to gain full citizenship rights.

“One of the methods used by the Islamic Republic to divide Baha’is and other Iranians is the use of false accusations and baseless information in the mass media,” Fahandej told the Campaign.

“Whenever someone stands to defend the Baha’i community, state media launches an attack and condemns the action as anti-state or anti-Islamic,” she said. “But it is important to point out that all the barriers the Islamic Republic has tried to create between Baha’is and other Iranians have often been broken within the Islamic Republic’s own prisons.”

“In prison, terms such as ‘us’ and ‘them’ and ‘unclean’ and ‘pure’ lose their meaning,” she added. “Baha’is and other imprisoned citizens share the same injustice. That’s how a friendship developed in prison between Ms. Hashemi and Ms. Kamalabadi.”

Faezeh Hashemi spent six months in Evin Prison between September 2012 and March 2013 for the charge of “propaganda against the state.”

Flurry of Criticism

On May 16, 2016 Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi condemned Faezeh Hashemi and called on the Judiciary to take action. He described her meeting with Fariba Kamalabadi as “a crime aimed at strengthening the enemies of Islam” and advocated her prosecution.

“I waited to see if there were any protests [against Hashemi] but I didn’t hear anything until her father, thankfully, made a mild protest,” said Makarem Shirazi. “But the question we should ask is, why have others remained silent?”

The Judiciary’s top official, Sadegh Amoli Larijani, reacted to Faezeh Hashemi’s meeting by describing Baha’is as “a false group created by foreigners and colonialists” whose leaders “receive orders” from foreign intelligence agencies, on May 16, 2016.

Without mentioning Faezeh Hashemi by name, Amoli Larijani said any support for Baha’is amounted to breaking societal norms.

“Relatives of officials of the Islamic Republic who carry out such actions should be ashamed because they are supporting an anti-religious group,” said the chief of the Judiciary, adding, “If they break taboos to the point of committing a crime, we at the Judiciary will take firm action.”

Mohammad Reza Naghdi, the commander of the Basij militia force, meanwhile said the government must not take the meeting between a high-profile Muslim and a Baha’i lightly.

“We must firmly confront these kinds of threats and deviations,” said Naghdi on May 16, 2016. “Anyone who befriends Baha’is is himself a Baha’i.”

A group of conservative merchants from Tehran’s bazaar also issued a statement on May 16 criticizing Faezeh Hashemi’s meeting and called on Tehran’s prosecutor to investigate.

In the holy city of Qom, a member of the conservative Combatant Clergy Association said they would meet to discuss “this ugly action by the daughter of Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani.”

A spokesman for the clerical faction of MPs meanwhile publicly scorned Faezeh Hashemi and joined other hardliners in calling on the Judiciary to punish her.

Faezeh Hashemi has also been criticized by the Rouhani administration.

“I wish those who carry a prominent family name… would think about the consequences of their actions… and realize that their action has neither helped their host nor removed any burden from the country’s shoulders,” said Rouhani’s Cultural Affairs Adviser Hesamoddin Ashena on his Facebook page.

Rouhani has been facing growing criticism from civil rights activists for failing to deliver on his presidential election campaign promises to open up Iranian society and investigate human rights violations.

No Regrets

Despite the torrent of criticism, Faezeh Hashemi has offered no apologies.

“I paid a visit to Ms. Kamalabadi because she was my cellmate. We lived together for six months,” she said in an interview with Euronews’ Persian service on May 15, 2016. “Meeting her when she was released on furlough for five days after eight years of imprisonment was a very ordinary thing. We aren’t animals who ignore moral and humanitarian obligations that are put on our shoulders at certain periods of our life.”

Faezeh Hashemi also described her time in prison as a “very valuable learning experience” adding, “We in Iran are committing injustice not only against [Baha’is] but against many others as well. But the level [of injustice] against [Baha’is] is worse than all others. This should not be happening. We must change our behavior.”

Legal Loophole

Iranian laws do not specifically prohibit contact or communication with Baha’is, therefore meeting with Baha’is is not technically illegal. However, the Iranian Constitution includes a loophole that could be used to punish minorities above and beyond the law.

Article 167 of the Constitution states: “The judge is bound to endeavor to judge each case on the basis of the codified law. In case of the absence of any such law, he has to deliver his judgment on the basis of authoritative Islamic sources and authentic Fatwas [religious decrees]. He, on the pretext of the silence of or deficiency of law in the matter, or its brevity or contradictory nature, cannot refrain from admitting and examining cases and delivering his judgment.”

Faezeh Hashemi’s critics are now referring to religious decrees (fatwas) against Baha’is, including those issued by the supreme leader, to build a case against her.

In his 2016 report on Iran’s human rights situation, UN Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed expressed “serious concern at the continuing systematic discrimination, harassment, and targeting that adherents of the Baha’i Faith continue to face in the country.”

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May 18, 2016

Obama appoints transgender woman, Sikh and Bahai to faith advisory council


Christian Today, May 17, 2016.

A transgender woman will join representatives from the Sikh and Baha’i communities as new advisers to President Obama on faith-based issues.

The White House announced the additions to the President’s third and final advisory council on faith-based and neighbourhood partnerships last week.
Barbara Satin is the assistant faith work director for the National LGBTQ Task Force and a member of the United Church of Christ (UCC). She was the first openly transgender member of the UCC’s executive council and has served on the board of a number of other LGBT community groups.

Of her appointment, Satin said: “Given the current political climate, I believe it’s important that a voice of faith representing the transgender and gender non-conforming community — as well as a person of my years, nearly 82 — be present and heard in these vital conversations.”

The other appointments included Naseem Kourosh, human rights officer at the US Baha’i office of public affairs and Manjit Singh, co-founder and chairman of the Sikh American Legal Defence and Education Fund.

Along with a number of other appointments, Obama said Satin, Kourosh and Singh were “fine public servants” and would bring “depth of experience and tremendous dedication” to their roles.

“I look forward to working with them,” he said.

The President’s advisory council is charged with making policy recommendations to the administration as well as suggesting improvements and best practices for services that relate to faith-based groups. The council currently has fifteen members, most of whom are Christian.

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April 7, 2016

American NSA changes ruling on voting in primaries

Editorial, April 7, 2016.

A letter issued by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States on April 5 corrects its previous ruling of March 8, which stated, “nor should we, even as an ‘independent,’ vote in primaries — the purpose of which is to elect delegates to political conventions.” This ruling has now been rescinded in view of a letter from the Universal House of Justice which states that:

A Baha’i may not vote in a primary election if in order to do so he or she must declare membership or affiliation with, or support for, a particular political party. But if the ballot is secret, a Baha’i is free to vote in any political election provided that he does not, by doing so, identify himself with any political party and bears in mind that he is voting on the merits of the individual rather than because he belongs to one party or another.

The National Spiritual Assembly concludes that “Individual Baha’is … bear the responsibility of researching the election laws in their particular electoral district to determine whether or not the above-mentioned criteria have been met and may vote their consciences as they see fit.”

The complete letter in text format is available in the documents archive of my Bahais Studies blog. The pdf version is online here.

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January 23, 2016

Bahai burial again impeded in Tabriz


Bahai News (Persian, Facebook), January 18, 2016.

Officials at the public cemetery in Tabriz, the Wadi-ye Rahmat cemetery, have impeded the burial of Mrs. Afruz Bakhshi (افروز بخشی), who died on Friday, January 15. Siamak Shafi`i (سیامک شفیعی), the son of Mrs. Bakhshi, who is at present in Washington, told Bahai News that officials at the cemetery in Tabriz had been refusing to bury Bahais since 2012. In September 2015, a national policy was announced, that Bahais may only be buried in one designated cemetery in each province.

After the death of his mother, his father washed the body in his own home. Washing the body in a prescribed manner is part of both the Bahai and the Muslim burial rites, and is normally done in a separate washing facility on the cemetery land. Mr. Shafi`i said that he knew it was not appropriate to wash the body in the home, for psychological and health reasons, but his father and the family had no choice, as they did not wish her to be buried according to Islamic rites.

The body was then wrapped in a shroud and placed in a coffin, and the Bahai burial prayer was recited. The use of a coffin in addition to a shroud is part of the Bahai ritual, whereas in Islamic customs the coffin is used only to transport the body, which is buried in a shroud only. Next morning he went to the cemetery to bury her in the Bahai way — in a coffin — but officials at the cemetery said they could not allow a burial in a coffin,
or the performance of Bahai rituals, so the family should bury her according to Islamic rites, without the coffin. Alternatively, they could take the body to the Bahai cemetery of Urumiyyeh (aka Urmia or Orumiyeh). This isolated cemetery was vandalised in August, 2015, and it is two hour’s travel from Tabriz. The Bahai practice is to bury a body within one hour’s travel of the place of death. The officials also suggested taking the body to Miandoab, which is two and a half hours by car from Tabriz. The cemetery officials also offered to conduct the burial themselves (i.e., according to Islamic rites). The body was placed in the morgue. Mrs. Bakhshi’s husband approached various local authorities in Tabriz, but was told that the policy comes from “higher up.” When he returned empty-handed to the cemetery in Tabriz, the cemetery officials said that they would take the body to a cemetery site specifically for Bahais in Miandoab on Monday, January 18. Mr. Siamak Shafi`i said that the “Miandoab” cemetery is actually closer to Mahabad, which is three hours from Tabriz, and is a rocky place, so that a bulldozer is required to dig a grave, and the Bahais would have to travel more than two hours to take each body. The Bahais were allocated a separate cemetery so that Muslims would not be buried alongside Bahais [and also to remove the Bahai presence from a public space ~Sen]. Mr. Shafi`i said that when the bodies of deceased Bahais are taken to the “Miandoab” cemetery by city officials, their families are told they have been buried, and in some cases the Bahais know that the deceased were buried with Islamic rites. He said that officials had been doing this for more than four years now, and 47 Bahais have been buried in this way. Five years previously, his wife’s grandmother died, and become the Bahai to be excluded from the cemetery in Tabriz.

In past years [when the Bahai community in Iran was allowed to organise its affairs], his father was one of those responsible for washing and burying deceased Bahais. After the 1979 revolution in Iran, and especially in 1987, the family, who were then living in Ilkchi, suffered attacks by ‘extremist forces’ and their possessions, land and house were expropriated.

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December 28, 2015

‘Baha’u’llah and the New Era’ banned in Malaysia

Filed under: Bahai community — Sen @ 20:44
Tags: , , , ,

The image links to the Kindle and paperback editions available on Amazon


The Malaysian Insider, December 28, 2015.

The Ministry of Home Affairs in Malaysia has banned Baha’ullah and the New Era: an introduction to the Bahai Faith with effect from December 28. Four Islamic publications were also banned: The Teachings of the Quran (possibly referring to the widely used school texts by the renowned scholar Abidullah Ghazi), and three Islamic works in Malay. The authors and publishers are not named in this report. The ban was gazetted on November 26.

Hashimah said The Teachings of the Quran contained “deviationist interpretations,” and that the other banned publications “could damage public peace and alarm the people as they contained elements which could confuse the Muslims and damage their faith.” Anyone printing, importing, selling or possessing the banned materials can be jailed for up to three years and/or fined up to RM20,000 ($US 4,600).

Baha’ullah and the New Era is an introductory book about the Bahai Faith, originally written by J.E. Esslemont and published in 1923. It has been revised and updated several times since then, and is published electronically on the Bahai Reference Library (free to read or download).

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December 13, 2015

Message to the Bahais in Iran, on behalf of the House of Justice

A’en-e Baha’i, December 13 (?), 2015.

The Secretariat at the Bahai World Centre has published a letter in Persian that is of interest to the Bahais in Iran. It responds to a number of questions about collective efforts and teaching the Faith in Iran, and advises the questioner that the answers will be found through consultation with the local friends. It also urges the friends not to be critical of one-another, but to support and encourage one another, most especially during the difficult period when the Bahai Administration is not operating in Iran. I have placed the Persian text in the “Documents Archive” of my Bahai Studies blog.

December 9, 2015

Arrests follow motorcycle attacks in Rangpur, Bangladesh

Daily Sun (Bangladesh), December 9, 2015.

As previously reported, on the morning of November 8, three assailants on a motorcycle attacked a Bahai man, Ruhul Amin, who was shot twice, in the leg and shoulder, but survived the attack. Mr. Amin works as Personal Assistant to the Director of Rangpur Medical College Hospital, as well as being active at the Rangpur Bahai Centre. Islamic State later claimed responsibility for this attack, and the murders of a 64-year-old Italian physician, Piero Parolari, who is assistant pastor of the Dinajpur parish of the Roman Catholic church, Rahamat Ali, an attendant at a Sufi shrine who was bludgeoned t death, Cesare Tavella, an Italian aid worker working for a Christian organisation based in the Netherlands, and Kunio Hoshi, a Japanese agricultural worker, on October 3.

Police in Bangladesh have now announced several arrests and a confession of involvement from the local leader of the Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), a violent Salafist group native to Bangladesh that seeks to establish an Islamic state there. The JMB leader, Masud Rana, gave his confessional statement before a court in Rangpur on Monday, admitting that he and two accomplices had shot Kunio Hoshi. According to Humayun Kabir, the Deputy Inspector General of Police for the area, Rana was arrested on Thursday, December 3. Rana was also involved in the killing at a shrine in Kaunia on November 10 and the shooting of a Bahai community leader in Rangpur city on November 8, the police official said. “Police also seized huge home-made explosives and sharp weapons from a pond near his house,” he added.

Other sources report two further arrests, of JMB leader Morshed Ali, 36, and his nephew Shahidul Islam, 35, in connection with the shrine killing. Curiously, this report does not mention the shrine killing or Rana, yet some reports indicate that Rana was first arrested in connection with the shrine killing, and only later connected to the murder of Kunio Hoshi. Until a public trial is held, the possibility of mistake and misinformation in the media reports should be borne in mind. One report even names Humayun Kabir Hira — the police spokesman — as one of those arrested.

Update, December 16, The Daily Star.

The police have so far arrested 18 suspected JMB members in different districts of the division in connection with the attacks, said DIG Humayun Kabir. Of them, five were held in Rangpur, seven in Dinajpur and three each in Gaibandha and Lalmonirhat. During raids to arrest them the police also seized firearms and ammunition including an AK-22 rifle, three foreign pistols, 47 rounds of bullet, three motorcycles, laptops, a significant amount of explosives and jihadi books.

The Rangpur police range chief claims apart from the killing of Japanese national Hoshi Kunio and shooting of Italian doctor and pastor Piero Arolari, the outfit was involved in the killing of Rahmat Ali, a caretaker of a shrine in Kaunia, on November 11 and shooting of Ruhul Amin, a Bahai community leader and employee of Rangpur Medical College Hospital, on November 8.

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November 24, 2015

Bahais among those protesting personal status law in Iraq

Filed under: Bahai community — Sen @ 22:08
Tags: , , , ,

World Magazine, November 16, 2015.

Religious minority groups in Iraq are protesting a new law that would force children, under some circumstances, to become Muslim.

Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad urged Iraqi President Fuad Masum to reject the recently passed national charter, which could take religious freedom away from children and teenagers. Chaldean Catholics, Yazidis, Mandean, Kakai, and Bahai minorities all opposed the charter. One article of the legislation states that children under 18 years old would have to become Muslim if their fathers convert to Islam or their mothers marry a Muslim man, according to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

In a Nov. 6, meeting, Sako urged Masum to veto the charter because the law would violate religious rights enshrined in the Iraqi constitution.

“We want to assert the principle that the child should keep their religious affiliation, so that he or she can freely decide their faith, according to belief, when they come of age,” Sako said in statements published online. “After all, religion is a matter which concerns only the relationship between God and man, and should not be bound by any obligations.”

Emily Fuentes, a spokeswoman for Open Doors, said the new law also would violate international standards for religious freedom and conscience. Because there is often government or community pressure not to convert to any other religion in Muslim countries, the Iraqi law “puts the children in a corner,” Fuentes said.

“Even if they think, ‘Okay, I’ll be Muslim now because it’s legal and switch when I’m 18,’ they can’t really do that,” she said.

Chaldean leaders in Iraq predict the new charter will accelerate the country’s Christian exodus, if enacted, CNA reported.

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Kenyan high court ruling allows registration of Bahai marriages

Filed under: Bahai community — Sen @ 01:56
Tags: , , , ,

The Star, November 23, 2015.

A judgement issued by the High Court on October 28, 2015, will mean that Bahai marriages can be registered in Kenya. Justice Mumbi Ngugi ruled that while section 6 of the Marriage Act did not mention the Bahai Faith as one of the faiths whose marriages could be registered, the intention was not to exclude the Bahai or any other faith-based marriage. Ngugi said the omission was a result of the failure of people who drafted the Act to use language that would cover not only the main religions practiced in Kenya, but also the minority. Ngugi said it has to be read to include every marriage celebrated in accordance with the faith of a religion duly registered in Kenya.

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November 19, 2015

Islamic State claims attempted assassinations in Rajpur

Filed under: Bahai community — Sen @ 21:43
Tags: , , , ,

Compiled by Sen, November 20, 2015.

As previously reported, on the morning of November 8, three assailants on a motorcycle attacked a Bahai man, Ruhul Amin, who is active at the Rangpur Bahai Centre. On November 18, a very similar attempted assassination in the same city targetted a 64-year-old Italian physician, Piero Parolari, who was shot in the neck by three assailants riding a motorbike. Mr Parolari is assistant pastor of the Dinajpur parish. He was attacked as he was cycling to Saint Vincent Hospital to provide free treatment to tuberculosis patients.

The SITE Intel Group, a US-based terrorism monitoring organisation, has stated that Islamic State, speaking via twitter and the Amaq News Agency, has claimed responsibility for both these attacks, in addition to three recent attacks that killed Rahma Ali, a politician [not confirmed ~Sen]; Cesare Tavella, an Italian aid worker working for a Christian organisation based in the Netherlands, and Kunio Hoshi, a Japanese agricultural worker.

With regard to the latest attacks, the district Detective Branch’s officer-in-charge Rezwan Rahim said they have nothing concrete right at the moment, not even a clue.

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November 14, 2015

Bahai killed in Shiraz in obscure circumstances

Bahai News (Persian), November 13, 2015.

Koroush Rouhi (کوروش روحی), a Bahai man from Shiraz, was stabbed to death in the parking area of his home on Fazilat Avenue (خیابان فضیلت) yesterday. The circumstances and motives have not been clarified, but there is no indication that he was killed for religious reasons.

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November 9, 2015

Motives unclear in attempted assassination of a Bahai in Bangladesh

The News Today (Bangladesh), November 9, 2015.

On the morning of November 8, three assailants on motorcycles attacked Ruhul Amin, who was shot twice, in the leg and shoulder. Mr. Amin is a Bahai, and works as Personal Assistant to the Director of Rangpur Medical College Hospital, as well as being active at the Rangpur Bahai Centre. He was getting into a rickshaw on RK Road in Rangpur at the time of the attack. He has been taken to hospital in Dhaka to have the bullets removed. Police arrested an employee of the Hospital who is secretary of one of the hospital’s Unions.

Bahais in Bangladesh are allowed to run schools, teach their faith and elect the Assemblies that administer their affairs. However Bangladesh has seen several episodes of communal violence directed especially at Hindu and Buddhist places of worship and individuals. On October 24 this year, one person and was killed and many were injured in a bomb attack on a Shia Muslim congregation who were commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Hoseyn.

Update, November 13. Two local Bahai sources have shared their impression that the attack was more likely to be work-related than linked to Mr. Amin being a Bahai.

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November 2, 2015

Kurdistan Region of Iraq recognizes Bahais as religious minority

Bas News, August 24, 2015.

The Kurdistan Region’s Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs has announced that Jews, Zoroastrians, Kakai and Bahais will have representatives in the Ministry, following confirmation by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Subsequent reports indicate that the KRG has approved the move, and that the Jewish representative has begun work. There is no indication of whether the Bahai representative has been appointed, but the Iranian Consul has visited the Ministry of Religion to complain about the new representatives for Jews and Bahais.

Spokesperson for the Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs Mariwan Naqshbandi said in August that according to the constitution, people have the right to choose and practice their religion freely, and they can have representatives in the Ministry. “A number of religious minorities of the Kurdistan region, including Jews, Zoroastrians, Kakai and Bahais will have representatives in the ministry to manage their religious activities in the future.”

There are no official statistics on Bahais in Iraq, but there are communities in Baghdad and also in Sulaimaniyah, in the Kurdistan Region, where they have a degree of security.

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