Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Grand Views of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri

Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri died on 20 December 2009. As some may recall, in May 2008, he expressed his opinion regarding the rights of the Baha'is of Iran in a "fatwa" (a decree) previously translated and published here.

The fatwa reads as follows:
In the Name of God

With greetings,

The congregation of Baha'ism not having the heavenly book like those of Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians in the constitution [of Islamic republic of Iran], are not considered one of the religious minorities. However, since they are the citizens of this country, they have the rights of a citizen and to live in this country. Furthermore, they must benefit from the Islamic compassion which is stressed in Quran and by the religious authorities.

God-willing you will be successful,
(Wal Salam–u Alaykum Warahmatullah)
[Peace and Mercy of God be upon you]

25 Urdibehesht 1387 [14 May 2008]

Signature: Montazeri [Seal]

In its 20 December edition, the UK's Guardian published an article about the life of this eminent religious figure. In its ending paragraph, it states:
His political opposition to injustice may represent an important act of defiance. But what Montazeri would wish to be remembered for may be his attempt to change the basis of Shia jurisprudence from protecting the right of the faithful to protecting the right of the citizens. This made him issue a historic statement earlier this year calling for respect for the right of the Baha'i people in Iran as citizens of the country. No other leading theologian has ever dared to issue such fatwa. He expanded the boundaries of Shia jurisprudence into the realm of human rights and wrote a book on the subject. He may not have become the leader of Iran, but he led conservative jurists into new areas in order to reform old rules.

He is survived by his wife, four daughters and two sons.

• Hossein Ali Montazeri, religious leader, born 1922; died 20 December 2009

To read the entire article, please check this link....

Monday, December 21, 2009


The simple things of life! Very little more can be as heartwarming as the pleasure seen in their faces...their smile reflect their inner peace.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Baha'is at Harvard: a Look Back in Time

The following article was published in The Harvard Crimson in January 1987. It illustrates beautifully the intellectual and logical attractiveness of the Baha'i Faith:

Uniting the World One Heart at a Time
By Emily Mieras,
Published: Monday, January 05, 1987

Imagine a world of peace, unity and oneness. A world where racial and religious strife has ceased to exist, where people worship, govern, and even speak as one. To more than three million people around the globe today this is not some unattainable utopia, but a vision destined to become reality.

The guardians of this ideal are the Baha'is, followers of the Persian prophet Baha'u'llah and the Baha'i faith, which at 142 years old, is considered to be one of the world's newest religions. Since then the numbers of his followers have continued to grow, and now number close to three million. Although their numbers are not comparable to other world faiths, Baha'is are widespread and have representatives in far-flung corners of the world.

One of these corners is Harvard. Baha'is in the university community now number about 15, most of whom comprise the Harvard Baha'i Association, which has been in existence since at least the 1950s, says Gisu Mohadjer '83, a Business School student who was the club's president as an undergraduate.

At Harvard, the Baha'i group is "an association of students who are Baha'is and are interested in the faith who work to promote the principles of the Baha'i faith," says Lowell House resident Robert Wallace Cook '88, the current president of the Harvard Baha'i Association.

"We're not here to convert the Harvard population," Cook, of Vermont, says about his group's relatively small presence on campus. "Our primary goal is to make people aware of us and understand what we stand for."

Faith Like No Other

This faith is like no other in the Western world. There are no clergy, no religious hierarchies, and no large church buildings. Baha'i don't even use a traditional 12-month a year calendar, preferring instead a 19-day a month system.

Among the Baha'i ideals are "the oneness of God, the oneness of mankind, and the oneness of religion," says Toni Lynne Andrews '87. These beliefs include the equality of men and women and the cessation of racial and religious strife. The Baha'is believe that all religions are one. In their teachings, one member says, God is metaphorized as a sun and the prophets as mirrors reflecting the same light. Baha'u'llah is the last in a line of prophets including Moses, Jesus and Mohammed....
Continued HERE....

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Imprisoned Iran's Baha'i Leaders Listed on Time's Top Ten List

Time magazine has just published its lists of "The Top 10 Everything of 2009". Under the religion section, the plight of the imprisoned ad hoc group of leaders of the Baha'i Community of Iran made this list. Posted below is the story as published on Time website:

9. Banning the Baha'i
By AMY SULLIVAN Tuesday, Dec. 08, 2009

The government of Iran has held seven leaders of the Baha'i faith — a monotheistic religion founded in 19th century Persia — in prison for more than a year without formal charges, access to their attorneys or a trial. The Baha'i tradition is outlawed in Iran, and some government officials have claimed that the prisoners are guilty of spying for Israel or insulting Islam. Several times, the government has scheduled capital-punishment hearings for the seven, only to cancel at the last minute. "The charges against these imprisoned Baha'is are baseless and a pretext for the persecution and harassment of a disfavored religious minority," said Leonard Leo, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which has demanded their release. As of early December, the Baha'i leaders remained in prison with no trial scheduled.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Soar Like an Eagle!

For all those oppressed, persecuted, harassed and unjustly imprisoned: the day will come when you will freely soar--high and mighty--just like an eagle....

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Winter Cotton!

Not unlike the appearance cotton, fluffy snow shows how many similarities are in nature even though the objects might be vastly different...just like humanity!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Cotton Harvest-Time

It is harvest-time for Egyptian cotton, which is considered the finest in the world. Here is a bit of information on how the quality of cotton is assessed:

Cotton is classified, not only according to length and strength of fiber, but also according to the condition of the cotton on a basis called "middling". Middling cotton is creamy white, with no evidence of dirt or gin-cuts (fibers matted and cut) and with only a few pieces of leaf and immature seeds. Middling-fair, the best, has a perfect, lustrous, silky, clean fiber, whereas good-ordinary contains leaf particles, sticks, hulls, dirt, sand, gin-cuts, and spots. To indicate the degree of whiteness of the cotton, six distinct color groups are used: extra-white, white, spotted, tinged, yellow stained, and gray. Although the grades given above are significant to the manufacturer, a difference of 1/8 of an inch in the length of fibers is generally much more important than the difference between one grade and the next. Untreated cotton has no pronounced luster.

The diameter of the cotton fiber ranges from .0005 to .009 of an inch. Egyptian fibers have the smallest diameters and so can be spun into the finest yarns. A single cotton fiber will sustain a dead weight of from 2 to 8 grams. Such a fiber is not very strong, but the finished cotton cloth can be made very strong if tightly twisted.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

No One Should Ever Go Hungry

Survival instinct is clearly illustrated in this example. Click on it to enlarge the interior of the mouth of this hungry fish.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


A walking grasshopper...free to enjoy living!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

A Trick of Nature

Sunset reflection on a high cloud. Northern New Mexico, USA, late October.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Trial of Iran's Baha'i Leaders Delayed Again

According to the Baha'i World News Service, the trial of the dissolved ad hoc group of Baha'i leaders in Iran, scheduled for today, has been delayed again. The full story is posted below:

Trial of seven Baha'is delayed, no new date set
18 October 2009

GENEVA — Although the trial of seven Baha'i leaders imprisoned in Iran for more than 17 months was scheduled for today, when attorneys and families arrived at the court offices in Tehran they were told it would not take place. No new trial date was given.

"The time has come for these seven innocent people to be immediately released on bail," said Diane Ala'i, the Baha'i International Community's representative to the United Nations in Geneva.

"The seven, whose only 'crime' is their religious belief, are once again in legal limbo, held with no idea of the legal process ahead of them. The whole charade cries out for an end to their unlawful detention," she said.

The seven are Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi, Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr. Afif Naeimi, Mr. Saeid Rezaie, Mrs. Mahvash Sabet, Mr. Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Mr. Vahid Tizfahm.

Official Iranian news accounts have said the seven are to be accused of "espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities and propaganda against the Islamic republic." They have also been charged with "spreading corruption on earth."

Last week, it appeared likely that the trial would indeed be postponed again, since attorneys for the seven had not yet received the proper writ of notification.

"The fact that their attorneys did not receive proper notification and that there is no new date for the trial is just one among many gross violations of Iran's own legal procedures, not to mention the violations of due process recognized by international law, that have marked this case from the beginning," said Ms. Ala'i.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Upcoming Trial of Baha'i Leaders in Iran

The following comment was just left on a previous post regarding the trial of Baha'i leaders in Iran. It is posted again below because of its relevance:
Cynthia has left a new comment on your post "Iran: Trial of Baha'i Leaders Postponed":

The USC Office of Religious Life, USC Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics and the Los Angeles Baha'i Center are hosting a concert event on Wednesday, October 14th at 7:30 PM at the Bovard Auditorium for a call for human rights and religious freedom in Iran, in light of the upcoming trial of the seven Iranian Baha'is this Sunday, October 18th.

The event includes international artists, guest speakers and religious leaders in Southern California.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Happy Birthday!

Martha turns one-year-old today!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Service Through Art

Civilization has many faces and can exert its influence through various manifestations. The struggle for one's rights can be seen as only a tiny element of that dynamic process, sharing the road towards progress.

The Baha'is of Egypt are now at a juncture where their contributions to their society far exceed their personal needs and their individual challenges. Their persistent desire is to be of service to their homeland and to their fellow citizens.

In order to reinforce such thoughts, it may be timely to project such attributes and desires through various venues and in particular through creativity. Among such examples of service, art can be one of the tools to illustrate these ideals.

In this spirit, this blog will attempt to provide a new flavor to its posts through photography, as humble as it may be, to share the beauty of the unusual and the eye-catching. Objects and scenes that pass by us--at times without being noticed--if not recorded at the moment, might not be seen again.

Friday, September 18, 2009

PRI on Religious Freedom in Egypt

The US-based Public Radio International (PRI) ran a story recently in its "The World" program on religious freedom in Egypt. The World is a co-production of WGBH/Boston, PRI, and the BBC World Service. As usual for this program, the story is well researched and directed, giving us a glimpse into the most recent developments regarding this sensitive subject.

In order to hear the entire story, please click here.... or Download MP3

A transcript of the program is also available at this link and is posted below:

Religious freedom in Egypt

By The World - September 7, 2009

In Egypt, followers of the Bahai religion have often complain of persecution and even official discrimination. But they have recently made gains in the largely Muslim country. The World’s Aya Batrawy reports from Cairo.

Read the Transcript
This text below is a phonetic transcript of a radio story broadcast by PRI’s THE WORLD. It has been created on deadline by a contractor for PRI. The transcript is included here to facilitate internet searches for audio content. Please report any transcribing errors to theworld@pri.org. This transcript may not be in its final form, and it may be updated. Please be aware that the authoritative record of material distributed by PRI’s THE WORLD is the program audio.

MARCO WERMAN: There is no First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion in Egypt. That’s okay if you’re Muslim, Christian, or Jewish. If not it’s been impossible to get a government ID card. But last month an Egyptian court ruled in favor of a follower of the Bahai religion. He and his children can fill out their papers and leave that question on religious identification blank. It’s a step in the right direction for Bahais but Aya Batrawy reports from Cairo that Egyptians Bahais have a long way to go before they’re accepted as equals.

AYA BATRAWY: While it’s never been illegal to be a Bahai in Egypt, being one has never been easy. Amm Ahmed, his wife, and their six children had to flee their rural town of Suhag in southern Egypt due to harassment. In March, fellow residents burned his house down along with those of three other Bahai families. Even now, he is meeting me in a private residence on the outskirts of Cairo away from the public eye and security officials.


BATRAWY: And it is only in private that Amm Ahmed can practice his faith. Dressed in a traditional Egyptian gallabiya and turban he reads verses from the Bahai holy book as the Muslim call to evening prayer rings out in the background.


BATRAWY: Although born Bahai he used to work as a reciter of the Quran. He saw nothing wrong with reading the Quran since the Bahai faith embraces it as well as the scriptures of other religions. But soon after he announced he was Bahai both he and his wife were imprisoned for nine months on charges of which he is still unaware. The recent torching of his house because he is Bahai further convinced him the government must do more.


TRANSLATOR: Egypt can do better than this. It must open a dialogue with Bahais and sit with us and see what we believe in. This way people can relax and we can relax.

BATRAWY: The Bahai faith was founded in the mid-19th century by a Persian named Baha’Ullah. Members believe that God’s will has been revealed by messengers of all the world’s major religions and that world peace will come when humanity recognizes it is one race which worships one God. But many Muslims view the religion as a heretical deviation of Islam and Bahais have long faced persecution particularly in Iran. Here in Egypt Bahais enjoyed some level of recognition until 1960 when the government outlawed their public activities and forced them to misidentify themselves on government documents as either a Muslim, Christian, or Jew. Following years of legal struggle a court ruled earlier this year that Bahais can leave the section under religion as blank on government identification cards and birth certificates. Hossam Bahgat of the Egyptian Initiative for Human Rights.

HOSSAM BAHGAT: There are two ways of looking at this positive court outcome. For Bahais it’s simply a correction of a mistake. But for Egyptians in general it is a significant step in that this is the first time in Egypt’s legal history that there is an administrative system to deal with Egyptians who do not adhere to one of the three state-recognized religions of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.


BATRAWY: Seated at a café in downtown Cairo Dr. Raouf Hindy enjoys a steaming Turkish coffee as he talks about the court case. He’s a modest hero among fellow Bahais for taking the government to court and winning. His children have just become the first Egyptians to receive the new IDs.


BATRAWY: He says before this ruling Bahais either had to lie on official papers which could lead to being jailed or they had to function as best they could without documentation. Now he says he’s happy that no one will force him to lie.

But there are delays and complications. Oral Surgeon Dr. Basma Moussa is one of hundreds of Bahais still waiting for the new ID. She asked that the interview be conducted in her car because she’s weary of being interviewed in public. Although she’s been married for over 20 years she doesn’t have a marriage license because the Egyptian government does not recognize Bahai marriages. This means that if she and her husband check into a hotel they have to get separate rooms because unwed Egyptian couples are not legally allowed to rent hotel rooms together. It also means that she cannot file taxes properly, open a bank account, buy a new car, or receive government benefits.


TRANSLATOR: We’re tired. We’re exhausted. And they keep making things more complicated. Just give me my papers. Since the ruling was made and the order was issued there are complications you can’t even imagine to get the new ID. Now even those who have the new birth certificate cannot marry with this ID because they say they don’t accept the Bahai marriage.

BATRAWY: Bahais still face an uphill battle for acceptance in Egypt. Just last month there protests and arrests after the government announced plans to re-house Bahais whose homes were burnt down. But the new IDs have given them hope that change is coming. For The World this Aya Batrawy in Cairo.

Copyright ©2009 PRI’s THE WORLD. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to PRI’s THE WORLD. This transcript may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without prior written permission. For further information, please email The World’s Permissions Coordinator at theworld@pri.org.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Egypt Protects the Rights of Displaced Baha'is

We vividly recall the events leading to the burning of the homes of the Baha'is in the southern Egyptian village of Showraniyah near the end of last March.

Even though there have been efforts directed at resolving the matter by the Egyptian authorities, these families have been displaced since that incident and have been temporarily housed in Northern Egypt. A couple of days ago Reuters news agency reported "Egyptian police arrested 70 villagers on Thursday who were protesting against the relocation of Baha'i families to their area after they were chased out of another village in southern Egypt, security sources said."

The story goes on to state the following:
About 150 people from Ezba and surrounding villages in Sohag province gathered outside regional government offices to voice opposition to the relocation of 25 Baha'i families to government-sponsored housing near their homes, the sources said.

Baha'is, who number between 500 and 2,000 in Egypt, call their faith's 19th-century founder a prophet -- anathema to Muslims who believe Mohammad was God's final messenger.

Rights activists say Baha'is face systematic discrimination in the conservative Arab country, which does not officially recognise the faith.

In April, Muslims attacked houses belonging to Baha'i residents of another village in Sohag over a period of three days, forcing 30 families to flee the mainly Muslim village of Shuraniya.

Some villagers from Ezba said the protesters had gathered from Wednesday after word spread that some of those displaced from Shuraniya had settled in the area two weeks ago.

However a rights group advocating on behalf of the Baha'i families said no permanent homes had been found for them.

Soha Abdelaty, the deputy director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said the families were still negotiating with the government.

Baha'is, in an important ruling for members of unrecognised religions, last year won the right to obtain government identity papers so long as they omit any reference to their faith. But the faith is still vilified by some media, activists say. (Reporting by Mohamed Abdellah, Alastair Sharp and Maha el Dahan)
If what happened is indeed true and if it becomes confirmed through other sources, then this development would illustrate the seriousness of Egypt's commitment to maintain law and order and its determination to protect its persecuted Baha'i minority, who have been facing unjustified persecution by the ill-informed and the misguided. In fact, this would be the first time that Egyptian authorities take such a firm and decisive action in order to stop harassment of Baha'is on its land. A nation is often judged by its resolve to respect its weakest and its underprivileged.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Iran: Trial of Baha'i Leaders Postponed

A story published on the Baha'i World News Service has reported today that the trial of the seven Baha'i leaders imprisoned in Iran has been postponed until 18 October. The following is the full text of the article:
Trial of seven imprisoned Baha'i leaders postponed
17 August 2009

GENEVA — The trial of seven Baha'i leaders imprisoned in Iran has been postponed until 18 October, the Baha'i International Community learned today.

According to Diane Ala'i, the Baha'i International Community representative to the United Nations in Geneva, following a request for postponement of the trial from Mr. Hadi Esmaielzadeh and Ms. Mahnaz Parakand – attorneys from the Defenders of Human Rights Center who are representing the seven Baha'is – the court has decided to delay the hearing for two months.

Two senior members of the legal team, Nobel laureate Mrs. Shirin Ebadi and Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani, were unable to attend the hearing as Mrs. Ebadi is out of the country and Mr. Soltani is in prison, having been detained on 16 June 2009 in the wake of the civil unrest following the presidential election in Iran.

"Our hope now is that our seven innocent co-religionists will be released on bail," said Ms. Ala'i.

The seven Baha'i prisoners are Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi, Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr. Afif Naeimi, Mr. Saeid Rezaie, Mrs. Mahvash Sabet, Mr. Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Mr. Vahid Tizfahm. All but one of the group were arrested on 14 May 2008 at their homes in Tehran. Mrs. Sabet was arrested on 5 March 2008 while in Mashhad. They have since been held at Tehran’s Evin prison without formal charges or access to their lawyers.

Official Iranian news accounts have said the seven are to be accused of "espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities and propaganda against the Islamic republic."

The Baha'i International Community categorically rejects all charges against the seven, stating that they are held solely because of religious persecution.
These innocent individuals must be released immediately pending their trial. They clearly do not pose any threat to anyone and they have been wrongly accused with trumped-up charges.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Iran Has No Evidence!

CNN has just published a story based on its interview with the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Shirin Ebadi, who is the lawyer representing the detained seven former leaders of Iran's Baha'i community. The article, titled, "Lawyer: Iran has no evidence against Baha'i prisoners" was published today on CNN's world website. It starts with the following:
(CNN) -- Iran should release seven Baha'i prisoners accused of espionage because it does not have any evidence against them, their lawyer Shirin Ebadi told CNN on Saturday.

"In the files, in the case basically, there is nothing, no reason that basically convicts them," said Ebadi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

The trial will begin Tuesday despite the fact that one of their lawyers is behind bars and Ebadi is outside the country.

Other attorneys can be appointed, Hassan Haddad of the Prosecutor's Office in Tehran told the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency.

But the court must recognize the replacements, who are colleagues of Ebadi at her Tehran-based Defenders of Human Rights Center, not appoint other lawyers, Ebadi said.

The imprisoned lawyer, Abdolfattah Soltani, is a well-known advocate with the human rights center. He was arrested in the aftermath of Iran's disputed June 12 presidential election and is being held at Evin prison, the same place where his clients are detained, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights.

He is being held on charges of taking "measures against national security," Ebadi said. "Mr. Soltani is completely innocent."
Read the rest of the story here....

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Exposing Human Rights Violations Through Art

This is the newest artwork by Shahriar AZ, the contemporary Persian artist from New Zealand. The concept, World Art Collective, was launched by Shahriar in March 2008. The website has become the vehicle for raising awareness of human rights violations, injustices and persecution. Shahriar has always been interested in the power of technology, particularly the internet, in opening broad avenues of interaction among the world's diverse populations. He aims to engage those who have been previously unexposed to what contemporary art can achieve socially and expand beyond the confines of a traditional art gallery setting.

The artwork is from the series called the "The Truth behind the persecution." This is an interview sound artwork about Human Rights violations against the Baha'is in Iran.

Most recently, Shahriar exhibited his artwork in an international show in Poznan, Poland in March 2009. The exhibition, titled “STAND-UP Art about Human Rights,” focused on human rights through art. It reflected the growing need for acceptance of, and respect for diversity, dialogue and social engagement. The show comprised the work of eleven artists and activists from different countries, societies and cultures. More information about the STAND UP exhibition can be found here....

Saturday, August 01, 2009

US Government's Views on the Crisis Facing Iran's Baha'is

Approximately two weeks ago, Voice of America (VOA) published the following editorial reflecting the views of the US government:

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a bi-partisan government body known as USCIRF, is calling for the release of 7 leaders of Iran's Baha'i community who have been imprisoned for over a year. The seven – 2 women and 5 men – were reportedly due to stand trial on July 11. According to the Baha'i World News Service, their families were recently informed by authorities that the trial was delayed.

The seven Baha'i leaders – Behrouz Tavakkoli, Saeid Rezaie, Fariba Kamalabadi, Vahid Tizfahm, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Affif Naeimi and Mahvash Sabet – have been charged with a variety of crimes, according to official Iranian news reports. They include "propaganda against the system," "insulting religious sanctities," and "being corrupt on earth," a charge that is punishable by death. The 7 have not been allowed to see a lawyer.

"The charges against these imprisoned Baha'is are baseless and a pretext for the persecution and harassment of a disfavored religious minority. They should be released immediately," said Leonard Leo, chair of USCIRF, in a written statement. The statement was issued after USCIRF received a letter from Roxana Saberi, the Iranian American journalist who spent almost four months in Tehran's Evin prison earlier this year.

Read more here....

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Baha'i Rights Day: 11 July 2009

The Muslim Network for Baha'i Rights named 11 July 2009 as the first "Baha'i Rights Day." On that day, the ad hoc group of seven Baha'is, who were attending to the minimal needs of Iran's largest religious minority, will face trial in Iran's Revolutionary Court. They were wrongly accused of a variety of false and absurd charges that include "spreading corruption on earth," punishable by death according to Iran's penal code. They have been incarcerated for over a year in Iran's notorious Evin prison without any access to legal defense. The banner accompanying this post was designed by the Muslim Network for Baha'i Rights.

On 3 July 2009, Amnesty International has demanded an "URGENT ACTION"
. calling on the Iranian authorities to release the seven members of the Baha’i minority (naming them) whom Amnesty International considers to be prisoners of conscience held because of their beliefs or peaceful activities on behalf of the Baha’i community;
. calling on them to drop the charges against the seven, which Amnesty International consider as politically motivated;
. expressing concern that if convicted of the charges they are said to be facing the seven could be sentenced to death;
. calling on the authorities to ensure that the seven are protected from torture and other ill-treatment;
. urging the authorities to ensure that the seven are given regular access to their families, lawyers of their choice and any medical treatment they may require.

Friday, July 03, 2009

The New York Times on the Baha'is of Iran

In a story published in The New York Times on 26 June 2009, and entitled "For Bahais, a Crackdown Is Old News," its author Samuel G. Freedman writes:
The Bahais have long served as the proverbial canaries in the coal mine of Iran’s theocracy. Their persecution, as documented over nearly 30 years in numerous human rights reports, has contradicted all the näively hopeful predictions that the hard-line surface of Iran obscures a deeper wellspring of moderation and tolerance.

In 1983, the Iranian government banned all official Bahai activity. Deeming the faith an apostasy, Iran’s fundamentalist Shiite government has denied Bahais higher education, confiscated Bahai property, desecrated Bahai cemeteries and refused to recognize Bahai marriages....
In order to read the entire story, please follow this link....

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

And Then They Came for Me!

Here is an award-winning video on the plight of the Baha'is of Iran. It was put together by Bobby Aazami and became the overall winner of a contest conducted by the external affairs office of the Bahá’ís of the United States.

In light of the video's context, one cannot help but contemplate the following poem by Martin Niemöller (1892–1984):
In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
And then... they came for me... And by that time there was no one left to speak up.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Baha'i Spokesman Interviewed on NPR Regarding Iran

A spokesman for the Baha'i International Community was interviewed two days ago by the US National Public Radio (NPR). On its website, NPR writes the following:

Iran's Religious Minority Speaks Out On Elections
Listen Now [5 min 26 sec]

June 18, 2009 · Members of the Baha'i faith, Iran's largest religious minority, have long been discriminated against and persecuted by the Islamic Republic of Iran government. Farhad Sabetan, an official within the Baha'i faith community, offers a reaction to the recent elections.

Please click here for NPR link.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Remarkable Words for a University Graduation

This is an actual video recording from the opening remarks by the Chaplain of Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. These remarks were made during the graduation ceremonies, given seven times this year for a total graduating class of approximately 4,900 students. The Chaplain uses the words of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, the son of the founder of the Baha'i Faith--who had visited Montreal in August 1912--in her description of the beauty of diversity in these young graduates and of their hopes and dreams for a peaceful future.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Egypt Moving Forward With its Commitment to Human Rights

Based on recent developments and reliable reports, the Egyptian Government should be acknowledged for its efforts in treating its Baha'i religious minority, as well as other minorities, with dignity and respect. Among several examples, related recently and reported by some Egyptian media outlets, Baha'is are increasingly being recognized for their positive role in their society and for being an integral part of its fabric.

As a first step in the Government's efforts to improve the civil rights status of the Baha'is of Egypt, the civil administrative authority is moving forward with granting the Baha'is their identification documents in an orderly manner. Naturally this process of ID issuance will take time to implement for all those concerned but, nevertheless, these efforts speak for the government's intentions and commitment to do the right thing for its minorities which have been oppressed in the not too distant past. As this path continues to be pursued, the Baha'is of Egypt are quite confident that Egypt will indeed come through with its promise for a happier and greater future for all its lawful citizens.

There are also clear signs that these efforts are genuine and are intended to move Egypt forward in its quest for moderation and tolerance. It would be indeed timely to express gratitude and respect for such a positive trend.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Congressman Frank Wolf on Human Rights & Dialogue With Iran

The following was published on an official website of the Baha'is of the United States:
Congressman Frank Wolf urges Obama administration to make human rights a key component of dialogue with Iran

Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia expressed concern that seven Baha’i leaders who have been in prison for more than a year may face death on charges of “spreading of corruption on earth,” a capital offense in Iran. “Human dignity and freedom must not be made a sidebar as the Administration seeks to engage the Iranians,” Wolf said in his May 21, 2009 testimony. You can read the full statement here.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mr. WOLF. Madam Speaker, May 14 marked the one-year anniversary of the imprisonment of the seven member national committee of the Iranian Baha’is. According to CNN reports, the seven Baha’i leaders may now face charges of "spreading of corruption on Earth" which carries the threat of the death penalty under Iran’s penal code. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom recently released their 2009 report which recommends that the State Department designate Iran a country of particular concern due to its gross violations of religious freedom. Such violations include the execution of over 200 Baha’i leaders since 1979, the desecration of Baha’i cemeteries and places of worship, and the violent arrest and harassment of members of the Baha’i faith. As the Administration seeks diplomatic engagement with Iran, I urge them to make human rights and religious freedom an integral part of the dialogue. Human dignity and freedom must not be made a sidebar as the Administration seeks to engage the Iranians.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Condolences to the Mubarak Family

All Egyptians are in a state of shock and grief over the untimely and unexpected death of the grandchild of President Hosni Mubarak. According to Al-Ahram Weekly, "twelve-year-old Mohamed, the child of Mubarak's eldest son 47-year-old Alaa, died suddenly on Monday."

The newspaper adds:
A presidency statement said that Mohamed died after a "two-day health crisis", while other reports elaborated that he had suffered a brain haemorrhage on Saturday and was flown to Paris for emergency treatment, where he died. On Tuesday the child's body was brought back to Egypt for burial. Before the funeral, the body was admitted to Al-Galaa Armed Forces Hospital where President Mubarak bid his eldest grandson farewell, since he was not to attend the funeral. Alaa has another son, Omar, who is six years old.

Our hearts go out to the President, to his son Alaa, and to the entire Mubarak family. The loss of a child is one of the most painful experiences anyone can endure. It is certain that all Egyptians share in mourning the loss of this beloved child and pray for the progress of his pure soul in the heavenly worlds of God.

We also pray to God to shower the Mubarak family with His grace, and to bestow upon the family strength and patience during this very difficult time.

The accompanying photographs of the President with his grandson, the funeral, and the President's sons Alaa and Gamal are courtesy of Al-Ahram Weekly. Please click on the picture in order to enlarge it.

The entire article can be accessed here.... You may also view a video of the funeral here....

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Signs of an Enlightened Phase in Egypt's Parliament

More details regarding the retraction of a proposed parliamentary law criminalizing "Baha'i thought" in Egypt appeared in yesterday's edition of Egypt's Al-Youm Al-Sabe'h newspaper. These details clearly illustrate a progressive and enlightened trend in the Egyptian legislative branch of government. The following is not a word by word translation, but rather a synopsis of the newspaper story:

The released Parliamentary report was surprisingly contradictory to the recommendations of the Joint Commission on Defense, National Security, Arab Affairs and Religious Endowments, which considered in its meetings the call for an urgent law to "criminalize Baha'i thought." The newspaper reports that this reversal was a result of the expressed rejection by the Baha'is, followed by pressure exerted by the senior representatives of the ruling National Democratic Party to prevent the writing of such recommendation in the commission's report.

The article also mentions that of "great significance" is the fact that the new recommendations--reversing the proposed laws--carried "the opinions of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) Parliamentary faction representatives who have been refusing the law criminalizing the Baha'is from the very start." They [MB] also requested that "the men of religion" as well as "scholars" must begin an open dialogue and discussions with Baha'is, pointing out the danger of dealing with this [Baha'i] congregation with "sticks...." [symbolic]

During these discussions, the senior parliamentary leadership had also requested that the Joint Commission review articles 2 and 40 of the Egyptian constitution regarding freedoms before falling into that grievous mistake, i.e. the previously proposed law.

Another important remark was made by Mr. Essam Mokhtar, a Muslim Brotherhood representative, who stated that the manner by which the Joint Commission had held its consultation on the Baha'i question had almost caused a real crisis, clarifying that "the Commission had become judgmental of the followers of the [Baha'i] thought without allowing a chance for discussions between religious scholars and the followers of that [Baha'i] thought...." He also affirmed that the principle of citizenship and the rights guaranteed to all citizens forbid parliamentary representatives from producing legislation that stand against human rights, otherwise this type of action could "turn everything upside down."

Assuming that these reports are indeed reflective of the recent events in the Egyptian Parliament, one can only conclude that these developments are truly representative of an enlightened phase in the recent history of that body. Additionally, the reaction of the Muslim Brotherhood representatives to this crisis deserves acknowledgment and respect.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Egypt We All Miss is Coming Through!

The following is a TV program on Egypt's Nile Life Channel aired on 10 May 2009. The two program hosts have invited Dr. Mohammad Farahat, constitutional expert and Professor of Law at Cairo University, Mr. Adel Ramadan, attorney for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), and Dr. Raouf Hindi, an Egyptian Baha'i who has been at the center of the litigations regarding identification documents for the Baha'is.

This program is by far the most well presented, civil and balanced presentation seen for quite some time in Egyptian media regarding this particular subject matter. It speaks for freedom of belief, constitutional guarantees for all Egyptian citizens, and the need to enforce the recent order by the Ministry of Interior to expeditiously grant Egyptian citizens who do not belong to one of the three recognized religions in Egypt identity documents with dashes (--) inserted in place of religion.

Mr. Ramadan expressed his optimism that the ruling will be enforced by the civil status department quite soon. Professor Farahat's comments clearly show the cultural dignity and the well-grounded arguments and views of a respected leading Egyptian scholar regarding the rights of citizenship and freedom of belief. This is indeed the Egypt I know....




Saturday, May 02, 2009

A Futile Attempt to Criminalize "Baha'i Thought" in Egypt Falls on its Face

A number of Middle Eastern news outlets reported last week that the Egyptian Parliament's Joint Commission on Defense, National Security, Arab Affairs and Religious Endowments has demanded that the Egyptian Parliament expedite the issuance of "a new law criminalizing Baha’ism...." [see links here, here & here]

As expected, these attempts were armed with the usual absurd fabrications about Baha'i beliefs and intentions. They were initiated by extremist elements in the Egyptian Parliament and were accompanied by a so called "secret memorandum from al-Azhar denouncing Baha'ism...."

This futile and "dramatic" attempt, which has created "a Parliamentarian crisis," was stopped in its tracks, before gaining any momentum, by the wisdom of the Parliamentary leadership, denouncing it as "unconstitutional."

According to an article, published in today's Rose al-Youssef, a paper normally expressing the views of the Egyptian authorities, the Joint Commission, mentioned above, was forced to "erase" its recommendation to "criminalize Baha'i thought and those who believe in it" because such a law would violate the tenets and procedures of the Parliament as well as "articles 2 and 40 of the Egyptian Constitution that guarantee freedoms of citizenship and belief." The Joint Commission, however continues its rhetoric against "Baha'i thought" and its concern for the Egyptian youth and its attraction to it.

The strategy of extremist elements in the Egyptian society, as well as the media and the supportive extremist elected officials, has been to consistently paint the Baha'is with one brush, soaked in a soiled bucket filled with fabrications and blatant lies, intended to stain the Bahai's so that the uninformed masses would be brainwashed into hating and detesting them. These fabrications include, but not limited to: accusations that the Baha'i [religion] is not a divinely-ordained religion, but rather a man-made destructive thought; accusations that Baha'is are agents of Zionism and imperialism with a mission, as a political movement, to destroy the Islamic world and its infrastructure; accusations of immorality, incest and exchange of wives; accusations of being Iranian agents with the intent of destroying the Arab world; accusations of "bribing the Egyptian youth into converting to Baha'ism;" as well as many other fabrications, too numerous and ludicrous to mention here.

The reality is, if any of these fabrications were true, why would anyone in his or her right mind want to joint such a "thought?" Fortunately, Egyptian youth, who are mostly educated, can read for themselves and can independently investigate the truth. Their intelligence cannot betray them into believing such absurdities being thrown at them.

The divinity of a religion is not for any man to judge but rather it is for God to ordain such a power; the proof of which lies in the religion itself and in its teachings. One can simply go to the source of the fountain of truth to satisfy one's thirst--reliable sources such as in this or that site.

How could they accuse the Baha'is of political ambitions and intentions when they well know that one of the main principles of the Baha'i Faith is the absolute necessity of non-involvement in partisan politics?

How could they accuse Baha'is of "immorality" and of "devious thought" when they well know that their teachings are in complete contradiction to their claims? They very well know that when it concerns morality and rectitude of conduct, just like in any other divinely-ordained religion, they do not need to look any farther than to pay attention to the numerous writings of the Baha'i Faith. Morality and rectitude of conduct are clearly the fundamental cornerstones upon which the religion is revealed. Among the many examples of such writings, one can refer to the following quotes:
O ye beloved of the Lord! In this sacred Dispensation, conflict and contention are in no wise permitted. Every aggressor deprives himself of God's grace. It is incumbent upon everyone to show the utmost love, rectitude of conduct, straightforwardness and sincere kindliness unto all the peoples and kindreds of the world, be they friends or strangers. So intense must be the spirit of love and loving-kindness, that the stranger may find himself a friend, the enemy a true brother, no difference whatsoever existing between them. For universality is of God and all limitations earthly. Thus man must strive that his reality may manifest virtues and perfections, the light whereof may shine upon everyone. The light of the sun shineth upon all the world and the merciful showers of Divine Providence fall upon all peoples. The vivifying breeze reviveth every living creature and all beings endued with life obtain their share and portion at His heavenly board. In like manner, the affections and loving-kindness of the servants of the One True God must be bountifully and universally extended to all mankind. Regarding this, restrictions and limitations are in no wise permitted.

Wherefore, O my loving friends! Consort with all the peoples, kindreds and religions of the world with the utmost truthfulness, uprightness, faithfulness, kindliness, good-will and friendliness; that all the world of being may be filled with the holy ecstasy of the grace of Baha, that ignorance, enmity, hate and rancor may vanish from the world and the darkness of estrangement amidst the peoples and kindreds of the world may give way to the Light of Unity. Should other peoples and nations be unfaithful to you show your fidelity unto them, should they be unjust toward you show justice towards them, should they keep aloof from you attract them to yourself, should they show their enmity be friendly towards them, should they poison your lives sweeten their souls, should they inflict a wound upon you be a salve to their sores. Such are the attributes of the sincere! Such are the attributes of the truthful.

Abdu'l-BahaBaha'i World Faith - Abdu'l-Baha Section, p. 445.
In another passage, one can find the following teachings:
Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face. Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answerer of the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of thy pledge. Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men. Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression. Let integrity and uprightness distinguish all thine acts. Be a home for the stranger, a balm to the suffering, a tower of strength for the fugitive. Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be an ornament to the countenance of truth, a crown to the brow of fidelity, a pillar of the temple of righteousness, a breath of life to the body of mankind, an ensign of the hosts of justice, a luminary above the horizon of virtue, a dew to the soil of the human heart, an ark on the ocean of knowledge, a sun in the heaven of bounty, a gem on the diadem of wisdom, a shining light in the firmament of thy generation, a fruit upon the tree of humility.

— Bahá’u’lláh — Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh.
[1952] 1983: 285.
How could any of these teachings be a threat to the national security of Egypt, as claimed by those extremists who stated that Baha'is are more of a threat to Egypt than the most venomous and terrorizing organizations currently invading its society? And why would they want to protect the Egyptian youth from such teachings? Their strategy is very telling indeed and can be explained in few simple words: take all the Baha'i teachings and reverse them 180 degrees, so that those who cannot read for themselves would believe their fabricated stories, which in turn can serve their scheme to create an environment hostile to any progressive thought that could be a threat to their own ambitions and power....

The Baha'is of Egypt do not ask for much: they want to be given the opportunity, as equal citizens, to continue to love and serve their society and to contribute to its advancement and its success. In return, they yearn for their society to just love them back--as it is only natural to have such feelings.

Fortunately, Egypt remains to be an enlightened society which continues to be able to halt such desperate attempts at disrupting its diverse fabric and its need for progress. This episode is yet another example of its will to promote a just and tolerant society that aspires to join the rest of the world in its goodwill and prosperity. Egypt's well-recognized ancient civilization and heritage can only attest to that end. Nothing less can be expected from the wisdom and vision of its leaders whose ardent desire is a hopeful and bright future for Egypt's people.

See Refuting Allegations in Arabic here....

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hope for Showraniyah: Hope for Egypt

There appears to be some imminent positive prospects for the displaced Baha'i families of Showraniyah, the southern Nile village in the province of Sohag recently known for the burning of Baha'i homes.

According to an article in yesterday's edition of Al-Youm Al-Sabe'h [the Seventh Day] Egyptian newspaper, village elders, community organizers, State security agencies and the authorities are in the process of finding ways to solve the crisis surrounding the Showraniyah burning.

The strategy of the negotiations, conducted by these village leaders, is to provide favorable conditions for a state of peaceful reconciliation. It is intended to bring about a transition that would allow the Baha'i families to return to their homes, and to provide them with a safe environment within their village devoid of any exposure to further hostilities "from near or far." They will be promised that future conditions will bring about a state of normal coexistence in accordance with the "principle of citizenship."

As the perpetrators of offenses against the Baha'is can be subject to "the severest penalties," these healing developments have been met by family heads in the village with approval. They now understand the need to bring an end to the crisis and to bring back the village to a normal state of peaceful coexistence.

Some of the displaced Showraniyah Baha'is

Reports of these negotiations have been revealed to the newspaper by a "responsible source in [State] Security" who has indicated that the families in the village concur with these plans.

Showraniyah is a village located on a Nile island in southern Egypt. The Baha'i families lived in two sections [naighborhoods] of the village that are called Nag'h Kabir and Nag'h Hashem.

There were five large families of Baha'is living in the village. They have all been displaced since the burning of their homes on the night of 31 March 2009. The parents are now without work, the young children are out of school and two law students (one of whom is in his final year) have also been unable to return to their university since their expulsion from southern Egypt. These are the same families that were imprisoned in 2001 solely for believing in the Baha'i Faith. One of the children, who is now 9-years-old, was in jail for several months with his mother at the tender age of 6 months when they were incarcerated eight years ago.

It is clear that the time has come for these innocent citizens who want to live peacefully among their neighbors and friends to return to normal life. The children need to return to their schools and the parents are eager to return to their work so that they can all serve society as well as they have always done in the past.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Progress on Egypt ID Status

The document that many have been waiting for was finally published in the 14 April 2009 edition of Al-Waqa’eh Al- Massreyah [The Egyptian Gazette/Chronicles], which is the long-standing official journal where all laws must be published before their actual implementation. [see EIPR/Human Rights Watch joint press release here, also see story in BWNS here]

This decree by the Ministry of Interior is of profound historical significance, mostly because it contains a vital amendment of an older order issued in 1995 regarding the enforcement of Civil Status Law of 1994.

In short, this decree allows anyone who does not belong to one of the three approved religions in Egypt (Judaism, Christianity & Islam) to obtain identification documents with dash (-) in place of religion.

The published text of the decree was initially dated 19 March 2009, three days following the decision by the Supreme Administrative Court to uphold the lower court’s ruling allowing the Baha’is to obtain identification documents (birth certificates, IDs, etc…) with dash (-) instead of a stated religion. It also states that the decree is to be enforced the following day after its publication.

Since it was published in Al-Waqa’eh Al-Massreyah on 14 April, its implementation was supposed to begin on 15 April 2009. The law does not mention the word “Baha’i,” thus leaving the door open to anyone who does not belong to one of the three religions to apply for documents under these conditions.

The decree, signed by the Minister of Interior Habeeb El-Adly, states:
After reviewing law-143 of 1994 regarding civil status and its amended order-1121 of 1995, it is decreed that at the end of Article-33 of the 1995 order, the following is added: “and it must enter the sign (-) in the religion field for Egyptian citizens who were previously recorded, or acquired, or obtained, or their fathers [obtained] identification documents in which none of the three religions were stated, or if the sign (-) was placed in the religion field, or [in such cases] requiring enforcement of court orders that needed such implementation….”
This decree of the Ministry of Interior stipulates that the request for such documents must be submitted by those concerned to the Assistant Minister of Interior for the Civil Status authority, or to those deputized by him, and that it will be recorded in its specified register.

The office of civil status in Cairo is beginning to implement the order and is making arrangements to apply the necessary computer modifications that will allow the printing of these documents. It appears that, so far, this central office in Cairo will be handling all cases and has already received requests from a couple of individuals. Their documents should be issued as soon as the computer software modifications have been implemented. The process is expected to be gradual and orderly, and might take time to process all applicants.

Ironically, yesterday, a complaint was filed by a representative of al-Azhar’s Islamic Research Council, known for its open opposition to the Baha’is, requesting that the law be reversed and that Baha’is be stripped of their Egyptian citizenship. Clearly this is a frivolous challenge which has nowhere to go. The Islamic Research Council in its desperate move has shown how absurd its strategy is, which will only lead it to a dead end. In its rush to challenge the order, it failed to notice one simple fact: the Ministry of Interior order is for all Egyptian citizens affected by its conditions; it does not mention Baha’is anywhere in its text. It must be realized that the Ministry of Interior is above such tactics and after all its hard work in finding a solution to the identity crisis, it does not intend to retreat from its move towards normalization of the status of the citizens of Egypt.

A few days ago, I took a taxi ride with Dr. Raouf Hindi, the one who was awarded the Supreme Court verdict on behalf of his twin children allowing them birth certificates, and who now dons a head cap and dark sunglasses on his outings. Even with his disguise, this was the second time on the same day when a taxi driver recognized him and asked him if he obtained the identity documents with dashes yet. The driver said that he has been following the Baha’i cases quite regularly and that, along with his family and friends, they watch the TV programs about the Baha’is while congregated in groups. He said that no one should be forced to change his religion and that everyone is entitled to his own belief. He also expressed his dismay at the Showraniyah burning. The man was extremely friendly and eager to hear more about the Baha'is. He was genuinely interested and not merely curious. This is just an example of random unsolicited opinions in the streets of Cairo. Undoubtedly many more are out there.

The Baha’is of Egypt are eager to obtain their identity documents so that they can join their fellow citizens in continuing to serve their homeland and to contribute to the welfare of their society. By reaching this milestone, they will move towards being integrated in the fabric of the Egyptian society, and not unlike many of their coreligionists are in over 200 countries worldwide. The issue is indeed about service regardless of religious affiliation.

These Egyptian citizens love their country and are longing for it to love them back. This bold move by the Ministry of Interior propels them towards that.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Unprecedented Flood of Egyptian Press Articles Supporting the Baha'is

Between 2 April and 9 April 2009 there were 81 Egyptian newspaper articles (all in Arabic) expressing outrage at the arson attack on Baha'i homes in the southern village of Showraniyah.

Egypt has never seen before the likes of this wholehearted support in its mainstream media for such a cause. It reflects the indignation felt by the multitudes of Egyptians who were labeled, at some point in the past, "the silent majority." This reaction is only natural, only because Egyptians by nature abhor flagrant manifestations of injustice.

The Showraniyah incident has clearly penetrated and stirred-up the very core of their sense of justice regardless of who the oppressed were, and even though these wronged ones were looked upon by the uninformed as alien to their traditional beliefs. Based on a very long and complex history, Egyptians know very well how such incidents can easily lead to disruption of the integrity of the very fabric of their society.

More recently, Egypt's government-sponsored National Council for Human Rights has also expressed its dismay at these inhumane violations of the rights of the Baha'is.

The time might be right for Egypt to finally acknowledge that its Baha'i population is a community of citizens who--inspired by their Faith--are dedicated to serve their country and its people and are committed to processes that promote a better world; and that rather than merely expressing the pursuit of their citizenship rights, their aim is to bring the water of life to humanity.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Why Is There More Than One Religion?

An ongoing serious point of discussion that is frequently raised by so many has been, why humanity needs continued Divine guidance? A line of reasoning as to this need is clearly expressed in the words of Baha'u'llah, the prophet founder of the Baha'i Faith; He contends the following:

“All the Prophets of God,” asserts Bahá’u’lláh in the Kitáb-i-Íqán, “abide in the same tabernacle, soar in the same heaven, are seated upon the same throne, utter the same speech, and proclaim the same Faith.” From the “beginning that hath no beginning,” these Exponents of the Unity of God and Channels of His incessant utterance have shed the light of the invisible Beauty upon mankind, and will continue, to the “end that hath no end,” to vouchsafe fresh revelations of His might and additional experiences of His inconceivable glory. To contend that any particular religion is final, that “all Revelation is ended, that the portals of Divine mercy are closed, that from the daysprings of eternal holiness no sun shall rise again, that the ocean of everlasting bounty is forever stilled, and that out of the Tabernacle of ancient glory the Messengers of God have ceased to be made manifest” would indeed be nothing less than sheer blasphemy.

“They differ,” explains Bahá’u’lláh in that same epistle, “only in the intensity of their revelation and the comparative potency of their light.” And this, not by reason of any inherent incapacity of any one of them to reveal in a fuller measure the glory of the Message with which He has been entrusted, but rather because of the immaturity and unpreparedness of the age He lived in to apprehend and absorb the full potentialities latent in that Faith.

Shoghi Effendi, in The World Order of Baha'u'llah

Monday, April 06, 2009

Egypt: Instigator & Perpetrator Summoned to Court for Inciting Against Baha’is

The MidEast news source, The Media Line has just published a story that reports that an Egyptian journalist and a member of parliament from the ruling party are being summoned to court for allegedly inciting against the Baha’i minority in the country.

The article, titled Egyptians Face Trial for Incitement Against Baha’is, and published on 6 April 2009, goes on to state:
The journalist, Jamal ‘Abd A-Rahim from the pro-government daily Al-Gumouriyya, and the MP, Muhammad Yusri from the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), are being questioned about their role leading to the burning of Baha’i homes last week.

Residents of A-Shouraniyya, located in the Sohag governorate about 345 kilometers south of the capital Cairo, set fire to houses belonging to Baha’is last Thursday and forced them out of town.

Molotov cocktails were hurled at their homes and the water was cut off to prevent them from putting out the flames.

The police soon arrived and helped the Baha’i families flee the premises.

Twenty residents of the town who allegedly took part in the assault have also been summoned to court.

‘Abd A-Rahim is being accused of inciting against the Baha’i after he published an inflammatory article in which he described them as apostates who rejected Islam. Yusri expressed support for ‘Abd A-Rahim’s statements.

Thursday’s was the second attack on Baha’i homes in a week. During a similar attack in late March, the assailants chanted against the Baha’is, calling them “enemies of Allah.”

Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights said these latest attacks were unprecedented.

The Baha’i community has had problems with the state in terms of being stripped of its legal status, having property confiscated or being prosecuted for contempt of religion, he said.

“But this is the first time we’ve documented physical assaults on Baha’i homes or property.”

Last week’s incident was a setback for Baha’i freedom in Egypt, especially since it came two weeks after this minority made a significant legal gain.

On March 16, an Egyptian court ruled that the “religion” field on national identity cards could be left blank.

Up until that decision, Baha’is had to identify themselves on their ID cards as being Muslim, Christian or Jewish, and cards would not be issued for whoever refused to be labeled under one of these three religions, effectively rendering them non-citizens.

“Unfortunately these attacks marred the positive reaction that the court ruling received,” Bahgat said.

There is no official data as to the number of Baha’is in Egypt, but unofficial data puts their number somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 believers.
Read more here....

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Denials & No Apologies: the Instigator Still on the Loose

In an attempt to hide his tracks, Gamal Abdel-Rahim, the journalist who has been inciting violence against the Baha'is in Egypt, removed his article (blogpost), also published in al-Gomhoriyah newspaper, and in which a person from the Egyptian province of Sohag* claimed responsibility for the attacks on the Baha'is of Showraniyah and the torching of their homes.
*.... This story was reported in a comment by the leader of that mob on Gamal Abdel Rahim's blog, which has been dedicated to attacks on Baha'is. This mob leader, who claimed responsibility for the attack, is named Mohammad Youssry Mohammad. He identifies himself as the secretary of the youth committee of the village's National Party (al- Hezb al-Watany) and a teacher in the religious institute of the village. He describes the village to have a population of 16,751 with a surface area of approximately 1,567 feddans [acres]. It has 17 mosques, 3 churches, 16 elementary schools, 2 preparatory schools and 1 secondary "commerce" school. He also reports that the Baha'is, who were expelled from the village following the burning of their homes, consist of 15 individuals from three families, among them children and nursing babies.

In the initial post, published on Baha'i Faith in Egypt, if one clicks on the link to Abdel-Rahim's blogpost, an error message returns directing the link to his blog. On his blog's main page, the post in question has gone.

Fortunately, one of the Egyptian human rights activists has kept an image of Abdel-Rahim's post with the comment of the perpetrator of the attacks below the post. The image of the post is attached here courtesy of Bahlam Be-Youm blog.

News of this unprecedented attack continue to capture the attention of the media everywhere. Of particular interest is the reaction of many prominent Egyptians, expressed in several articles and editorials. They are so many and are too long to translate on this site. They are, however , too important for all readers not to miss. A blog by Smile Rose has kept-up with all these publications. I only wish if they can be translated to English in full!

According to an article published in The National, Abdel-Rahim refuses to apologize for having incited this wave of terror and violence in Egypt. The entire article is posted below with permission:

The National

Anti-Baha’i columnist refuses to apologise

Matt Bradley, Foreign Correspondent

* Last Updated: April 05. 2009 8:34PM UAE / April 5. 2009 4:34PM GMT

Ahmed al Sayyid Abdul Ela, a Baha’i leader whose talk show appearance was followed by the torching of Bahai’s homes. Victoria Hazou for The National

Cairo // A newspaper columnist accused of inciting attacks last week against members of the Baha’i faith in an Upper Egyptian village said yesterday he remains unapologetic for his controversial comments.

Six Egyptian human rights groups have called on public prosecutors to investigate Gamal Abd al Rahim, a writer for the state-run Al Gomhurriya newspaper, for “incitement to felonies and misdemeanours”.

They say Mr al Rahim’s statements against Baha’is on a popular talk show led directly to an attack that saw villagers in the town of Al Shuraniya torch five homes known to belong to Baha’is.

The attacks in Al Shuraniya, in which eight homes were damaged but no one was injured, struck Egypt’s tiny Baha’i community only weeks after a decision by a constitutional court that will allow Egypt’s Baha’is to leave the religion section of their identity cards blank.

Baha’is had celebrated the verdict, which they hope will give their long-disenfranchised community equal citizenship status to Muslims and Christians. But if the court victory pointed to improvements in religious tolerance, the violence in Al Shuraniya revealed the latent communal tensions that persist in Egyptian society.

In an interview in his Cairo office, Mr al Rahim said the statements aired last Saturday, in which he said that a Baha’i leader who was a guest on the same programme “should be killed”, did not incite villagers in the town of Al Shuraniya to attack the homes of their Baha’i neighbours.

“I’m responsible for every word I said, and I don’t owe anyone any apologies,” said Mr al Rahim, who added that he condemns the attacks.

Instead, he said, the villagers were merely reacting to “disgraceful” statements by one of the show’s other guests, a Baha’i named Ahmed al Sayyid Abdul Ela, who boasted that his hometown of Al Shuraniya, about 400km south of Cairo, was “full of Baha’is”.

“The Egyptian people know how Sharia [Islamic jurisprudence] views this religion. They felt disgrace because of this man. And because of the strong customs and traditions of Upper Egyptian society, they attacked this man’s house.”

Mr Ela’s brothers were among those who appeared at a courthouse yesterday in Assiut, a governorate near to Al Shuraniya, to present their statements to police. On the evening of the attacks, police ordered all of Al Shuraniya’s Baha’i residents to leave the city before they could return to their homes to collect belongings. Most of them fled to Cairo.

“It was so painful to see all the children scared. It would have been better to have died than to have watched that,” said Abdul Bassit, Mr Ela’s brother, whose house was destroyed during the riots last Sunday night. “The police were there, but they were just watching. They didn’t take any of the kind of action that you would expect from police. This incident was such proof of ignorance and barbarism I couldn’t believe it was happening.”

Egypt’s constitution does not officially recognise the Baha’i faith and many Muslims consider them to be apostates.

Some, such as Mr al Rahim, also believe the Baha’i are agents of Zionism. While their numbers are few, he said, they are a dangerous threat to Islam and to Egypt.

“They are a group that is just related to Israel,” he said, citing the Baha’i headquarters in Haifa, Israel, as evidence of a Zionist conspiracy to permeate Egyptian society. “They just get money from abroad. They exist in Egypt, but their presence might cause discord in Egyptian society. I’m worried about Egypt.”

Even in the face of such ardent opposition, Baha’i community leaders say they are preparing to continue their struggle for basic rights.

After last month’s decision on identification cards, Baha’i leaders say the next step will be to pass legislation to allow civil marriage – the Baha’i still must leave Egypt to get married because they are prohibited from marrying in an unrecognised faith. But marriage is only one of several identity benefits denied to the Baha’i that most Egyptians take for granted.

Labib Hanna, a Baha’i leader, said his family still pays income taxes for his late sister, who was not issued a death certificate when she died five years ago because her religion was not recognised by the state.

“We are really true citizens. We love Egypt and we are obeying the government,” said Dr Hanna, a mathematics professor at Cairo University.

The Baha’is’ problems with the Egyptian government began in 1960, when Gamal Abdul Nasser disbanded the group’s official organisation and seized its property. That decision led to the periodic harassment and arrest of Baha’i adherents on charges of “contempt of religion” throughout the following decades.

Commentators in state-run newspapers continue to malign the Baha’i. The Baha’i religion teaches an ethos of global religious unity. Baha’i place the Prophet Mohammed on a continuum of divine prophecy that includes, but is not limited to, the teachings of Jesus, Buddha, Krishna and Abraham. God will continue to send messengers, the Baha’i believe, and those messengers will continue to reveal divine truth.

Baha'ism is tantamount to apostasy, say many Muslims, because Baha'is
believe God sent other prophets after Mohammed.

It is perfectly acceptable for Muslims to convey their opinion of Baha’ism, said Hossam Bahgat, the executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a human rights advocacy organisation that supported the Baha’is in the identity card case.

It is the incitement of violence, he said, that should be investigated and prosecuted by legal authorities.

“It’s much more serious than bigotry. Bigotry is a word I can use to describe all the views [Mr al Rahim] has expressed against Baha’is in the past month, against which Baha’is and rights activists chose not to take any legal action because we believe he was exercising his right to expression, as repulsive as the opinions he was expressing were,” said Mr Bahgat.

But some of Mr al Rahim’s comments, he said, were a “direct incitement to committing felonies and misdemeanours. We think that there is a clear link between the statements he made on TV and in a state newspaper to the type of violence we saw last week.”