I’ve been downplaying the possibilities of a domino effect sweeping out from Tunisia and Egypt to encompass much of the Muslim world, but have I been wrong?
Archive for Iran
Disheartening news everyone. Word from Iran Press Watch and the Muslim Network for Baha’i Rights is that the seven Baha’i leaders who have suffered unjust detention and trial in Iran have finally been sentenced — for 20 years each, a a total of 140 years! Their crimes? “Espionage,” translation: because our faith’s World Center happens to be in Israel; “acting against national security,” translation: informally organizing the Iranian Baha’i community after the formal administrative order had been forcibly disbanded by Iranian authorities; and being “enemies of God,” translation: being Baha’is.
Meanwhile, there’s the continuing persecution of rank and file Baha’is, including a new round of house demolitions. But I need to emphasize that even though Baha’is are suffering incredibly, they are not the only oppressed religious minority in Iran. Although many other religions have nominal official sanction, whereas Baha’is are totally illegal, this in no way should be taken to mean that their existences are any happier. Jews are also frequently threatened with the crime of espionage, to say nothing of the multitude quiet ways in which Christians and Zoroastrians are prejudiced against by the government.
In other words, the morally bankrupt sentencing of the seven Baha’i religious leaders is not only a blow against my religion, but a blow against religious freedom in Iran and a disheartening perversion of Islam’s principle of non-compulsion in religion. It’s high time Iran took to heart these words by Baha’u'llah:
O Son of Spirit! The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor. Ponder this in thy heart; how it behooveth thee to be. Verily justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My loving-kindness. Set it then before thine eyes. — Hidden Words, Arabic #2
Today is the commemoration of the declaration of the Báb. The Báb is many things to many people: to those few Bábis who remain today, he is a tragic messiah; to Soviet Marxist historiographers like M.S. Ivanov, he was a tragic revolutionary; to Baha’is, he was the brave trailblazer of the Promised One of all religions and a new cycle in human history; to me, he was a metaphysical jester, but more importantly, he was the being who brought me home.
I actually discovered the Baha’i Faith in 2004, during the weekend of Halloween, in the Holy Land herself. At the time I was on vacation from my job in Neve Shalom, Israel’s first and only purpose-built Arab-Jewish cooperative village. I was traveling through the north of Israel, visiting the Galilee region, and ultimately ended in Acca and Haifa. What follows is a brief account of those personally momentous days.*
As the seven Iranian Baha’i leaders known as the Yaren enter their third year of imprisonment, new details about the harsh conditions of their incarceration have emerged, prompting renewed calls for their immediate release. Meanwhile, at the direction of the Universal House of Justice, Baha’is around the world are organizing special devotionals to commemorate this unfortunate anniversary.
I ask all my loved ones and readers, religious or not, to please offer a prayer or a meditation on behalf of the Yaren, as well as all those around the world suffering persecution for their beliefs.
O peoples of the world! The Sun of Truth hath risen to illumine the whole earth, and to spiritualize the community of man. Laudable are the results and the fruits thereof, abundant the holy evidences deriving from this grace. This is mercy unalloyed and purest bounty; it is light for the world and all its peoples; it is harmony and fellowship, and love and solidarity; indeed it is compassion and unity, and the end of foreignness; it is the being at one, in complete dignity and freedom, with all on earth. – Abdu’l-Baha
As I get older (and granted, I’m far from elderly), I surprise myself by how I seem to get more radical, but not blindly so. My misgivings toward capitalism in general run deeper and deeper. Yet, I also surprise myself in the way that my perhaps peculiar brand of Leftism apparently has some bourgeois limits.
For one, I am not so foolish as to identify capitalism with democracy, although of course they both share roots in liberalism. Moreover, I also make the perhaps bold distinction between democracy and methodology — something which most Americans don’t like to try.
The way I see it, for all of liberal democracy’s many strengths, it has become a breeding ground for discord. I am critical of the system for the ways it manufactures consent, inspires egotism, partisanship, and mediocrity among public servants and the political class, and inevitably strips agency from the citizenry. There has to be a better way of being democratic, of avoiding the short-sighted self-destructive cycles of liberalism without resorting to the sophistries of traditional Marxism.
For another, in light of the uprising in Kyrgyzstan and subsequent land seizures by impoverished citizens of that nation, I’ve had to seriously confront myself about my feelings toward private property. After all, it’s easy to say I’m a Leftist, but Marx et al were prophetically correct that atomistic individualistic private property is at the core of capitalism, so am I willing to put my money where my mouth is? The answer is: not yet.
There are two reasons for my equivocal answer. On the one hand, there were the Jewish and Protestant values I grew up with of hard personal labor, not to mention the hard lessons of my family’s struggles with money taught me about the need for thriftiness. However, at a more profound level is the sense of ownership itself, of possessing if nothing else one’s inner world and ultimate destiny. Private property, then, is ultimately about the immortal soul.
Here’s a new animated video from the Muslim Network for Baha’i Rights concerning the human rights situation in Iran for everyone in general and Baha’is in particular.
We are extremely excited to release our latest video, which has been in the works for quite some time now. As we noted on our timeline, abuses against the innocent Baha’i minority in Iran have been committed for over 30 years. Inspired by the reactions of Iran’s latest election, where many Iranians took to the streets to demand change and respect for their human rights, we felt that a new video was in order, especially after this powerful video (whose chants we used in the background to one of this video’s scenes.)
Spread the word!