Sen's daily

July 23, 2020

‘A moment of historic portent’ : the House of Justice writes to the Bahais of the United States

Editorial, July 23, 2020. –

The Universal House of Justice has addressed a six-paragraph letter to the Bahais of the United States, in relation to the effects of racial prejudice and the present possibilities for reform of the social order. It speaks of promoting race unity in the contexts of community building, social action, and involvement in the discourses of society, and of the profound immorality of racism. “Ultimately, the power to transform the world is effected by love,…

The full text is available in the documents archive of my Bahai Studies blog.

February 26, 2020

Covid-19 & the missing masks of Iran

Editorial, February 26, 2020. –

I won’t try to cover the spread of the Covid-19 virus in Iran: it needs a daily review and there are other media doing that. However I note that the BBC has reported a shortage of masks in Iran. Face masks are not effective in protecting the wearer, but that’s not the point. Masks are what people want, and if there are not enough to go round, what will the regime do?

They will blame the Bahais. Government-sponsored media (in Persian) are relaying a story that a ring of Bahai mask-hoarders has been uncovered and broken up. See the story here, and here and here.

The problem for the regime is: now they have reported the seizure of all the masks that Bahais were hoarding, how will they explain that there are still no masks to be had? Those Iranians who believe the story of Bahai mask hoards in the first place will have to conclude that now the security forces are hoarding the seized hoards …

It’s a tough life, being a totalitarian regime and thick as two bricks at the same time.

The actual causes of the shortage include lack of foresight — but then, who saw Covid-19 coming? — and sanctions which do not stop medical imports but do limit the funds available and the means of transferring money, and the general evils of a centrally-planned economy run by the least capable.

December 1, 2019

Keyhan Propaganda denounces President Khatami and others as Bahai pawns

Editorial, December 1, 2019. –

Keyhan, a government-controlled media outlet in Iran, has labelled Iran’s former Presidents Mohammad Khatami (سید محمد خاتمی) and Mir-Hossein Mousavi (میرحسین موسوی), the former presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi (مهدی کروبی) “and others” as “the hostages of Bahaism [who acted] in the uprising of 1388 (2009).” Mir-Hossein Mousavi is singled out as subservient to the Anglo-Zionist network of Bahaism (شبکه صهیونیستی- انگلیسی بهائیت). All three of these leaders are Islamic clerics, a class whose religious learning, according to the ideology of Khomeini, makes them uniquely fitted to rule the common people. All three have been approved as Presidential candidates by the Guardian Council. So Keyhan’s claim that they were and are hostages to the Bahais will be read as casting doubt on the country’s governing system and governing class, although Keyhan’s purpose was probably to give the impression that “outsiders” — and not everyday Iranians acting spontaneously — are responsible for the current unrest. A previous article in Fars News claimed that “most” of those arrested in the fuel price protests are Bahais. So far there is no evidence of any Bahais being engaged in the protests or of them being arrested afterwards to take the blame for the protests.

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

October 12, 2019

Forum 2000 in Czechoslovakia to present Bahai community

Mistni Kultura, October 12, 2019. –

This year’s Forum 2000 Festival of Democracy in Prague will present the Bahai community. The 2019 Festival also marks 30 years of freedom in Eastern Europe. After November 1989, a number of organizations that were suppressed under Communist governments, including the Bahai community, were able to resume operations.

The Forum 2000 Foundation was founded in 1996 as a joint initiative of the Czech President Václav Havel, Japanese philanthropist Yohei Sasakawa, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel. Mr. Havel based his idea for Forum 2000 on the principle that, “it would be good if intelligent people, not only from the various ends of the earth, different continents, different cultures, from civilization’s religious circles, but also from different disciplines of human knowledge could come together somewhere in calm discussion.” This year’s Forum 2000 Conference, held under the theme Recovering the Promise of 1989, will take place in Prague on October 13-15, 2019.

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

August 17, 2019

Conservative strategist says the Ahmadinejad faction are Bahais

Editorial, August 17, 2019. –

A number of Iranian sites are reporting — some with overtones of incredulity — that Hassan Abbasi (حسن عباسی‎) has delivered a speech in which he says that Iran’s reformist faction are not Muslims, and the Ahmadinejad faction are Bahais. Mr. Abbassi an an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officer and head of a think-tank affiliated with the Guards. He has been described as the big strategic brain for the ruling elite, which is quite plausible. He is best known outside Iran for his conspiracy theories, including antisemitic conspiracy theories. Two of the sites mentioning his speech are Noandish and Ghatreh News.

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

July 16, 2019

Supporter of a supporter of Bahai rights sentenced to prison

VOA news, July 15, 2019. –

Mehdi Moqaddari (مهدی مقدری), a member of the city council of Isfahan, has been sentenced to two years in prison, and a two-year from political activities, membership of the Council and of political parties, and from internet activities. He was charged with propaganda against the regime and disturbing public opinion, after speaking out in support of women’s right to ride bicycles and in support of Mehdi Haajati (مهدی حاجتی), a member of Shiraz city council who began a one-year sentence on June 2 this year. Mr. Haajati in turn was accused of supporting Bahais, after he tried to pursue the case of two Bahais who had been arrested in Shiraz.

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

February 5, 2019

Mehdi Haajati resumes his seat on Shiraz city council

Filed under: current events and comment,Human Rights in Iran — Sen @ 16:58

HRANA, February 3, 2019.

Mehdi Haajati (مهدی حاجتی) a Shiraz city Councillor, who made efforts on behalf of unfairly arrested Bahais and was himself arrested and — once bailed ten days later — banned from his seat on the city council, has now been allowed to resume his seat. The Councillor made efforts for the release of Navid Bazmaandegaan and Bahaareh Qaaderi, and was arrested by the Ministry of Intelligence on September 27, 2018, and accused of defending the “false Bahai Faith.” He had twittered that “our generation has a duty to reform the judicial and other procedures that endanger social justice.” The Public Prosecutor’s office then issued an indefinite ban on his attending meetings of the Council. This ban has now been overturned. On resuming his seat, he said that the case against him would continue and would be decided by the judiciary (that is, not by the Ministry of Intelligence or the Public Prosecutor’s office). Abdel-Rezaaq Mousavi (عبدالرزاق موسوی), the Head of the Legal Commission and Supreme Supervisory Council of the Provinces [a body I have never heard of ~ Sen] has stated that the ban has been overturned. Curiously, the state-sponsored media in Iran have reported the return of Mr. Haajati to the Council, but without mentioning that he was banned for advocating civil rights for Bahais!

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

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

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

November 12, 2014

Bahais join demonstration in support of Nasrin Sotoudeh

HRANA, November 11, 2014.

On November 10, Bahai students who have been excluded from tertiary education joined the Iranian civil rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh (نسرین ستوده) in her three-week-old demonstration in front of the Bar Association building in Tehran. She is claiming the right to be reinstated by the Bar Association as a practicing lawyer, having been excluded from practicing for three years. She has been joined by a number of human rights activists, including the prominent Iranian film director Mohammad Nourizad. Mr. Nourizad reported on his face book page that a group of Bahai students who have been excluded from tertiary education had joined the protest.

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

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

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

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

June 18, 2014

“Baha’i” in the news in Egypt

Filed under: current events and comment — Sen @ 13:07
Tags: , , ,

New Today, undated [June 18, 2014]

An Egyptian news website, New Today, has published a video of a television interview with Dr. Mohamed El-Saghir (الدكتور محمد الصغير) (pictured), a former advisor to the Minister of Awqaf, in which he claims that the television presenter Wael Ibrashi (وائل الإبراشي) is one of the most prominent Baha’is in the Arabic world. According to the learned doctor, one of his unnamed friends went to an unnamed country, visited a supposed Bahai temple, and found in it a list of the most important Bahais in the Arabic world. The name of Wael Ibrashi appeared on the list. Dr. El-Saghir emphasized that he personally stood behind this information.

The same report was posted previously on the Akhbar-Masriyah site, again without a date, and led to a sequence of unenlightening comments beginning on June 9. The first appearance of the video on You Tube, that I have found, was dated June 7.

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

April 14, 2014

Bishop of Coventry welcomes Ayatollah Tehrani’s symbolic gesture

Church of England news site, April 9, 2014

The Bishop of Coventry, Dr Christopher Cocksworth, has described as a ‘courageous step’, the decision by a prominent Muslim cleric in Iran to gift to the Bahai community an important religious art work, as a sign of support. Bishop Cocksworth, who is the Church of England’s lead bishop in the Lords on foreign policy, said:
“I’m heartened to learn of the recent decision by Ayatollah Abdol-Hamid Masoumi-Tehrani to gift to the Bahais an illuminated calligraphic work from the Writings of Baha’u’llah…. Given the systemic and long standing suffering experienced by the Baha’i community in Iran, this is an imaginatively courageous step by a senior Iranian Islamic scholar.”

Bishop Christopher, who is also a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Human rights and International Religious Freedom, added: “Ayatollah Tehrani’s action reminds us all that despite the dehumanising nature of many of today’s conflicts, religious leaders have a shared responsibility to encourage freedom of religion and belief and to foster a deeper respect for human dignity. I very much hope and pray that this generous gift will assist in the flourishing of a culture of religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence in Iran.”

Text in Persian (Mohabat News)

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

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…)

March 3, 2014

Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi: “Equal Rights for the Bahais and the Jews are Against Islam”

Iran Wire, March 3

In a speech to seminary students and teachers, Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, an influential hardliner in the Iranian regime, stated “Some have come forward with a plan for citizenship rights and want to give equal rights to the Bahais and the Jews and the Muslims and… We can never accept this.” There was no doubt that he was referring to the Draft Citizenship Rights Charter presented by Rouhani’s administration last November.

Yazdi’s ire was directed at the principle that all citizens are equal under the law. “All Iranian citizens, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, wealth, social class, race, etc, enjoy citizenship rights and the foreseen guarantees in rules and regulations,” declares the draft charter’s first article. The sentence does not include the term “religion,” probably intentionally, but the “etc.” leaves a lot of room for speculation. Hardliners have been quick to speculate, especially when it comes to the Bahai community, which has been harassed relentlessly since the Islamic Revolution.

“The standard is always Islam,” Yazdi told the theological school students. “Western human rights and citizenship rights, meaning equality between Muslims and Bahais, has no relation to Islam. These rights, as described by the West, utterly go against Islam, the constitution and the way of Imam [Ayatollah Khomeini]. The people of this country, who have suffered hardships and have given so many martyrs, would not accept anything that goes against Islam. Of course, even those who are not Muslims must be respected. They have rights, which Islam recognizes.”

Second-Class Citizenship

Ayatollah Yazdi says that religious inequality is acceptable. “Islam never considers a Jew and a Muslim as equals,” he said. “Even though Islam has conferred certain rights to Jews, this does not mean that they are equals in every right. Sometimes this is called ‘second-class citizenship’. They can call it whatever they want, but it does not change the reality.”

Here, Bahais are conspicuous by their absence. Whereas in pronouncements condemning “equality,” Bahais were included [if only to be excluded ~Sen], when it came to “rights” they were not mentioned – not as second-class citizens, not even as third-class citizens. Not at all.

Human rights activists and liberal commentators have been critical of the rights charter for a number of reasons, labeling it “elegant but useless” and a “hodgepodge of things,” but Yazdi sees the charter as anti-Islamic both in word and in spirit.

The spirit, of course, comes from the people who wrote the draft under orders from Rouhani. Addressing the students, Yazdi asserted that those who promote citizenship rights are wrong about Islam and wrong about the history of the Islamic Republic. When citizenship rights supporters cite Ayatollah Khomeini’s respect for democratic practices such as the right to vote, they are misconstruing his words. They believe Khomeini “was a political figure and a national hero who opposed the previous regime because it was harmful for the country and wanted to establish a system which would be more beneficial to people.” But, according to Yazdi, this is simply untrue. “People who think like this are secular and, in their view, good and evil consist of material things,” he said, adding that, for these people, “evil is material backwardness and the absence of well-being, while good is using technology and providing a good life for everybody. They believe religion is something marginal, a fantasy.”

Islam was absolutely central to Khomeini’s thinking, Yazdi said. “When he said that society was facing a great danger, he meant a great danger for Islam. This was something that was not important to many politicians.”

Are the people who want equal rights for all citizens enemies of Islam? asked one student. “They are not really enemies of Islam,” he answered, “but this is how they see the world, especially if the person is educated in England or some other place like that, because in those places they talk of human rights, citizenship rights and other rights with such reverence that gradually the student comes to consider them as the most important issue.” He added that, although he was 80 years old, it would still be possible for him to fall under the influence of Western rhetoric if he travelled to one of these countries. So it was logical to assume a “young person who has no deep understanding of Islamic principles” to be particularly vulnerable to influence.

Full report
Persian report

Contrasting views of Ayatollah Masumi Tehrani

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

November 30, 2013

Egypt’s constitutional committee approves religion articles

Made Masr, November 30, 2013

The committee tasked with amending the Egyptian constitution has passed the first 50 articles of Egypt’s new draft constitution with large majorities. The second article states that Islam is the religion of the state and that Islamic Sharia is the main source of legislation. The third article states that legislation regarding the personal affairs of Christians and Jews should be based on their own religious law. A proposal to refer to “non-Muslims” in the article, rather than specifying Christians and Jews, was considered by the Assembly but was eventually rejected. This means that Egyptians who are not Muslims, Christians and Jews cannot appeal either to the customs of their own communities, or to a single Egyptian code of law governing all citizens. Another article that was approved ensures that women have equal opportunities in the judiciary, where they have long been excluded. Voting on the articles will continue tomorrow.

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

November 21, 2013

Bahai Faith on list of banned groups in Sabah, Malaysia

Filed under: current events and comment — Sen @ 19:34

Daily Express, November 21, 2013

In response to a question in the state Parliament, an Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department, Datuk Arifin Arif, has listed the “deviant groups” subject to fatwas from the State Fatwa Committee “for propagating teachings that are not in accordance to Islamic ways and Syarak [Shariah].” The banned groups are Bahai, Qadiani [Ahmadiyya], Shiah Islam, Islam Jemaah, Tariqat Nasyabandiah Al- Aliyyah Syeikh Nazim Al-Haggani and a number of Malaysian Islamic groups. The Assistant Minister said “The government always monitors not only those groups that have been banned but doubtful teachings of other groups. The Sabah Islamic Affairs Department, the Home Ministry, the Malaysia Islamic Development Department and other local authorities are always working together in ensuring the faith of Muslims is not influenced by deviant teachings … Those Muslims found to be involved in deviant teachings can be charged under Section 52 of the Syariah Criminal Offence Enactment No.3 1995 with a maximum fine of RM5,000 or a jail up to three years’ or both upon conviction,” he said. He added that Government agencies will be organising seminars on the threat of deviant groups.

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November 9, 2013

Signs of hope for Bahais in Iran

Filed under: current events and comment — Sen @ 21:18

Editorial, November 9, 2013

Ayatollah al Faqih Seyyed Hussein Ismail al Sadr is the most senior Shi‘a cleric in Baghdad, Iraq. He heads the Ayatollah Seyyed Hussain Ismail al Sadr Foundation Trust, which runs humanitarian, development, and peace and reconciliation projects in Iraq. His role as a social leader and humanitarian has increased significantly during the recent hostilities in Iraq. The issue of reconciliation and dialogue between Iraq’s different religious and ethnic communities has featured heavily in the Ayatollah’s recent efforts.

On October 29, Ayatollah Seyyed Hussein Sadr ( آيت‌الله سيد حسين صدر ), whose voice carries considerable weight in the Shiah world, issued a fatwa stating that God has commanded us (Muslims) to have good relationships with our brothers and sisters of others religions and schools of thought. An Iraqi Bahai had asked him to give his opinion on this matter, stating that some Muslims believed that they were required by the purity laws of their faith to avoid mixing with Bahais, and that certain religious leaders have issued fatwas saying that our religion is deviant and any sort of social intercourse with us is forbidden.

In his response the Ayatollah cites Surah 60:8, “As for those who neither fight you as a matter of religion, nor drive you from your homes, God does not hold you back from dealing kindly and justly with them.” Therefore, he concludes, there is nothing wrong with socialising with, and having dealings with, our brethren of other faiths, in accordance with the normal rules of human relationships. In fact, it is necessary to observe justice and equal rights and prevent discrimination or persecution against any of the followers of other religions.

On October 5, the Melli-Madhabi website published an interview between the film-maker and journalist Muhammad Nourizad ( محمد نوری زاد ) and `Ali Asghar Gharavi (علی‌اصغر غروی) of the Nationalist-religious coalition (Melli-Madhabi), which brings together a number of smaller parties, political activists, writers and intellectual figures. Mr Gharavi has been in the news more recently for an article in which he distinguished Imam `Ali’s role as religious leader from his role as a political leader. During this interview, Mr Nourizad asked him whether he would like to eat something that had been cooked by a Christian or a Bahai. This question goes directly to the superstitions about the clean and unclean which play such a strong role in Iranian culture and the teachings of most Shiah religious leaders today. Mr. Gharavi replies that he would eat food from a Christian or non-Christian (he cannot quite bring himself to say the word “Bahai”) providing his hands are not dirty. He cites Quran 5:6: “The food of the People of the Book is lawful to you, and yours is lawful to them.” And he adds: “the case of the Bahais is similar.”

The two pronouncements, from a religious leader and a leader in a reformist movement of religiously-committed laymen, suggest that the idea that Bahais are unclean is continuing to lose ground in Iran and in the Shiah world. Against this, a story has been circulating that Ayatollah Khamene’i has issued a new fatwa declaring the Bahais unclean and association with them to be religiously forbidden (haram), and that this might signal a new crackdown on the Bahais in Iran. I did not report that story here when it broke, because it appeared to me that it has been blown out of all proportion by the media. What actually happened was that a new collection of Khamene’is fatwas was issued, which is a regular event. This collection contained 493 fatwas on every subject under the sun, of which just one, number 260, stated that all forms of association with the deviant Bahai sect are to be avoided. This is not a new fatwa: Khamene’i had said it before, Khomeini said it in rather more detail, and Ayatollah Borujerdi before him. However an opposition web site went through this collection and selected six opinions which were particularly easy to ridicule, such as opinions about wearing jeans and ties, and fatwa 260, and published an article in English whose purpose was to show how backward the Iranian regime was. Mohbat news recycled that, in English, mentioning only fatwa 260, and this article was recycled in organs such as the Huffington Post, and a number of Israeli organs, they highlighted the “new fatwa” about the Bahais. And so a story was born. In fact the message conveyed by the publication of the fatwas was not “we will get the Bahais” but rather “Khamene’i is a religious scholar” (he has credibility problems in that respect), and the he has a claim to be the source of imitation for Shiah everywhere (of which the less said the better). This is a good example of how a message can become distorted when it is read without its context, translated, and passed from hand to hand without referring back to the original evidence.

So are there signs of hope? Not in the behaviour of the government and its organs, but yes, where it really matters, in the hearts of the people of Iran, prejudices against other peoples are fading and archaic superstitions are being distinguished from the light of faith.

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

October 27, 2013

Passing of Dr. Ahang Rabbani

Editorial, October 27, 2013

Dr. Ahang Rabbani, a celebrated and prolific Bahai scholar, died in Texas, at 5.30 am on October 26, 2013, following a long battle with cancer. He was just 57 years old. He is survived by his wife, Tahirih Baker-Rabbani, his sons Bayan and Tebyan Rabbani, his sisters Ranneh Kayfan and Naghmeh (Melody) Astani, with whom he co-authored some of his many publications, and an extended family. The funeral will take place Friday November 1st at 11.30 a.m. at the Calvary Hill Funeral Home in Houston.

The following tribute was composed by a number of his friends and colleagues in the field of Bahai Studies:

Ahang Rabbani was a member of two online scholarly communities: Tarikh, a listserver for those interested in Bahá’í history, and Tarjuman, a listserver devoted to translation of Bahá’í scriptural and historical texts. Both communities were deeply saddened and grieved by the news of his passing, because Ahang was instrumental in starting them up and was a central member of both. He often commented about drafts of translations or articles and very generously offered many of his own for collective discussion and improvement. All of us were immensely impressed by his energy and his prodigious output of translations, both of sacred texts and historical materials. An independent scholar, he has enriched and increased access to the revelation and to the sources of Bahá’í history for the English speaking friends, a significant contribution that will be remembered by historians and academics for years to come. He also was a founding member of the Texas chapter of the Association for Bahá’í Studies. There were many notable online tributes. One friend said that his passing “is a great loss to all of us and to Baha’i scholarship in general.” Another said that Ahang “pushed me to translate, in collaboration with his own energetic self . . . Ahang provided the oomph for me to persevere, to get going, not to stop … He was thousands of miles away and yet he was prodding me to accelerate, not to procrastinate, not to feel inept and useless.” A third contributor said, “His presence is simply irreplaceable. I will miss him dearly, and hope that one day I will have the honor and pleasure of meeting him again in the Abha Kingdom.

The Tarikh and Tarjuman communities grieve his loss, pray for his soul’s progress, and beg his continued assistance in their endeavors from the great beyond.

We dare not, in this Day, lift the veil that concealeth the exalted station which every true believer can attain …. By the righteousness of the one true God! The very breath of these souls is in itself richer than all the treasures of the earth. Happy is the man that hath attained thereunto, and woe betide the heedless. (Gleanings, VI, pp. 9-10)

Please feel free to use the comments section below for your personal tributes and reminiscences.

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October 12, 2013

Delegation of Egyptian Bahais meets the head of the constitutional committee

Akhbarak, October [10]

Amr Moussa (عمرو موسى), Chairman of the Committee of Fifty which is charged with drafting a new constitution for Egypt, and the writer Mohammad Salmawy (محمد سلماوى), media spokesman for the committee, met a delegation of Egyptian Bahais at the headquarters of the Shura Council to listen to their vision of suggested amendments to the Constitution. The meeting lasted almost an hour and half hour. The Bahai delegation consisted of Dr. Basma Moussa (بسمة موسى), a well-know activist for human rights, Dr. Rauf Hindi (رؤوف هندي), official representative of the Egyptian Bahais, Dr. Labib Hanna (لبيب حنا) and Dr. Sawsan Hosni (سوسن حسنـي). The delegation stressed that the new Constitution should embody the hopes of all Egyptians without distinction of colour, gender or creed, as the Constitution is a social contract and not an ideological programme. The role of the state is not to choose the beliefs of its citizens, in fact the main duty of the state is to preserve the freedom of thought and belief of every Egyptian, who should all be able to see the Constitution as theirs. The Bahais asked that international treaties and conventions regarding individual freedom and human rights should be one of the sources of legislation, and they stressed that the State must be required in writing to provide identification papers for every Egyptian. The asked for a law to forbid discrimination against Egypt’s minorities, and an independent body to monitor compliance. Dr. Rauf Hindi deplored the association of the Bahai name with Satanism and fire worship and equally astonishing things, by certain people. He said that the Bahais were not seeking a change in article III of the Constitution, but rather the inclusion of other clauses which would guarantee freedom of religion and the right to identity papers for all Egyptians. The Baha’i delegation expressed confidence that the Committee of 50 would be able to establish a new constitution that reflects the hopes and aspirations and highest principles of humanity.

[Article 3 of the suspended constitution specified for the first time that matters of personal status (marriage, divorce, inheritance) for Christians and Jews would be governed by legislation based on the Christian and Jewish religious laws. One proposal (which Dr. Hindi does not support) has been to apply this also to “other non-Muslims,” which would mean Bahais could be governed by their own laws of personal status. ~ Sen]

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October 6, 2013

In Khuzestan, authorities again try to isolate Bahais

HRANA, October 6, 2013

In recent days, agents from the Ministry of Intelligence in Sarbandar and Bandar-e Mahshahr, in the South West of Iran, have summoned many citizens and required a written promise from them that they will have no friendly contact or business dealings with Bahais. Last year the Ministry ran a similar campaign to stop contacts with the Bahais in other cities in Khuzestan.

In a separate development, Hadi Khamene’i, the brother of the beloved leader, has been photographed socializing with Bahai prisoners who are in hospital, and with their young visitors.

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September 24, 2013

Mohammad Nourizad calls for mass rejection of the ‘unclean’ superstition

Iran Press Watch, September 23, 2013

On July 15, I reported the visit of Mohammad Nourizad to the home of the Rahimiyan family, where he ate fruit handed to him by a Bahai, and kissed the feet of a Bahai child. This was a demonstrative rejection of anti-Bahaism. According to the anti-Bahai ideology, Bahais are unclean, practice incest, and are agents of foreign powers. Mr. Nourizad’s photo album on facebook shows that he has continued to visit Bahais and seek reconciliation. Now Iran Press Watch has posted a translation of a call raised by Mr. Nourizad in a facebook posting on September 9. He roundly criticizes the senior Shiah clerics, known as “sources of imitation,” for propagating the idea that pagans, communists, Baha’is, and atheists are “unclean” and should be avoided. Then he calls Iranians to take mass non-violent action, through what Bahais will recognize as home visits:

As an individual or as a group go on visits to the homes of Baha’is and atheists, and associate with them in love and harmony. Bring them gifts as expressions of repentence and shame for having made them subjects of maltreatment and persecution. Eat food together with them. The next day after your visit, directly or indirectly distribute news about your visit through uncensored media and social networking tools. There is no solution except for the separation of our practices and principles from those misunderstandings of the Sources of Imitation. We should demonstrate that in our human and religious consciousness, all humans have been created clean, good, and noble, and an inclination towards any particular belief system can never make anyone dirty or unclean.

He calls for them to “eliminate the filth of [the idea of] untouchables from the face of humanity, from faith, from Islam and from Shia Islam. You can “like” this idea by visiting his facebook page.

The full text is available on Iran Press Watch

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September 23, 2013

Heated discussion on freedom of religion in Egypt

Editorial, September 23, 2013

(Ahram) On Monday, Mohamed Salmawy, the media spokesperson for the 50-member committee drafting Egypt’s new constitution said that the new constitution must allow followers of religions other than Islam, Christianity and Judaism to worship freely. The 2012 constitution, drafted by an Islamist-dominated constituent assembly, stated that “the right to exercise one’s religious rites and establish places of worship is guaranteed for the three heavenly religions only: Islam, Christianity and Judaism.” Salmawy argued that the wording must be changed because it violates international conventions on human rights. He also noted that a lot of Muslims live in countries where the official religion is not Islam or Christianity.

It is quite problematic to ask non-Muslim countries to give freedom to Muslims living on their land while Muslim countries refrain from doing the same to non-Muslims or people who do not believe in the world’s three heavenly religions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

He said that the committee would look for a compromise that would raintain Islam as the official religion of the state but also ensure freedom for followers of all world religions. However an important subcommittee has decided to retain an article that states that “for Egyptian Christians and Jews, the principles of their religious law will be the main source in regulating their personal status laws, matters pertaining to their religion, and the selection of their spiritual leadership.” Mr. Salmawy’s proposal would require this to be enlarged to include all religious minorities who have ‘personal status’ laws (i.e., religious rules regarding marriage, divorce, inheritance, etc. that apply within a religious community). Mr. Salmawy’s proposal would potentially allow the Bahais to regulate their own personal status matters, rather than falling under a shariah court. However a Bahai religious court would first have to be established. The Egyptian NSA prepared “The Bahá’í Laws affecting Matters of Personal Status,” in the 1940’s, and Shoghi Effendi made the establishment of a religious court in Egypt, “circumstances permitting” one of the goals of his message to the African Intercontinental Conference in 1953.

On Wednesday, Egypt Daily News reported opposition to these suggestions from the Grand Mufti, Shawky Allam, who said it would lead to a disruption of public order. Next day it reported that the Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya party rejected the proposal, which “allows those who belong to different religions to practice incest and homosexual marriage … It also allows atheists to have their own laws, which govern their personal affairs.” In fact, atheists were not included in Mr. Salmawy’s proposal. The reference to incest in the party’s statement points to the Bahais: there is a widespread belief in the Middle East that Bahais practice incest. Yasser Borhami, deputy leader of the Salafist Call, said that the proposed amendment would allow the proliferation of “non-Abrahamic religions,” such as Baha’i, Buddhism and Satan worship. Mr. Salmawy in response has denied that the committee is attempting to draft an anti-Islami constitution. He said that the constitution will preserve the freedom of practicing different religious rituals.

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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 17, 2013

Destruction of the House of Baha’u’llah: update

Messages from the Bahai World Centre, July 17, 2013

In a message addressed to the Bahais of the world, the Universal House of Justice has stated:

“… it was with utter shock and desolating grief that the Baha’is in Baghdad discovered on 26 June that the “most holy habitation” of Baha’u’llah had been razed almost to the ground to make way for the construction of a mosque. It has now been confirmed that the work was undertaken without a legal permit. The destruction of the property, it emerges, had been planned for some time, but the largest part of the operation was carried out over just three days and nights, from 24 to 26 June, using heavy machinery. We understand that the Department of Antiquities, which had previously been preparing to renovate the property, is already taking steps to establish precisely what led to the demolition, to attempt to halt any construction on the same spot, and to bring to account those responsible. …Baha’u’llah foresaw that the Most Great House would be subjected to terrible indignities, but He also stated that, no matter what adversities might arise, the Cause was divinely protected. Let every believer take heart. In a moving apostrophe addressed to that House, the Ancient Beauty asserted: “God hath, in the world of creation, adorned thee with the jewel of His remembrance. Such an ornament no man can, at any time, profane.” He gave a promise, too, that, notwithstanding all that would befall the Blessed House, the future glory of that sanctified place was assured: “In the fullness of time, the Lord shall, by the power of truth, exalt it in the eyes of all men. He shall cause it to become the Standard of His Kingdom, the Shrine round which will circle the concourse of the faithful.”

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

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

Demonstrative rejection of anti-Bahaism from Mohammad Nourizad

HRANA, July 15, 2013

On July 15, the prominent Iranian film director Mohammad Nourizad visited the home of the Rahimiyan family. Kamran Rahimiyan ( کامران رحیمیان ) and his wife Faran Hesami ( فاران حسامی ) are both serving 4-year prison sentences for their work as teachers at the Bahai Open University (BIHE). Mr. Rahimiyan is in Raja’i Shahr prison, in Karaj, about 50 kilometres from Tehran, and his wife is in Evin prison, in Tehran. Their son Artin (آرتین) is in the care of his grandmother. His grandfather was martyred for his Faith some years ago.

On his web site, Mr. Nourizad has published a photograph showing him kissing the feet of Artin, and writes “Today I went to see a small Bahai family: small in the sense that only the grandmother and her four-year-old grandson remain. I seated Artin, the four-year-old, on a chair and, on behalf of all the arrogant Shiah [sic], I asked his forgiveness, and I kissed his little feet. … Today, I am not fasting [for Ramadan], because I am ill. Artin brought me water, and I drank, he brought me fruit, and I ate.”

Mr. Nourizad’s act, and posting the photograph on his blog, is a demonstrative rejection of both the ideology of the Islamic Republic, which has made anti-Bahaism a feature of its version of Iranian identity, and of the Othering of Bahais in Iranian culture, which is much older than the Islamic Republic. Bahais are popularly regarded as unclean, and this has been confirmed by religious authorities in numerous fatwas since the Revolution. Bahais are therefore not allowed to work in food industries in Iran. To visit a Bahai home and accept food and drink creates a potent symbolic image, showing an alternative Iranian identity which would be free of bigotry and discrimination. It is also a gesture of reconciliation, and for a man living in Iran, an act of courage. He was jailed in 2009 after criticizing the crackdown on protesters challenging the reelection of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

Nourizad suggested that by kissing the boy’s feet, he was following the example of Pope Francis, who earlier this year kissed the feet of a young female Muslim prisoner: “When the Pope, the leader of the world’s Catholics, bends, washes, and kisses the feet of a Muslim prisoner, why shouldn’t I kiss your feet as a representative of the office of [Iran’s Supreme leader Ali Khamenei] and the Shi’ite sources of emulation?”

“Little Artin meets [his parents] every Sunday. He goes to Karaj to meet his father and uncle and to Evin prison to meet his mother. Artin’s parents have not committed any crime, except that they are Baha’i.”

Additional: Mehrangis Kar has written a piece in english, based on her own experience with the Iranian revolutionary system, that conveys how shocking Mr. Nourizad’s gesture is. “when Mohammad Nourizadeh bestowed a kiss on the foot of a child, he threw the whole contemporary political and social history of Iran into turmoil and challenge.”

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

June 5, 2013

Election time shenanigans in Iran

Filed under: current events and comment — Sen @ 00:16
Tags: , ,

Editorial, June 4

Iranian media in English are reporting the exposure of a spy ring affiliated with the “enemies of Iran and Islam.” The story (probably 100% fiction) says that the head of the ring was recruited several years ago by an Arab intelligence service that is close to Israel. He was put in touch with Mossad and sent to Israel for intelligence and military training, before going to Iran to spy for Mossad. Then he went to the Indian subcontinent and “met with two heads of the Zionist espionage operation, the Baha’is” and established contacts and coordinated with them. His next step was supposed to be to arrange terrorist attacks on June 14, election day. What a great way for a spy to stay undercover.

So why did have to go to India to contact Bahais? Are there no Bahais left in Iran? If he as trained in Israel, couldn’t he just hop on the train to Haifa and ring the bell?

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(An example of the more detailed Persian reports here (Javan online))
Older items can be found in the archive, here. Even older news is here.

May 18, 2013

House of Baha’u’llah in Tehran features in Iran’s pre-election polemics

Filed under: current events and comment — Sen @ 12:26

FARS, May 15, 2013.

The house in Tehran where Baha’u’llah was born was added to the register of historic buildings in December 2006 and is to be restored. In recent days, reports of this, with numerous photographs of the exterior and courtyard of the house, have been carried in the conservative FARS news agency and copied by many other publications. This is being used to embarrass Isfandiyar Rahim Masha’i ( اسفندیار رحیم مشایی ), a close ally and relative of President Ahmadinezhad and one of the proposed presidential candidates. FARS claims that there are hundreds of old houses in Tehran with a similar architectural and cultural value, which the provincial authority for Cultural Heritage has not registered. The report lists the homes of princes and prominent clerics of the period that have not been registered, and describes the importance of the house in Bahai history (with the bias one would expect). It was previously owned by an organisation for the propagation of Islam, and purchased by the present owner in 2005, in order to prevent its demolition. This owner has registered it as a historic building and intends to restore it using his own funds. However the ‘transparency” magazine (which Radio Zamaneh says is an anti-Bahai organisation) has claimed that it was bought by the Cultural Heritage foundation, at a time when Mr. Masha’i was the head of that organisation.

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