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


August 26, 2017

New Pilgrim Reception Centre opens in Haifa

Filed under: Bahai community — Sen @ 14:22
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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]

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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.

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).

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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

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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.

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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
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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.

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<strong>Older items </strong>can be found in the archive, <a href=””>here</a&gt;. Even older news is <a href=””>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.

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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.

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

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
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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
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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
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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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August 6, 2015

Letter from the NSA of the United States, July 31, 2015

Editorial, August 6, 2015.

On July 26, Professor Mehrangiz Kar posted an article in Persian on the Rooz Online site, which referenced remarks she made remarks as a guest speaker at a symposium in Virginia, focusing on the historical and social context of Taahereh’s unveiling at Badasht. Dr. Kar’s question, which she repeated in the article on Rooz online, (in Persian) was:

Mehrangiz-Kar-thumbnail“Suppose that Taahereh were to miraculously return to life, and came to the same meeting [in Badasht], and put her name forward for membership of the House of Justice, the highest decision-making body for Bahais. Given the ruling of the new religion, that women are excluded from the principle centre of authority in the Bahai Faith simply by virtue of their sex, could Taahereh, with all her courage, passion, wisdom and knowledge, enter the House of Justice?”

The responses from some Bahais, at the symposium and following her article on Rooz Online, have been such that the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States has published a letter, in Persian and in English, which reproves “the harsh criticism made against Professor Kar by some Baha’is.”

I have posted the entire letter in English on my Bahai Studies blog, under the title “Let’s talk,” together with some reflections on what can be learned, and what could be done.

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July 29, 2015

“Paint the change” campaign supports equality in education in Iran

Street art in West Holywood

Editorial, July 29, 2015.

In its ‘feast letter‘ addressed to the Bahais who will gather at centres across the US on July 31 (the Feast of Kamal), the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of the United States calls on the Bahais to participate in a world-wide street art campaign in support of all those excluded from higher education in Iran, especially the Bahai students.

Efforts will draw on the power of public art to give a city’s common spaces a unique character and to help raise awareness of local, national, and international issues and concerns.

“Paint the Change” will commission murals in cities around the world―two of them being New York and Los Angeles. The murals will serve as sites for events and as inspiration for photos and videos …. Beyond the official murals, “Paint the Change” will stimulate individuals and groups to create their own art.

Street art can take many forms, and we hope that you will … find creative ways to express your support of “Paint the Change.” An online handbook will provide useful materials and sample artwork to aid you, and the “Paint the Change” website will enable you to explore ways that you and your community can join this new phase of Education Is Not a Crime. Use of the social media will be integral to the success of “Paint the Change” and it is already active on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. To join the conversation, please follow and “like” the “Paint the Change” pages and use the official hashtags, #EducationIsNotACrime and #PaintTheChange.

The campaign will also be engaging a professional filmmaker to produce video vignettes focusing on activities connected with “Paint the Change” in various locales across the world. These videos will appear throughout the campaign’s duration, concluding in the spring of 2016. Individuals and communities are encouraged to keep the campaign apprised of local activities (you may send images and footage to

Participants are also reminded to respect local laws and the rights of property owners.

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July 18, 2015

Design for local Mashriqu’l-Adhkar in Cambodia unveiled

Bahai World News Service (in English), July 18, 2015.

Dawn prayers were held on the building site to begin the unveiling of the design of the first local Bahai House of Worship for the people of the Battambang region of Cambodia, where the Bahais have developed a vibrant community life centering on the worship of God and service to humanity. The events involved dignitaries and inhabitants of the surrounding communities, numbering over 300 people. Sochet Vitou Tang, the architect of the project, was deeply moved by the occasion as he addressed the audience. Mr. Tang said the project would create a place of tranquility where the mind and soul could find rest and solace, a place where the spiritual and material dimensions of life would be harmonized. He further explained that the House of Worship would become a center where people of all persuasions could “come to learn about life, about the environment, and the world beyond; a place where we come to build a unified world.” Then the model for the temple was unveiled by the architect and local village chiefs.

In the evening, a reception was held for local and regional authorities, including the governor of the Battambang region, Mr Chan Sophal, and the Chairman of the Battambang Provincial Council. Governor Sophal commented that “the Baha’i community has been greatly contributing to the spiritual and material development of the country.” What he found particularly striking, he said, is “that the Baha’i House of Worship to be built is not only for the Baha’is but for all of humanity.” He was attracted by “the concept that the Baha’i House of Worship is not only a place for prayer and worship, but also a place that inspires service to the community.”

A theme throughout the day was the role of prayer in humanity’s individual and collective life, highlighted by the gathering at dawn, and how it must be wedded to service to humanity for the realization of its full effect. The inhabitants have drawn inspiration from a recent message of the Universal House of Justice regarding Houses of Worship in which it explains that “the creation of a new pattern of how society can be” is seen in “the endeavours of community building … Taken in its entirety … the pattern fosters capacity for service. Essential to that pattern is the devotional meeting—a communal aspect of the godly life.”

Battambang is the second local Baha’i House of Worship whose design has been unveiled. It will be one among five local Baha’i Houses of Worship which are due to be built in the coming years.

This report has been abbreviated; the full report is here.

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June 30, 2015

“..a building that defies rational thought..”

Arch Daily, June 29, 2015.

The Arch Daily (Architecture Daily) has a good illustrated article on the Bahai Temple (Mashriqu’l-Adhkar) in Chile, which is nearing completion. The writer, Guy Horton, calls it “a building that defies rational thought and veers into the realm of the emotional.”

Going in an entirely unexpected direction, the architects created a form made up of nine “sails” that twist, bend, and curve as they reach up to join an “oculus” at the apex. In the harsh Andean terrain, the building appears to billow and coil lightly as it emerges from its heavy concrete base. The architectural language is at once high-tech and organic, combining digital design and fabrication technologies with the personal sensitivity of craft and the rough imperfections of nature.

“We wanted the building to be about light, but with a more special, ancient quality to it,” says project manager and associate-in-charge Doron Meinhard. “We knew we had to do something special because this building was intended to be a 1,000-year project,” he adds. The “sails” are the embodiment of this approach, maintaining the organic character of the original competition-winning design. The architects and engineers allowed complexity to thrive, expressed in cast glass on the exterior and translucent marble panels on the interior. These two translucent layers follow an intricately webbed space frame structure connected with custom nodes. The only concession to simplification was making each “sail” identical and repeating it nine times.

The design team also stayed away from typical annealed or plate glass, going instead for something that looked and felt more like stone, but still had the visual properties of glass. This ultimately led to a four-year collaborative research process with Canadian glass artist Jeff Goodman. Known for his work with ornate blown glass, Goodman created the original prototype for the custom 1.5-inch-thick patterned glass panels that clad the building. The patterning takes its cues from the work of the American artist Mark Tobey, specifically his “white writing” or “structured light” paintings inspired by Chinese calligraphy and his conversion to the Bahá’i faith early in his career. But there is more to the glass than just the way it looks. Significant temperature swings every day of the year posed expansion and contraction challenges to using typical glass. “We did a lot of testing on the glass,” says Frank Kan, principal at SGH. “This type of cast glass, also known as Pyrex, has less thermal expansion.”

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June 26, 2015

“Clean cut, clean start” : Nasir Sobhani’s hand-on care goes viral

BuzzFeed, June 25, 2015.

Nasir Sobhani, aka “The Street Barber,” is a Bahai barber in Melbourne, and an ex-addict himself, who spends his days off on the streets with a mobile hairdressing kit, giving haircuts to street people and listening to their stories. He also uses media interviews and an instagram account to talk about social attitudes to the homeless. His story has gone viral in the social media with the hashtag #CleanCutCleanStart.

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April 28, 2015

Bahai Centre in Nepal becomes a refuge

Filed under: Bahai community — Sen @ 14:08
Tags: , ,

April 28, 2015. (Compiled by the editor).

The National Bahai Centre and Teacher Training Centre in Kathmandu, Nepal, is reported to be largely undamaged, as the building is designed to resist earthquakes. A friend has posted photographs showing some of the many people who have taken shelter in the building and grounds. There are few open spaces in the city of Kathmandu, so residents who have lost their homes, or who fear to go inside because of the risk of aftershocks, have been crowding into the parks and other open areas. So far as is known so far, there are no casualties among the Bahais in Nepal.

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April 20, 2015

2015 Ridvan message released

Filed under: Bahai community — Sen @ 22:46
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Each year on the “first day of Riḍvan,” which falls on April 20 or April 21, the Universal House of Justice addresses a letter to the worldwide Bahai community, known as the Riḍvan message. These letters touch on many subjects, including the state of the Bahai community, its efforts to contribute to the life of society, and the progress of specific projects and plans.

This year’s message, in seven paragraphs, refers to various signs that the moral force that sustains society has been depleted, and contrasts that to the community-building process in which the Bahais are participating.

Paragraph six summarizes recent developments:
– efforts to methodically catalogue and index the Bahai scriptures, so as to accelerate their publication in both the original languages and in English translations.
– work to establish eight Mashriqu’l-Adhkars (houses of worship) around the world.
– More effective external affairs work by the National Spiritual Assemblies.
– New branch Offices of the Baha’i International Community, in Addis Ababa and Jakarta, will assist the Bahais’ United Nations Offices in New York, Geneva and Brussels, to present Baha’i perspectives in Africa and Southeast Asia.
– The creation at the World Centre of the Office for the Development of Administrative Systems, to assist those National Spiritual Assemblies that are increasing their administrative capacities.
– Establishment of a seven-member International Advisory Board to the Office of Social and Economic Development, to focus on initiatives for social action to improve social and economic circumstances. Three members of the Board will also serve as the Office’s coordinating team and be resident in Israel.

This year’s message can be read online, at the official site of the Universal House of Justice (requires acrobat reader). A plain text (html) version is available in the document archive of my Bahai Studies blog. It will be available to download as a pdf file from the new version of the Reference Library, but was not yet there, at the time of writing.

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April 18, 2015

“Remember the Yaran” campaign seeks support

Campaign against harassment of Bahais (facebook), April 18, 2015.

The campaign ‘Remember the Yaran’ is drawing attention to the oppression and persecution of the Bahais in Iran. The facebook group “Campaign to stop the harassment and imprisonment of Baha’i citizens” intends to mark the seventh anniversary of the arrest of seven Bahais known as the Yaran, or Friends, who served as national facilitators assisting the Bahais of Iran in their dealings with government organs. The facebook group supports the ‘Remember the Yaran’ campaign and request the immediate release of the seven Yaran.

They ask all those who support justice and oppose oppression in Iran to support ‘Remember the Yaran’ by publishing photos of your pleas for the release of the Yaran. Those who wish to participate can send a photo of themselves with a sheet of paper bearing the words, “7 years have passed: remember the Yaran,” or write this on the palm of their hands, and send the picture to the facebook page (the link is above). Those who wish to try this in Persian can copy the example below.


Those who do not wish to be identified by using an image of their face, can send a photo of the paper or the writing on their palm, in such a way that they cannot be identified.

Seven years ago, the seven ‘Yaran’ were sentenced to 20 years in prison, there the conditions are unacceptable, and they have been denied prison furloughs. Our aim in this campaign is to be the voice of the people of Iran, and the voice of the religious minorities who suffer oppression and persecution under the present government of Iran. So we would like the support of as many as possible of the people, and minorities, of Iran. The Yaran, and other prisoners of conscience will certainly hear of our support, and know that the people have not forgotten them.


On 5 March 2008, Mahvash Sabet – a schoolteacher and mother of two – was arrested having been summoned to the Iranian city of Mashhad to discuss some matters regarding a Bahai burial. Two months later, on 14 May, the other six “Yaran” (national-level facilitators for Iran’s Baha’i community) were arrested in raids of their homes. The names of these six are Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm.

After twenty months in prison without charge, a trial began on January 12, 2010. Throughout their long wait for justice, the seven had received barely one hour’s access to their legal counsel, and suffered appalling treatment and deprivations, including psychological and physical hardship. They were charged with espionage, propaganda against the Islamic Republic, and the establishment of an illegal administration – charges that were all rejected completely and categorically by the defendants. The trial of the seven Baha’i leaders ended on 14 June 2010 after six brief sessions, characterized by their lack of due legal process.

The initial sentence of 20 years imprisonment for each of the defendants, met with outrage and condemnation throughout the world. One month later, the appeal court revoked three of the charges and reduced their sentence to 10-year jail terms. In March 2011, the prisoners were informed that their original 20-year sentences were reinstated. Notwithstanding repeated requests, neither the prisoners nor their attorneys have ever received official copies of the original verdict or the ruling on appeal.

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April 9, 2015

Lotus temple affected by pollution (updated)

Mail Online, India edition, April 9, 2015.
Times of India, April 16, 2015.

A petition filed in India’s National Green Tribunal (NGT) expresses concern over heavy traffic in the Nehru Place area of Delhi harming the pure white marble of the Bahai House of Worship, commonly known as the Lotus Temple. It says vehicular emissions could be causing the building to corrode and turn grey. [Update: Two court commissioners appointed by the National Green Tribunal have visited the temple and found alarming congestion and traffic chaos. One of the commissioners confirmed that some stones on the temple wall did appear yellow, which may be due to exposure to pollution.]

Baha’i House of Worship general manager Shaheen Javed agreed. He told Mail Today: “I don’t have any scientific study to prove this but I have been here for 18 years and know that the polluted environment is taking a toll. We wash the temple every three months with plain water but I am afraid it may not be enough.

“It is made of porous Pentelikon marble, imported from the mines of Greece, which was used in ancient monuments of Parthenon. They are also facing a similar air pollution problem [with the] Parthenon. If you ask me what effect air pollution is having on this temple, I am sure it is the same as in Greece,” Javed added.

Full report:

March 19, 2015

Another Bahai home raided in Shiraz

HRANA, March 18, 2015.

On the morning of March 16, intelligence agents in the city of Shiraz raided the home of Mr. Karamat Amiri (کرامت امیرى ), a 62-year old Bahai. This is the latest in a series of similar raids on over 20 Bahai homes in the city, during the past month. The agents seized personal effects, a laptop computer, a mobile phone and religious books and CDs.

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March 13, 2015

Revised translation of Some Answered Questions published

Bahai Distribution Service (USA), March 13, 2015.

The long-awaited revised English translation of Abdu’l-Baha’s Some Answered Questions is now available in hardback. The translation has been supervised and authorised for publication by the Bahai World Centre. The previous translation from Persian (which itself went through several revisions) was made by Hippolyte Dreyfus into French, and then by Dreyfus and Laura Barney into English. The French translation was also the basis for the first German translation.

The book is a compilation of explanations given by Abdu’l-Baha in response to questions posed by Laura Clifford Barney during her visits to Palestine in 1904-1906. The answers were given in Persian, and recorded, and Abdu’l-Baha himself corrected the Persian texts. The original has been preserved at the Bahai World Centre.

Dreyfus learned Persian, and later Arabic, in order to read the Bahai Writings and to serve the Bahai community. He became one of the best translators of Bahai scriptures to European languages. However Some Answered Questions, published in 1908, was among his first translations, and while it is written in Persian it really requires a knowledge of Arabic and of Islamic natural philosophy and theology. Moreover his own knowledge of the Bahai teachings was at that time inadequate: the explanatory footnotes in his first edition were in some cases quite wrong (and were corrected in later editions).

Over the years it became evident that the English translation was in need of a thorough revision to more adequately reflect the meaning and style of the original, convey the subtleties of Abdu’l-Baha’s explanations, and render the philosophical terms used in the text consistently. The present volume is the fruit of efforts to realize those aims.

The publication of Some Answered Questions 2nd edition marks the beginning of an acceleration in the pace of the programme for the translation and publication of the Holy Writings at the Bahai World Centre. Work is already well advanced on a volume of extracts pertaining to Baha’i Holy Days as well as a retranslation of Baha’u’llah’s Seven Valleys and Four Valleys.

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February 22, 2015

Bahai community in India tipped to be first, as government expands recognition of religious minorities

Filed under: Bahai community — Sen @ 23:34
Tags: ,

Sunday Standard, February 22, 2015.

The Indian government has decided to initiate a survey of the socio-economic status of those categorised as “others” in the census, because they do not fall into the existing list of six minority communities -— Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Buddhists and Jains.

“Till now, minority meant only Muslims. That’s going to change as more communities will be included,” an official working with the Ministry of Minority Affairs said. According to the official, 7.3 million people, or 0.6 percent of the total population, are “others.” “But there won’t be any frantic moves. There is thought going into all of these issues,” he added.

To begin with, the ministry has decided to look into individual applications from communities to be included in the list and the first one likely to be added is that of Bahais. When asked about the financial clout of the community and the need for assistance from the government, the official said the Bahais were not asking for financial help but for recognition as a minority community.

Sources said recognition to Bahais, who are being persecuted in Islamic countries, especially Iran, will send out a message to the international community that often accuses India of short-changing its minorities.

The official said the minority ministry had asked the National Commission for Minorities for its opinion and is about to take a final call in the matter. According to him, the government is also looking at the issues of linguistic and ethnic minorities with the same concern and will be studying their status too.

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December 20, 2014

Planting the seeds: a new letter from the Universal House of Justice

Editorial, December 21, 2014.

The Universal House of Justice, the elected body that heads the Bahai community around the world, has written a letter in Persian, addressed to the Bahais in Iran, regarding devotional meetings and the institution of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar (Bahai houses of worship). The Persian text dated December 18, 2014, is available here.

December 27: The message, is now available in an authorized English translation, and will be released in other languages. The English translation has been placed in the documents archive of my Bahai Studies blog.

[Note: The concept of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar as a meeting for worship, a community that worships, the building itself and a social centre that includes activities and institutions for social service, is outlined in the 1997 compilation The Mashriqu’l-Adhkar Handbook, available as a pdf file online here. The compilation also discusses the relationship between local houses of worship, which might for example be hidden or underground (see the letter from Abdu’l-Baha quoted in this message), and the complete or perfected Mashriqu’l-Adhkar, which has nine sides and (for the present) a dome, and is made “as perfect as possible.” ]

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November 22, 2014

Indian Bahais continue process of gaining minority status

Filed under: Bahai community — Sen @ 20:14
Tags: , , , ,

Indian Express, November 22, 2014.

On August 22, delegations representing the Bahais and Kashmiri Pandits met the Minority Affairs Minister of India, Mrs. Najma Heptullah, in New Delhi to ask that they be accorded minority status, which has been so far given to Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and Jains. Following that meeting, the Minister referred the matter to the National Commission for Minorities. The matter was taken up by the NCM in several meetings in September and October, but the Commission felt that it did not have enough data on the socio-economic condition of the community to make a concrete recommendation. “We had asked for more information from the community and they did submit some … But, that was not enough for the commission,” said a source in the NCM. It is now up to the Ministry of Minority Affairs to take a call.

A spokesperson for the Bahai community, meanwhile, maintains that minority status is a matter of recognition, and the community is not looking for scholarships and other support from the government. “The Bahai community does not accept money from others. That is why we do not charge an entry fee at Lotus Temple where we get 16,000 visitors a day… Even Jains [who were granted this status in January 2014]] did not require the government support but they were granted the status,” said Nilakshi Rajkhowa, an official at the office of public affairs in the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais.

– See more at:

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November 14, 2014

House of Justice announces purchase of a property in Haifa

Filed under: Bahai community — Sen @ 00:05
Tags: , ,

Universal House of Justice, November 12, 2014.

The Universal House of Justice has announced the purchase of a major property adjacent to the main terrace of the Shrine of the Bab, at the Bahai World Centre in Haifa, Israel. The building, a three-story school just west of the Shrine, stands on over 2,600 square metres of land (0.64 acres). It has been purchased from the Haifa Municipal government. The text of the announcement in in the documents archive of my Bahai Studies blog. ~Sen

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November 6, 2014

Indonesia to issue ID cards for Bahais and other minorities,

Jakarta Globe and Jakarta Post, November 6, 2014.

Following the July announcement of Indonesia’s Religious Affairs Minster Lukman Hakim Saifuddin that “Baha’i is a religion, not a sect,” the Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo said on Thursday that he intended to allow the followers of religions not formally recognized by the state to leave the religion field on their identity cards blank. Previously, Baha’is and followers of local and tribal beliefs had to enter one of Indonesia’s six recognized faiths if they wanted to receive an ID card. Indonesia recognizes only Buddhism, Catholicism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam and Protestantism. The Home Affairs Minister also said he will summon regional leaders whose administrations continue to ignore cases of injustice against people from minority faiths, and will work with Police authorities to seek a permanent end to religious discrimination. He had previously called for the scrapping of local ordinances used to justify discrimination against minority groups.

“Indonesia is not a country based on any one religion. It is a country that is founded on the 1945 Constitution, which recognizes and protects all faiths,” Tjahjo said during a meeting with representatives of minority groups, including the Bahais, at his office in Central Jakarta, on Wednesday. Speaking after the meeting, Sheila Soraya from the Baha’i National Spiritual Assembly said she was convinced that Baha’is as well as members of religious minorities in the country could soon see an easing of their plight. “He [Tjahjo] was very attentive in listening to our stories. He was not defensive. That’s the most important thing,” Sheila told The Jakarta Post. She hopes that the new government will soon guarantee the civil rights of members of the Baha’i community, who still struggle to access basic social services.

“Birth certificates register our children as having been born out of wedlock. It only mentions the name of the mother and not the father. This has put us in a difficult situation when we have to register our children at school,” Sheila said.

Tjahjo’s position that the “religion” section may be left blank is a workaround that could allow practitioners of minority faiths to receive documentation without having to lie about their beliefs. But if Lukman and Tjahjo continue to advocate a looser policy on religious recognition, they could be on a collision course with some of Indonesia’s powerful Sunni Muslim organizations. Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) deputy secretary Amirsyah Tambunan has previously said that the Baha’i should not be granted official status, and few of the archipelago’s Islamic scholars have given any indication that they would accept recognition of the Ahmadiyah, whose Indonesian followers have been repeatedly subject to discrimination and, on occasion, murder by rampaging mobs. [The Shiah Muslims, not mentioned here, also suffer discrimination ~Sen]

A report in Kompas said that the Director General of Civil Registrations at the Home Affairs Ministry had opened discussions with the MUI and the country’s largest Islamic organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, on the issue of official recognition for other religions.

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October 8, 2014

Passing of Dr. Kamran Ekbal

Filed under: Bahai community — Sen @ 10:01

Editorial, November 8, 2014.

I am very sorry to have to pass on this message from the family of Dr. Kamran Ekbal.

My dear husband and our beloved father, Dr. Kamran Ekbal, passed yesterday, 6.10.2014, after a prolonged struggle of more than eight years against his deadly disease to the Abha Kingdom and the realms high above. The disease devoured his body but his brains remained untouched and active almost till the last moment, allowing him to continue his scholarly works without interruption.

He will live everlasting in our thoughts and memories.

Huda Baghdadi-Ekbal and his three sons Basil Omid, Ramez Adib and Cyrus Navid

Dr. Kamran Ekbal was Director of the Section for Middle Eastern Studies at the Department of History, Ruhr University of Bochum (Germany), from 1979 till his retirement in April 2011. Born in Beirut 1946, he studied at the universities of Hamburg, Cambridge and Kiel, where he received his PhD. in Islamic and Iranian Studies in 1976 with a dissertation on the Russian-Persian War of 1826-1828. He taught Arabic at the University of Hamburg as well as Arabic and Persian at the University of Kiel and was visiting professor for extra-European history at the University of Essen. He has many publications on Iranian and Middle Eastern topics, as well as on Bahai themes and at the time of his death was editing the Tablets of Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha to Muhammad Mustafa Baghdadi as well as Dr. Zia Baghdad’s memoirs of his travels.

Dr. Ekbal has made a considerable contribution to Bahai studies in several languages, notably by his willingness to look squarely at difficulties in the received understandings of historical and doctrinal questions, and by bringing an Arab and Arabic perspective to a field in which Persian perspectives have been more common. He was of course fluent in both languages, and made scholarly contributions to fields such as Qajar social and political history, and Arabic studies. He often co-authored or contributed to the work of other scholars, in the fields of Bahai history and the translation of Bahai texts. I can confirm his family’s words about his activity during his final illness, as he helped me in the last few months in confirming an error that had crept into the Persian text of A Traveller’s Narrative. He was capable, daring, accessible and helpful, and a precise and punctilious scholar.

I am sorry to say that I had no thought that his death might be imminent, and have not prepared a fitting obituary or survey of his published works. If the friends will contribute what they can through the comments section below, I will edit the information into a preliminary obituary.

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September 20, 2014

First approval given for a youth training building at the Lotus Temple

Press Trust of India, September 19, 2014.

The Delhi Development Authority has given initial approval for the construction of a separate building for youth training on the grounds of the ‘Lotus Temple‘ in Delhi. These activities are at present conducted within the House of Worship itself. The application had previously been dealt with in the DDA’s technical committees. The Indian Government uses the Lotus Temple as a symbol of communal harmony. In April, 2014, it placed the Lotus Temple on the “tentative list” for UNESCO recognition as a world heritage site.

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September 19, 2014

Indonesia’s Religious Affairs Minister clarifies his stance on ‘recognizing’ the Bahai Faith

Viva News, September 19 2014.

Indonesia’s religious affairs Minister, Lukman Saifuddin, has said that the Indonesian government would not add the Bahai Faith to the list of recognized religions, as media have reported. There are still six recognized religious identities in Indonesia, he said. They are Islam, Catholicism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism. Neither Taoism nor the Bahai Faith would be added. The Minister’s previous instruction to the Home Affairs Ministry, that the Bahai Faith is a religion protected by articles 28E and 29 in the Constitution, was an administrative measure with regard to identity cards and other necessary documentation.

Indonesia’s Constitution does not recognise or establish any religion. However the Prevention of Desecration Act identifies six religions as those historically embraced by the people of Indonesia. Departments of the Ministry of Religious Affairs deal with the state’s relations with these six communities, and they may obtain funding (although the situation in relation to the Confucian community is somewhat more complicated). However the Act goes on to say that other religions, such as Judaism, Shintoism, Zoroastrianism and Taoism, have full protection under Article 29. The Minister’s statement about the Bahai Faith was not announcing an intention to add it to the six specifically identified religions. Rather it meant that the Bahai Faith should not be treated as a sect of another religion, and is entitled to the same protection as the religions mentioned in Article 29.

This report includes input from Satu Harapan in the blog Religious Studies in Indonesia.

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September 13, 2014

Alain Locke, short, gay, black and brilliant philosopher, finally gets a fitting burial

Filed under: Bahai community — Sen @ 15:48
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Washington Post, September 12, 2014

This weekend, 60 years after his death, the ashes of the black Bahai philosopher Alaine Locke are finally being given a permanent resting place in Washington, in Capitol Hill’s Congressional Cemetery. The commemorative ceremony and interment were planned and funded largely by African American Rhodes scholars who followed Locke’s pioneering path across the Atlantic to Oxford. Locke was the first American black to be selected for the Rhodes scholarship, in 1907. He went on to be an important figure in the pragmatic school of philosophy and in the Harlem Renaissance, and an early spokesman for cultural pluralism, but was born at least a generation too early to be fully recognized in his lifetime. In a 1949 note, Locke refers to the irony of being born in America with his three minority statuses:

“Had I been born in ancient Greece I would have escaped the first [homophobia]; in Europe I would have been spared the second [U.S. racial segregation policies]; in Japan I would have been above rather than below average [height].”

His gravestone reads “Alain Leroy Locke, 1885-1954, Herald of the Harlem Renaissance, Exponent of Cultural Pluralism.” On the reverse side are four symbols: a nine-pointed Bahai star representing the religion that emphasizes the spiritual unity of humankind; a Zimbabwe bird, the emblem of the African country formerly called Rhodesia, which the American Rhodes community adopted; a lambda, symbolizing gay and lesbian rights; and Phi Beta Sigma, the fraternity Locke joined at Howard University. In the center is a dramatic art deco depiction of an African woman’s face set against a sunburst.

“Teneo te, Africa” it reads in Latin. “I hold you, Africa.”

Read the full story in The Washington Post.

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August 23, 2014

Bahais in India seek recognition as a minority (corrected)

Press Trust of India, August 22, 2014. Corrected in the light of a report on India Tomorrow, August 23.

On August 22, delegations representing the Bahais and Kashmiri Pandits met the Minority Affairs Minister of India, Mrs. Najma Heptullah, in New Delhi to ask that they be accorded minority status, which has been so far given to Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and Jains. The Bahai delegation, from the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais in India, comprised Nelakshi Rajkhowa and Farida Wahidi; the Pandits were represented by a delegation of the Jammu and Kashmir Vichar Manch organisation. Pandits are Brahman Hindus who are socially disadvantaged in Kashmir, most of the community having fled from religious and nationalist terrorism.

In January this year, Jains became the sixth religious minority to be given national recognition in India. This allows them to benefit from central funds earmarked for welfare programmes and scholarships for minorities and for their educational institutions to be classified as minority educational institutions.

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August 7, 2014

Indonesia’s Baha’i Community Grateful for Long-Awaited State Recognition

Filed under: Bahai community — Sen @ 22:00
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Jakarta Globe, August 7, 2014.

The Indonesian Baha’i Community thanked the government on Thursday for officially recognizing the monotheistic faith as a religion, after Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin’s recent statement that worshipers will be protected by the Constitution.

“We are gratefully and happily welcome [the minister’s] statement… that Baha’is, as Indonesian citizens, are recognized by the law,” the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is in Indonesia said in a statement. “We express our deepest gratitude to the government, members of the press and the Indonesian public for their attention interest in our society.”

Through his Twitter account, Lukman tweeted last month that “Baha’i is a religion, not a sect,” in response to a letter sent by the Home Affairs Ministry requesting clarification about the 200-year-old faith. The Ministry is currently reviewing the suggestion of officially allowing the religious option of Baha’i on Indonesian KTP, or identity card. Citizens are required to state their religion on their KTP card, which they acquire at the age of 17. At present, only six government recognized religions can legally appear on an ID card, namely Islam, Protestant, Catholic, Buddhist, Hindu and Confucianist.

“I told [the Ministry] that Baha’i is a religion protected by articles 28E and 29 in the Constitution,” Lukman tweeted on July 24. Not long after, however, the Indonesian media began accusing the minister of promoting a new religion. “That’s a distortion [of my previous statements],” he said in response, adding that he was not authorized to make any such endorsements. “A number of online media sites have made misleading comments regarding my tweets, saying that I’ve inaugurated a new religion,” Lukman said.

Lukman further emphasized that Baha’is — whether or not they can put their religious identity on their ID cards — deserve equal public services from the government, including those concerning population and legal issues. Nevertheless, the Baha’i Assembly in its Thursday’s press statement, said it wanted the people of Indonesia to learn about the religion from a credible source.

“Baha’i is an independent religion, neither a traditional belief nor a sect deviating from another faith,” the statement says. “The core of Baha’i teachings is the oneness of God; the oneness of mankind and the spiritual basis of every religion,” the Assembly explained.

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July 26, 2014

Indonesia’s Religious Affairs Minister Supports State Recognition of Baha’i Religion

Jakarta Globe, July 25, 2014 [update August 3]

Indonesia’s new religious affairs Minister has indicated that the Bahai religion should be the seventh religion to be recognized by Indonesia as an official faith. “Baha’i is a religion, not a sect,” Lukman Saifuddin tweeted from his Twitter account on Thursday. “There are 220 believers in Banyuwangi, 100 in Jakarta, 100 in Medan, 98 in Surabaya, 80 in Palopo, 50 in Bandung, 30 in Malang and in other regions.”

He made the comment as a result of a letter sent by the Home Affairs Ministry requesting clarification about the religion. “I told [the Home Affairs Ministry] that Baha’i is a religion protected by articles 28E and 29 in the Constitution,” Mr. Saifuddin said.

He added that adherents of the faith should be entitled to identify themselves as such on their national identity cards — and that recognition would make it easier to obtain necessary documentation, such as driver licenses, birth certificates, marriage certificates and land deeds.

Some local governments take a hard line against minorities in Indonesia by holding up various permits to individuals if they do not select one of the six religions recognized by Indonesia — Islam, Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Confucianism and Hinduism.

The deputy secretary of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) Amirsyah Tambunan called Bahi’a a sect and said it should not be recognized.

The Minister’s statement has led to numerous articles on the Bahai Faith appearing on the internet. Din Syamsuddin, the general chairman of Indonesia’s second-largest Islamic organization, the Muhammadiyah, has responded with a call for the Indonesian government to protect the followers and the Bahai faith in line with the constitution. However he did not advocate equal rights and freedoms for the Ahmadiyyeh minority in Indonesia. (see the Antara News report, Sunday August 3, 2014)

Full story (in English)

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July 11, 2014

Decisions affecting the implementation of the Badi` calendar as of Ridvan 2015

Editorial, July 10

The Universal House of Justice, the international governing body of the Bahai community, has released a letter detailing three decisions that will allow for the uniform implementation of the Bahai calendar (known as the Badi` calendar) in countries that have solar and lunar calendars, with effect from March 21, 2015.

The first decision is that Tehran “will be the spot on the earth that will serve as the standard for determining, … the moment of the vernal equinox in the northern hemisphere and thereby the day of Naw-Ruz for the Baha’i world.” The equinox occurs when the planet, in its orbit around the sun, reaches the point at which its poles incline neither towards nor away from the sun, with the result that the northern and southern hemispheres are equally illuminated. At that precise moment, the time of day or night differs around the globe (as at any astronomical moment). It may be noon in one country, and past nightfall in another country. In the Kitab-e Aqdas, Baha’u’llah states that “The Festival of Naw-Ruz falleth on the day that the sun entereth the sign of Aries [that is, at the moment of the equinox], even should this occur no more than one minute before sunset.” The ruling of the House of Justice means that if the astronomical moment of equinox occurs before sunset in Tehran, on March 20, Bahais around the world will celebrate Naw Ruz on March 20. If the equinox occurs when the sun has already set in Tehran, they will celebrate Naw Ruz on March 21, and so on.

The second decision is that the birthdays of the Bab and Baha’u’llah will be celebrated on the “first and the second day following the occurrence of the eighth new moon after Naw-Ruz.” The Bab was born on 1 Muharram in 1819, and Baha’u’llah on 2 Muharram 1817, with the result that in countries that use the Islamic lunar calendar, the two Bahai holidays followed one another. In the past, Bahais in other countries have celebrated these holy days on October 20 and November 12. Henceforth, the “twin holy days” will be celebrated on two successive days, as a ‘movable feast,’ falling anywhere from mid-October to mid-November according to the Gregorian calendar. Next year, the two Holy Days will fall on November 13 and 14 (10 Qudrat and 11 Qudrat).

The third decision is to fix the dates for all remaining holy days in accordance with the Badi` calendar, rather than the Gregorian calendar. This follows from the first decision described above, but it also means that various historical questions, such as whether the Bab was in fact executed on July 8 or July 9, have been set aside. Whatever the findings of historians on such points may be, they will not affect the day on which the holy day is celebrated.

The full text of the letter from the Universal House of Justice is available in the documents archive of my Bahai Studies blog.

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June 11, 2014

Firearms incident at the Bahai Institute in S. Carolina resolved peacefully

Filed under: Bahai community — Sen @ 12:29
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South Strand News, June 10, 2014

On June 8, about 5 p.m., Sheriff’s Deputies in Georgetown, South Carolina, responded to gunshots at the Bahai Institute. Two male victims claimed that a young man had become verbally abusive during a basketball game and was trying to start a fight. He left the scene and returned with a handgun and fired several shots, into the air and at the tires on the complainants’ vehicle before attempting to run over one complainant on the basketball court. He left, but returned later, but fled in a vehicle when he observed sheriff’s deputies there. A pursuit ensued, during which he drove into a ditch and fled on foot. He gave himself up the following day. The Louis G. Gregory Institute in Hemingway, South Carolina, was the first full-time Bahai institute established in the US, in 1972. It also hosts Radio Bahai (WLGI) and serves as a venue for community and Bahai events.

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April 29, 2014

New film documents Bahai community life in Iran

Iran Wire, April 26, 2014

The documentary “Light a Candle” (شمعی روشن کن) by Maziar Bahari ( مازیار بهاری) is the first to tell the history of Bahai community life in Iran. It tells of the Babis and Bahais who were tortured in the Qajar era, of the slanders and insinuations they suffered from ordinary people who, in the Pahlavi era, were led by the Shiah divines, and of the period after the 1979 revolution. After the revolution, and even today, Iranian Bahais are considered second-class citizens in Iran, and are deprived of the right to employment and university education. The film is to be released on the first of May, in Persian. The Iran Wire site has a trailer, which plays first with Persian subtitles, then with English subtitles.

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Wilmette residents say traffic problem at Bahai [temple] worsening. Good faith solution sought

Filed under: Bahai community,Humour — Sen @ 09:09
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Archive photo

Archive photo

Chicago Tribune, April 28, 2014

Wilmette residents living near the Bahai House of Worship gathered at Village Hall recently, voicing concerns that a proposal to reconfigure the iconic venue’s parking lot could ramp up traffic on what they say is an already-congested local street. The parking lot is on public land, leased by the Bahais. Changes are required to accommodate bus parking and to make room for parking for the disabled and an access ramp. Wilmette resident Martin Dawson said parking-related headaches on Linden have been a problem for years, and predate the recent construction of a Baha’i Welcome Center, which is slated to open in the fall.

“Hopefully, the Bahai will negotiate something in good faith, because the parking situation on Linden has just gotten worse over the years,” Dawson said. “When you live near the temple, you start to think of it as an attractive nuisance.”

Linden Avenue residents said tour buses carrying visitors often park on their narrow, residential street, making it impossible to pull in and out of their driveways and swallowing up the available street parking for their own guests. “On the weekends, we get not only the tourist buses, but we get limousines bringing wedding parties out to take pictures in the Bahai garden,” Dawson said. “Between them and the people coming to see the temple, it creates an awful lot of traffic.”

Scott Conrad, project manager for the Bahai House of Worship, said that 95 percent of the visitors to the landmark on the northwest corner of Sheridan Road and Linden are not members of the Bahai community, which he said recently reduced its staff by 35 positions and who were relocated off-site to ensure the Wilmette property is used primarily for education and worship.

Full story (considerably longer than my summary ~sen)
Wilmette Life has another angle on almost the same story, including discussion of a new “but parking area” (next to the smokers’ corner?)

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April 27, 2014

Interview with an expelled Bahai student gives insight into expulsions, the BIHE, and studying abroad

Iran Rights, March 26, 2014

Iran Rights has published a report on two interviews with Parham Aqdassi, which I warmly recommend to readers. Mr. Aqdassi was a nuclear physics student at Hamedan’s Bu Ali Sina University from late September, 2006, when he was one of the first Bahai students to be allowed to enter a university. He was expelled on December 24, 2006, when he refused to renounce his Bahai beliefs. This was in accordance with the Cultural Revolution High Council’s directive of February 25, 1991, Article 3, which states that Bahai students are banned from pursuing higher education. Many students staged a sit-in protest. Mr Aqdassi went on to study and graduate from the BIHE, the Bahai Open University, which provides limited university-level education for students barred from studying at other tertiary institutions. He describes his studies there, the attacks on the BIHE institutions by security forces, and his decision to travel to Texas to take a Master’s course.

The full report in English is online here.

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April 21, 2014

Ridvan message released

Editorial, April 21, 2014

The 2014 Ridvan message from the Universal House of Justice is available in English at the official website. High points of the 3-page message include a report on the way the planned construction of a local Mashriqu’l-Adhkar (House of Worship) on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu has energised the Bahais and engaged the wider community. It is reported that a third of the island’s 30,000 inhabitants have participated in conversations about the significance of the House of Worship. “The friends are actively exploring, with the rest of the island’s inhabitants, what it means for a Mashriqu’l-Adhkar, a “collective centre for men’s souls”, to be raised up in their midst. With the active support of traditional leaders, Tanna islanders have offered no less than a hundred design ideas for the Temple…

For more information on the role of devotional meetings and the local House of Worship in Bahai communites, see the compilation “Exploring the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar” at the Bahai Library Online.

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April 8, 2014

Senior Iranian cleric gifts illuminated Bahai text to the Bahai community

Bahai World News Service, April 7, 2014 (abbreviated)

In a symbolic and unprecedented move, Ayatollah Abdol-Hamid Masoumi-Tehrani, a prominent Muslim cleric in Iran, announced today that he has gifted to the Bahais of the world an illuminated work of calligraphy of a paragraph from Baha’u’llah’s Kitab-e Aqdas. Ayatollah Tehrani states on his website (in Persian, and translated here) that he prepared the calligraphy of the verse as a “symbolic action to serve as a reminder of the importance of valuing human beings, of peaceful coexistence, of cooperation and mutual support, and avoidance of hatred, enmity and blind religious prejudice.” Ayatollah Tehrani presents this exquisite gift to the Bahais of the world, particularly to the Bahais of Iran, who he says “have suffered in manifold ways as a result of blind religious prejudice.” He further states that this act is “an expression of sympathy and care from me and on behalf of all my open-minded fellow citizens.”

The excerpt that Ayatollah Tehrani chose to cite in the gift is taken from Baha’u’llah’s Kitab-i-Aqdas – “Most Holy Book”. It reads “Consort with all religions with amity and concord, that they may inhale from you the sweet fragrance of God. Beware lest amidst men the flame of foolish ignorance overpower you. All things proceed from God and unto Him they return. He is the source of all things and in Him all things are ended.(more…)

April 6, 2014

“No excuse is possible”

Editorial, April 6

Two recent news reports, in the Columbian Missourian and the Columbia Tribune have drawn attention to Tyree Byndom’s unusual way of ‘campaigning’ for a seat on the Columbia City Council. Because he is a Bahai, he is not campaigning, although his name is on the ballot. His voice has even dropped from the airwaves: he has taken a break from his day job as a talk show host.

I would certainly not suggest that he should be elected just because he is a Bahai, or that Bahai voters in Columbia should give him any greater credibility because of his faith. So why mention him on a blog dedicated to world Bahai news? He is not the first Bahai to run for public office, even in the US, but his faith and the reasons why he has refrained from self-praise or any critique of other candidates have been more widely publicised than any previous case I know of, and this is helping to correct a misconception about Bahais’ participation in politics. The Columbia Tribune article states, “the Baha’i faith encourages its members to be politically active and vote in elections if they are allowed to do so by secret ballot.” It does not give a source, but seems to be reflecting these words of Abdu’l-Baha:

Thou hast asked regarding the political affairs. In the United States it is necessary that the citizens shall take part in elections. This is a necessary matter and no excuse from it is possible. My object in telling the believers that they should not interfere in the affairs of government is this: That they should not make any trouble and that they should not move against the opinion of the government, but obedience to the laws and the administration of the commonwealth is necessary. Now, as the government of America is a republican form of government, it is necessary that all the citizens shall take part in the elections of officers and take part in the affairs of the republic.
(Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v2, p. 342)

The same article quotes Glen Fullmer, a spokesman for the Baha’is of the United States, as saying “that the faith takes part in political advocacy work, championing environmental stewardship and the advancement of women’s rights, among other causes. What the Baha’is want to avoid, he said, is divisiveness that tends to arise from election campaigns. … It’s not like there’s a complete aloofness of the political process,” Fullmer said of the faith. “It’s more of wanting to avoid this disunity we see in the world.”

Yet many Bahais, in the past and perhaps today, have taken a stance of complete aloofness from the political process. In 1993 a former member of the Universal House of Justice, David Hofman, spoke at the Maxwell International School on the subject of “Theocracy: Divine provisions for governance in the World Order of Baha’u’llah.” In audio tapes of these talks he called democracy “baloney” and boasted that he had never voted in a non-Bahai election (tape 11, side 2, Q&A). The Bahai community has come a long way in 20 years, from David Hofman to Tyree Byndom and those like him. And that’s the news I would like to draw attention to.

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March 26, 2014

Document of Baha’u’llah’s manumission of a slave published

Filed under: Bahai community,Religion and modernity — Sen @ 23:12, March 2014

BahaiTeachings has announced the discovery and translation of a document that has both historical and scriptural importance for Bahais: the prayer in which Baha’u’llah frees (manumits) a slave, presumed in this article to be Isfandiyar [but there is conflicting evidence ~Sen], and explains why slavery is inherently wrong.

Mirza Buzurg, Baha’u’llah’s father owned a number of slaves. Baha’u’llah apparently inherited his father’s slaves when Mirza Buzurg died in 1839, and set them free. Dr. Nader Saiedi has discovered Baha’u’llah’s written, autobiographical account, in Arabic and provided a provisional translation into English. This remarkable Tablet is cast in the form of a prayer:

February 13, 2014

Bahai candidate for Columbia City Council breaks new ground

Filed under: Bahai community — Sen @ 09:08
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Colombia Faith and Values (blog), January 28, 2014

Tyree Byndom, a young black Bahai and talk show host in Columbia, Missouri, USA, has put his name forward for election to the City Council, with the approval of the Bahai administration in the United States. “My running for political office is teaching members of my faith about what it means to be Bahai,” Byndom says. “I had to show leaders there is nothing that restricts me from running.” If elected, Byndom would be Columbia’s third African American to serve on the City Council. He was mentored by Almeta Crayton, a three-term Columbia City Councilwoman, who represented the First Ward. Her death on October 21, 2013, has stirred Byndom’s memories of conversations with Crayton. “I remember one weekend, when we were done doing our radio show on KOPN 89.5 FM, called Straight Talk, Almeta and Wynna Faye (Albert) were joking with me and they said ‘Well, Tyree, I guess we have to pass the baton to you, because ain’t nobody else around,’” Byndom says. “My response to them was ‘I don’t want it!’”

O thou servant of Baha’! Thou hast asked regarding the political affairs. In the United States it is necessary that the citizens shall take part in elections. This is a necessary matter and no excuse from it is possible. My object in telling the believers that they should not interfere in the affairs of government is this: That they should not make any trouble and that they should not move against the opinion of the government, but obedience to the laws and the administration of the commonwealth is necessary. Now, as the government of America is a republican form of government, it is necessary that all the citizens shall take part in the elections of officers and take part in the affairs of the republic.
(Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v2, p. 342)

“The truth is that I didn’t feel worthy. When we lost Almeta Crayton this past year, it did something to me,” Byndom says. “Her words, the things she fought for, the people that she cared about, her lamentation at the challenges facing her son, this community that she loved, all echoed in my thoughts and the phrase ‘Be worthy’, was the reply.”

Straight Talk, Byndom’s weekly radio show on KOPN, offers Columbia’s black community a place to voice opinions. Listeners talk about increasing gun violence, substance abuse, unemployment for youth and minorities, underemployment for professionals with skills, high cost of living, fast cash stores, growing poverty and a loss of middle class jobs.

Full story

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January 30, 2014

Universal House of Justice writes to Bahai youth in Iran

Editorial, January 30, 2014

A year after a chain of Bahai youth conferences were held around the world — in which the Bahai youth in Iran could not participate — the Universal House of Justice has released a message to Bahai youth living in Iran (English text here).

I have also placed the Persian text in the documents archive of my Bahai studies blog, as text and in PDF format. The PDF may not display correctly in Firefox, but works in Explorer.

[پیام بیت العدل اعظم الهی خطاب به جوانان بهائی ایران]

~ Sen
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January 16, 2014

PM of Western Samoa acknowledges Bahai contribution to the nation

Filed under: Bahai community — Sen @ 10:23
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Samoa Observer, January 15, 2014

A celebration of the Bahai Faith’s 60th anniversary in Western Samoa, held yesterday, was attended by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi and Cabinet Ministers. The Prime Minister said, “I take this opportunity to express the appreciation of the government for the important contribution that you make to the spiritual life of our country.” He added that the work of the Baha’i Faith and all churches in Samoa is paramount in bringing out the best from Samoan people. He said there are many members of the faith in different parts of Samoa’s society and he thanked them for their contribution to Samoa. The Prime Minister gave an assurance that the Government would continue to strive to protect the freedom of everyone – including the right to worship.
“As part of Samoa’s engagement internationally through its membership with the UN, Samoa endeavours to support efforts to protect the rights of people in various countries including Iran where the Baha’i faith struggle through persecution.” He assured members of the Faith that the Government would contribute to support work done through the UN to bring an end to abuses and violations of human rights.

Report continues

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January 15, 2014

Malaysian Baha’is affected by ban on ‘Allah’

Filed under: Bahai community — Sen @ 09:55
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The Sun Daily, January 14, 2014

The Executive Councillor for Islamic affairs for Selangor state in Malaysia, Sallehin Mukhyi, stated on January 13 that “The Selangor Non-Islamic Religions Enactment 1988 (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) prohibits all non-Muslims from using ‘Allah’ and 34 other Arabic words….Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah’s decree last December specifically states that the word ‘Allah’ is exclusive to the Muslims.” The Malaysian Bahais are among the groups affected by the ban on the use of the word “Allah.” Bahais use the words “Allah-u-Abbha”, which means “God the most glorious” as a greeting. A spokesman for the Baha’i community of Malaysia said the ban would be deliberated upon by members before they make any statements.

Full report

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November 30, 2013

Bahraini Bahais received at parliament

Filed under: Bahai community — Sen @ 23:18

ABN News, November 28, 2013

A Member of the Bahrain Parliament, Mr. Ahmad as-Sa`ati ( أحمد الساعاتي ) received a number of Bahraini Bahais who paid a courtesy call to the Parliament. In welcoming the delegation, Mr As-Sa`ati said that he appreciated contact with all elements within the country, which cherishes all its loyal citizens, of diverse religions and denominations. He said that throughout its history, and today, Bahrain has been a country that embraces the followers of different religions and ideologies, respects the virtues and special characteristics of all communities, and allows freedom of belief and worship. This has enriched and strengthened its civilization over the centuries. He said that Bahrain’s constitution does not discriminate between citizens on the basis of race, sex or religion and that citizens are equal in rights and duties.

The Bahai representatives said that they were proud to be citizens of Bahrain and said they did not suffer discrimination from their fellow-citizens and were free to practice their religion. They said they held meetings for worship, do good works, and spread love and fellowship and discourage vice. They expressed their willingness to participate in any project that would support national unity and promote love and peace between its citizens.

Bahrain is a Muslim country, in which Islamic law is one of the principle sources of legislation. The population (not counting migrant labour) is about 70% Shiah and 30% Sunni.

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November 6, 2013

Happy bicentenary

Filed under: Bahai community — Sen @ 13:38

Editorial, November 6, 2013

And now for something completely different … Today is the first of Muharram in the Islamic lunar calendar, making it 200 (lunar) years to the day since the Birth of the Bab. Although the birth of the Bab is celebrated in the night of October 19-20, in countries using the Gregorian calendar, it appears from the text of the Aqdas (paragraph 110) that Baha’u’llah intended his birthday (on Muharram 1) and that of the Bab on Muharram 2 to be dated according to the lunar calendar, so that they form one two-day Holy Day. Therefore … happy bicentenary everybody. Many happy returns of the day

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September 30, 2013

Dr. Albert Lincoln steps down as Secretary-General of the Baha’i International Community

Bahai World News Service, September 30, 2013 [Updated Sept. 31]

The Bahai International Community, or BIC, is an international non-governmental organization representing the members of the Bahai Faith to the world. It could be called the external affairs organisation for the Bahais around the world. One of its most important branches is the United Nations Office. Dr. Albert Lincoln, a former lawyer, has been its Secretary-General since 1994, representing the Baha’i community in international fora and interactions with Government representatives, diplomats, high officials and leaders of thought from many parts of the world. On September 30, the Bahai International Community announced that he is to step down. He is succeeded as Secretary-General by Joshua Lincoln who has a Ph.D. in international relations and has worked for the United Nations.

Dr. Albert Lincoln was born in the United States in 1945. He received a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School and during his professional career worked as a lawyer in four countries (France, Central African Republic, Cameroon and Cote d’Ivoire), three languages, and many different fields of law, ranging from human rights, intellectual property and natural resources to torts and criminal law.

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September 4, 2013

Muhammad Hussein Nakh`i meets family in US

Chicago Tribune, September 2, 2013

An 86-year-old man jailed last year in his native Iran because of his Bahai beliefs spent the weekend at a Baha’i sponsored conference in Schaumburg, Illinois, with friends and relatives he hadn’t seen in years. Muhammad Hussein Nakh`i ( محمد حسین نخعی ) was sentenced to one year in prison and a fine of 6 million rials by the revolutionary court of Birjand: he began his sentence in May, 2012, and was released in April, 2013. He was then reunited with his wife in Italy and has since moved with her into a home in Vernon Hills, Illinois to be near his daughter, Nasrin.

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July 31, 2013

“THE GARDENER” wins another award, July 31, 2013

The Sixteenth Motovun Film Festival in Croatia has granted its Special Maverick Award (Independent Art) to the film “THE GARDENER” by Mohsen Makhmalbaf. Mohsen Makhmalbaf was present as a guest of honour at the festival, where they held a retrospective some of his works. While receiving the award he said:

“I hope this award could be used as a key in unlocking the doors of cultural and political prisons.
With this hope in my mind, I dedicate this award to that eighty-year-old Baha’i man who has been sentenced to twenty years of prison and is passing the last years of his life in one cell with his grandson.
I dedicate this award to that Baha’i mother from Semnan who is in prison accompanied by her infant child.
I dedicate this award to all the 130 Baha’i prisoners who are in Iran’s political prisons only because they have adopted a different religion or because they have taught Baha’i youth at their homes while the government of Iran has deprived these youth from entering Iranian universities. …”

Full report here

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July 29, 2013

Passing of Dr. Amin Banani

Filed under: Bahai community — Sen @ 21:49
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Baha’is of Santa Monica, July 28, 2013

Professor Amin Banani, a scholar of Persian and of the Bahai Faith, author and translator, Knight of Baha’u’llah and son of Hand of the Cause Musa Banani, passed away Sunday, July 28, 2013. A selection of his works can be seen on his web page. The University of California – LA’s “In Memoriam” is now online (July 30).

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July 6, 2013

Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s oeuvre honored at Jerusalem Film Festival

BBC Persian service, July 6, 2013

The Iranian film-maker Mohsen Makhmalbaf is being honored as a special guest at the Jerusalem Film Festival, July 4 – 13. A number of his films will be shown, including “The Gardener,” which is about the Bahai Faith and was shot largely in the Bahai Gardens in Haifa and Akka. The Gardener (Persian: باغبان Baghban) is a poetic documentary film that Mohsen Makhmalbaf co-directed with his son Maysam Makhmalbaf. It is about an Iranian filmmaker and his son who travel to Israel to learn about the role of religion in the world. While the son goes out to the Wailing Wall, the Golden Mosque and Christian sites, the father stays at the Baha’i gardens to learn about a faith that came out of his own country – Iran. While the film is an exploration of the Baha’i Faith, it is also the story of two generations of Iranians debating the positive and negative aspects of religions. Makhmalbaf argues that it is very important for the world to have religion since it is such a powerful force, while his son disagrees, pointing to examples of the corruption of religion. The film is similar to Gabbeh and The Silence in style. At the Beirut International Film Festival in 2012, the The Gardener won the Gold Aleph for best documentary, and Times of India placed it in the top 10 filems of 2012 at the Mumbai International Film Festival.

According to one report, Makhmalbaf made this film in Israel “just to provoke the fundamentalist elements in my country.” [But truth to tell: if you want to address the question of religion in modern life, where better than in Israel? ~ Sen]

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July 5, 2013

Guilty verdict in the murder of John Veira in Suriname

Filed under: Bahai community — Sen @ 00:20
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DWT online, July 4, 2013 :

Sergio Brank has been found guilty of the murder of John Veira, a prominent member of the Bahai community in Suriname and the Director of Civil Aviation there. Mr. Veira was assassinated in front of his house in Commewijne on the night of April 21, 2010 (the First Day of Ridavan). Two men on a motorcycle arrived, called to him, and shot him three times in the chest when he came out. He died on the spot. He was 59 years old. The motives for the murder have not been clarified. The court has found that Brank was the shooter, and has sentenced him to 18 years in prison. Three other men have been found guilty of assisting in destroying evidence.

The son of the deceased, Jeewan Veira, has stated that he thinks he knows who paid for the murder, but will not speak in public. As regards the motive, he says, “My father had integrity. He was in the way for people engaged in shady dealing. Even if you put a bag of dollars in front of him, he woudn’t take it. The only way those people could get past him was by clearing him completely out of the way.”

Update, July 10: the man convicted of the murder, who has maintained his innocence. is to appeal his conviction.

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July 3, 2013

Universal House of Justice Message to the Youth Conferences

Filed under: Bahai community — Sen @ 09:30

Editorial, July 3, 2013

I have placed the text of the Universal House of Justice’s message to the participants at the 114 youth conferences in the Documents Archive section of my Bahai Studies blog.

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

June 27, 2013

House of Baha’u’llah in Baghdad destroyed

Universal Hosue of Justice, June 27

TO: All National Spiritual Assemblies DATE: 27 June 2013

With shattered hearts, we have received news of the destruction of the Most Great House–the House of Baha’u’llah in Baghdad. While the precise circumstances attending this outrageous violation are as yet unclear, its immediate consequence is without doubt, and must be emphatically stated: The peoples of the world have been robbed of a sanctuary of incalculable sacredness.

So deplorable an act, coming on the eve of the unprecedented worldwide convocation of Baha’u’llah’s young followers and their friends, calls to mind that mysterious interplay of crisis and victory through which His indestructible, irrepressible, inexorable purpose will finally be consummated.

We supplicate the Blessed Beauty to confer upon His faithful followers throughout the world fortitude and resolve in the face of this grievous blow. More information will be provided as it becomes available.

The Universal House of Justice

The House of Justice’s letter is reproduced on scribd, for those who want to confirm the news.

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

May 28, 2013

Government representative addresses Vietnam’s national Bahai convention

Filed under: Bahai community — Sen @ 09:14
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Voice of Vietnam, May 28

A report originating from the Vietnam News Agency, and carried in several English and French publications based in Vietnam, notes the national Bahai convention, held in Ho Chi Minh city, and states,

Addressing the event, a representative of the Government’s Committee for Religious Affairs praised the community’s contributions over the past years. The committee’s representative suggested that in the next tenure, Baha’i dignitaries should focus on instructing followers to implement the Government’s policies, and consolidating the great national unity bloc and unity with other religions.

According to the report, there are more than 7,000 Bahais in 43 localities in Vietnam, mostly in central and southern regions.

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May 16, 2013

Appointment of members to the International Teaching Centre

Universal House of Justice, May 15,

The members of the International Teaching Centre for the five-year term beginning 23 May 2013 are:

Uransaikhan Baatar: female, re-appointed
Ramchand Coonjul: male, he was appointed Counsellor (Africa) in 2010
Antonella Demonte: female, she was appointed Counsellor (Europe) in 2010
Andrej Donoval: male, he was appointed Counsellor (Europe) in 2010
Praveen Mallik: male, re-appointed
Alison Milston: female, she was appointed Counsellor (Americas) in 2008

Juan Mora: male, re-appointed
Rachel Ndegwa: female, re-appointed
Mehranguiz Farid Tehrani: female, she was appointed Counsellor (Asia) in 2005

[Thanks to Steve Marshall for the biographical research. Please use the comments section below for additions and corrections ~Sen]

Former members Joan Lincoln, Zenaida Ramirez and Penelope Walker are thanked for their services. Former members Chuungu Malitonga, and Ayman Rouhani are now serving on the Universal House of Justice.

A copy of the letter announcing these changes has been placed in the documents archive of my Bahai Studies blog.

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May 3, 2013

Ridvan message, 2013

The “Ridvan message” for 2013 is now available in English (click here).

This message of the Universal House of Justice, addressed to the Bahais of the world, is released every year during the festival of Ridvan, when Bahais celebrate the twelve days that Baha’u’llah spent in the garden of Ridvan, on the outskirts of Baghdad, in 1863. The message has an important role in setting the focus and tone of Bahai activities around the world in the following year, and is sometimes used to announce significant developments.

I have placed the English message in text format in the documents archive on my Bahai studies blog. I will follow with translations in other languages as these become available.

Persian translation / ترجمه فارسی

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

May 1, 2013

Chicago area Bahá’ís attend LGBTQ conference

Filed under: Bahai community — Sen @ 09:36
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Norther Illinois Bahais (Blog), April 30

“For Chicago attorney Judy El-Amin, and four of her fellow members of the Bahá’í community the goal was to learn a new language—how to speak about the Bahá’í Faith in a meaningful and respectful way to individuals who identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered,… ”

The report would be difficult to summarise, so I will leave it with my recommendation, and a link to the full story.

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

April 30, 2013

Universal House of Justice elected

Bahai World News Service, April 30

The results of the election of the nine members of the Universal House of Justice have been announced. Those elected for the next five-year term are Paul Lample, Firaydoun Javaheri, Payman Mohajer, Gustavo Correa, Shahriar Razavi, Stephen Birkland, Stephen Hall, Chuungu Malitonga, and Ayman Rouhani. Of these, Chuungu Malitonga, and Ayman Rouhani are new members: both are Counsellors serving at the International Teaching Centre. This means that, as in previous years, all members of the Universal House of Justice are drawn from the corps of Counsellors at the ITC.

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March 29, 2013

Bush fire near Panama temple quelled

Telementro, March 29 +

A bush fire that started around 6pm on Thursday 28th, close to the Bahai temple in Panama, burned through the night but was largely quelled by 7.30 am on Friday. Firefighters are still working on two fire fronts, and have not yet made any deductions about the cause of the fire. There are walking trails in the area around the temple.

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

March 23, 2013

“Without reference to individuals” : the Bahai community prepares to elect the Universal House of Justice

Pope-Benedict-XVI From the moment Pope Benedict announced his retirement, the names of possible successors were being discussed, along with ideas about the right kind of Pope to lead the Church in the years to come. A South American? An African? … It all makes for good press. Bahai elections, even the forthcoming election of the Universal House of Justice, are not so newsworthy.

The Bahai community has no clergy, in the sense of qualified religious experts who lead a religious community. Its affairs are administered by elected local and national “spiritual assemblies.” The members of the National Spiritual Assemblies administer the affairs of the community in their countries, and every five years they cast their votes for the members of the Universal (or International) House of Justice, which administers the global affairs of the Bahai community. They will do so again in April, 2013, at an international convention in Haifa, Israel.

At the local, national and international levels, the elections are conducted without candidates, or even any reference to particular individuals. The qualifications for electability in all these elections are well known:

… it is incumbent upon the chosen delegates to consider … the names of only those who can best combine the necessary qualities of unquestioned loyalty, of selfless devotion, of a well-trained mind, of recognized ability and mature experience…
(Shoghi Effendi, letter of June 3, 1925, printed in Directives from the Guardian, p. 24)

On the face of it, we can tell the Press to move along, there’s nothing to see here. No personalities to dissect, nothing to discuss. If it was really that dull, I wouldn’t be writing about it either. But there’s more to the story. Shoghi Effendi has also said that, prior to an election to a Bahai institution, the friends should “discuss among themselves the requirements and qualifications for such a membership without reference or application, however indirect, to particular individuals.” (Letter to the Spiritual Assembly of Akron, Ohio, dated May 14, 1927).

But we know the qualifications for membership don’t we? And we are not to make references to particular individuals, who may or may not meet those requirements. So why does Shoghi Effendi call all the Bahais (not just the convention delegates) to discuss the requirements and qualifications for membership? Could he have forgotten that he had told us the qualifications, just two years earlier? That would be uncharacteristic, for he was systematic and meticulous by nature.

The answer I think is that, while he has told us the general qualifications which electors should always look for, in any situation, (unquestioned loyalty, selfless devotion, a well-trained mind, recognized ability and mature experience…), he was also aware that every national community has particular needs, and that the needs of one year may not be those of the following year, or of ten years later. What Shoghi Effendi asks us all to discuss must be the requirements of the hour.

In my opinion, one requirement for membership which the delegates to the international Bahai convention should weigh very heavily is the desirability that the members of the next Universal House of Justice should have long and fruitful experience as members of National Spiritual Assemblies. In any Bahai election, proven effectiveness on an Assembly is one important sign by which a person’s maturity and wisdom may be known. In the case of the forthcoming election of the Universal House of Justice, four other factors make experience on a National Spiritual Assembly especially important.

one black If the membership of the Universal House of Justice were to be drawn largely from experienced members of the National Spiritual Assemblies, this would strengthen the relationship between the National and International bodies, whose tasks after all lie in the same sphere of the Bahai Administration;

two-black It would provide the Universal House of Justice with members who have experience in implementing, in national communities with diverse patterns of development, the plans and policies which the Universal House of Justice enacts, and that would help to making those plans more relevant and practicable;

three black It would signal a fresh start, in comparison to the present situation in which members of the Universal House of Justice are drawn from the International Teaching Centre rather than from the ranks of national administrative bodies; and

four black It would highlight the natural and fruitful relationship between the elected and appointed arms of the Bahai Administrative Order, a relationship which is obscured if all the members of the Universal House of Justice are drawn from the International Teaching Centre. The ITC then appears to resemble a line up of the papabile cardinals.


These considerations might also weigh in the minds of the members of the International Teaching Centre. Would it not be better for the development of the Bahai Administrative Order, if they were to ask the convention delegates not to elect them to the Universal House of Justice? There are good precedents for such a request. The first is the example of the Hands of the Cause, who by asking the members of the National Spiritual Assemblies not to vote for them (Ministry of the Custodians, p. 20) gave concrete expression to the separation of the spheres of authority and administration on the one hand, and of guidance and wisdom on the other hand. The separation of these two spheres was outlined by Shoghi Effendi in The Dispensation of Baha’u’llah as follows:

… these twin institutions of the Administrative Order of Baha’u’llah should be regarded as divine in origin, essential in their functions and complementary in their aim and purpose. … Acting in conjunction with each other these two inseparable institutions administer its affairs, coordinate its activities, promote its interests, execute its laws and defend its subsidiary institutions. Severally, each operates within a clearly defined sphere of jurisdiction; each is equipped with … instruments designed for the effective discharge of its particular responsibilities and duties. Each exercises, within the limitations imposed upon it, its powers, its authority, its rights and prerogatives. … Far from being incompatible or mutually destructive, they supplement each other’s authority and functions, and are permanently and fundamentally united in their aims.
(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 148)

Similarly, the Universal House of Justice has decided that Counsellors, during their terms of office, are not “eligible for membership on national or local administrative bodies… ” (Wellspring of Guidance, pp. 141-142) and it has asked the members of the Auxiliary Boards to suggest to delegates at national convention, that it would not be desirable to elect them to the National Spiritual Assembly:

National Assemblies in whose areas of jurisdiction Board Members reside, should point out to the delegates at Convention that whilst teaching and administrative duties are not mutually exclusive, it is desirable that Auxiliary Board Members, whether for teaching or protection, be left free to concentrate on the work allotted to them… The following extract from the Guardian’s letter, written through his secretary, could be shared with the delegates for their guidance when casting their votes:

“Teachers of the Cause can surely become members of any Assembly or Committee. There should be no incapacity attached to them. But, Shoghi Effendi would just prefer to see them devote all their time to teaching and leave the administrative function for those who cannot serve as teachers. (Bahai News, October, 1932)

(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to all National Spiritual Assemblies, November 25, 1963)

It would therefore be both permissible and laudable if the members of the International Teaching Centre were to tell the delegates that it would be preferable to leave them to devote themselves to their own functions, in their own sphere of action.


What do you think?

Without reference to particular individuals, post a comment about what you think are the requirements and qualifications for membership of the Universal House of Justice, in view of the needs of the community today. What House of Justice would you like to see emerge from the International Convention?

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

March 22, 2013

The Universal House of Justice sends Naw Ruz greetings

Filed under: Bahai community — Sen @ 07:00

Editorial, March 21

The Universal House of Justice has sent Naw Ruz greetings to the Bahais living in Iran, and to “all the pure spirits among the people of Iran.” The message compares the spring season to the spiritual spring, brought by the Bab and Baha’u’llah, which promises the collective maturity of the human race and carries the diverse people and nations towards a world characterized by the principle of unity in diversity.

The full Persian text and an approximate translation are in the documents archive of my Bahai Studies blog.

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March 6, 2013

Universal House of Justice issues a letter on political engagement

Editorial, March 6

The Universal House of Justice has addressed a letter to the Baha’is of Iran, which has been released in both Persian and English versions. It sets out “the posture held by Baha’is everywhere towards political activity,” within the framework of a vision statement on Baha’i views of the future of humanity. As such it is of interest also to Bahais around the world, and also to the diverse individuals, organisations and religious communities with whom the Bahais join to realize common ideals. I have placed the plain text of the English version in the documents archive section of my Bahai Studies blog.

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

December 22, 2012

Local Bahai Centre in Samoa destroyed by floods

Filed under: Bahai community — Sen @ 23:51
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Samoa Observer, December 22

Cyclone Evan has brought the worst flooding residents can remember to Samoa. Four people are known to have died, and eight fishermen are still missing at sea. Authorities say 4,500 people are in emergency evacuation centres. The local Bahai Centre at Lelata was washed away by a flooding river, and its caretaker, Pene Lealatasi, had to take refuge with his family on a nearby hill. The destruction of infrastructure and the lack of rain since the cyclone mean that there is no fresh water in the area.

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November 28, 2012

German court requires state recognition of Bahai community

Filed under: Bahai community — Sen @ 17:43
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Tagesschau, November 28

The Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig has ruled that the Ministry of Religions in the State of Hesse, in central Germany, must recognise the Bahai community as a body corporate. The Baha’i community has 5600 members in Germany, and applied for recognition as a corporation in the state of Hesse, because the National Spiritual Assembly is based in Hesse. The Hesse state government rejected the request on the grounds that Bahai membership was less than one per thousand in the population, which would require 6089 members. The court said that neither the absolute number of Bahais, nor the proportion of the population, was a decisive indication of whether a religious community would continue to exist. The court gave more weight to the fact that the Bahai community had already existed in German for more than a hundred years, is part of a world-wide community, and were able to reorganise themselves after they were banned under the Nazis, and following the reunification of Germany. The legal recognition will reduce the taxes and fees the Bahai institutions pay.

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November 20, 2012

Two pdf booklets on Abdu’l-Baha’s visits to the United Kingdom

NSA of the UK, November 20

The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of the United Kingdom has produced two PDF booklets commemorating the first and second visits of Abdu’l-Baha to the United Kingdom. They can be downloaded free from the NSA’s web site.

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November 6, 2012

Farzam Arbab and Kiser Barnes to retire

November 6.

In a letter dated November 5, 2012, the Universal House of Justice has announced the resignations of two of its members, Dr. Farzam Arbab and Mr. Kiser Barnes, with effect from the completion of the election of the Universal House of Justice at Ridvan 2013. Dr. Arbab (b. October 27, 1941) was appointed to the International Teaching Centre in 1988 and elected to the Universal House of Justice in 1993, Mr. Barnes (b. January 13, 1943) was appointed to the International Teaching Centre in 1993, and elected to the Universal House of Justice in 2000.

The letter is available as a PDF document in my documents archive.

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August 8, 2012

Tragedy in Turkey

Filed under: Bahai community — Sen @ 11:50
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Huffington Post, August 7

Tragedy has struck an Iranian Bahai family living as refugees in Kayseri, Turkey, ending in the avoidable death of their 10-year old daughter. Forouz and Haifa had travelled to Turkey 10 months ago, with their daughter Farnaz, hoping to obtain asylum in another country, and so ensure that Farnaz would be able to continue her education beyond the school level.

On July 30 around noon, Firouz arrived home and became outraged that his wife Haifa had not prepared lunch to his standards. She threatened to leave him, and Firouz then grabbed Farnaz and a kitchen knife and threatened to kill his daughter and wife. Haifa fled to the police station, in the hope that a police officer would accompany her home to save her daughter. Unable to understand Persian, the officers called in Ali, an Iranian translator. Haifa explained what had transpired, adding that her husband has a history of mental illness. Ali, addressing Haifa and the authorities, said: “If your husband was capable of killing your daughter he wouldn’t have issued a threat beforehand. You and your daughter are not in real danger. She’s lying about all this to get out of Turkey faster. In the past, we have had many other refugees act in the same manner.”

Then the authorities inquired about Haifa’s religion. When Ali heard she was a Baha’i, he convinced the authorities that her religion was artificial and not based on divinity. “She’s saying all this to get attention. Baha’is are all liars,” he added. Haifa spent at least three hours at the police station attempting to convince the authorities she was telling the truth. Around 6 p.m., Firouz murdered Farnaz, and attempted to kill himself. When the police finally arrived they found Firouz unconscious; he was taken to hospital.

Full story (contains some graphic details).

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

April 20, 2011

Ridvan message 2011

The “Ridvan message” for 2011 is now available (click here). A Persian translation is available here. This message of the Universal House of Justice, addressed to the Bahais of the world, is released every year at the beginning of the festival of Ridvan, when Bahais celebrate the twelve days that Baha’u’llah spent in the garden of Ridvan, on the outskirts of Baghdad, in 1863. The Ottoman government had summoned him from Baghdad to Istanbul and, since many visitors wished to say farewell to him, he moved to the garden to receive them, so that his family could complete the packing and preparations at his house in the city.

Julia Gillard, the Prime Minister of Australia, has also released a message to the Bahai community on this festival (click here).

Update April 20 2012: The Persian translation of the Ridvan message for 2012 is available. It announces plans for building two major Houses of Worship, in Congo and in Papua New Guinea, and a number of smaller Houses of Worship Battambang (Cambodia), Bihar Sharif (India), Matunda Soy (Kenya), Norte del Cauca (Colombia), and Tanna (Vanuatu).

Wonderful news, !!

For those who can read it, the text is online here:

Has anyone spotted the English version?

January 1, 2011

1 January message from the UHJ

Filed under: Bahai community — Sen @ 23:02

Editorial, 1 January

On the last day of the meeting of Continental Counsellors at the Bahai World Centre, the Universal House of Justice has addressed a short message to the Bahais of the world, looking back on the past 5-year plan and forward to the next. (more…)

December 29, 2010

UHJ message to Continental Boards of Counsellors’ conference

Editorial, 29 December

The Continental Boards of Counsellors are having a rare ‘summit’ meeting at present. The Universal House of Justice has produced a theme document for the meeting, which I have put on my Bahai Studies blog. Among the points I noticed are two previews of the next five-year plan, in paragraph 10:

we will call upon the community of the Most Great Name at Ridvan 2011 to raise over the next five years the total number of clusters in which a programme of growth is under way, at whatever level of intensity, to 5,000, approximately one third of all clusters in the world at present.

And in paragraph 17:

There are currently 170 such administrative bodies [Regional Councils] in 45 countries worldwide, and their number is sure to climb during the next Plan.

The short link for the full text is

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