Injustice against Baha’is is injustice against all Iranians

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

To the one who led me home

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.*

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Three years too long

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