Wednesday January 23, 2019

Fragments of a shattered Faith: Bahá’í Community of Iran

The Bahá'í faith is a new religion springing originally from Shi'ite Islam in Iran

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Baha'i Community. Image source: bahaibc.ca
..I was born a Bahá’í . I was only 14 when the Islamic Revolution took place in 1979. I was very studious and excelled in school. I was admitted to a high school affiliated with the University of Shiraz…After the revolution of 1979, with the increase in waves of violence and discrimination against Bahá’ís..All the property of our family was confiscated, and my brother-in-law was arrested and sentenced to death..
                             -A letter by Fariborz Baghian (Iranian citizen from prison)

The excerpt is one of the unheard voices and there are more unheard stories of Bahá’í Faith prisoners who are still incarcerated in the Iranian prisons for several years now.

History of Bahá’í Faith

In Iran, Bahá’í Faith was founded in the mid-19th century by Mirza Hoseyn and has its roots in Shi’te Islam.  Although it has achieved a unique status of its own because of over 5 million members and supporters worldwide but its practical independence from its parent religion of Islam and for its unique contradictory nature.

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While the president is democratically elected, its supreme leader is a Muslim priest. Islam is the official religion in Iran; while Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Christianity officially are the minority religions in the country. This has brough the religion under threat.

…And the men in turbans would love nothing more than to exterminate them holding back only because of the international stink it would raise, instead they persecute them hanging not just the leader , but even in one famous girl a 15 year old girl for a heinous crime of teaching children at a Sunday school moral lessons..
                         – Dennis Maceoin (Gatestone Institute) via youtube

Dennis Maceoin is a renowned novelist at the Gatestone Institute, Belfast.

The Bahá’í faith has no such recognition despite the fact that they are the largest minority religion and perhaps the most hated as well in Iran. Islamic religionists in Iran have long seen the Bahá’í faith as a threat to their religious principles and have branded the Bahá’í’s as dissenters. Bahá’í community people’s unbiased stand on equal women rights, education for all and equal status for all religion has particularly annoyed Muslim religionists.

Bahá’í community people often find themselves barred from numerous opportunities including higher education, jobs or businesses. They are moreover prone to harassment, ill-treatment, and even execution.

Shrine of the Ba'b, Haifa,Israel via Wikipedia.org
Shrine of the Ba’b, Haifa,Israel via Wikipedia.org

Throughout the past decades, the Bahá’ís of Iran have been oppressed, discriminated and tortured. With the triumph of the Islamic revolution in 1979, this persecution has been more organised and systematised. Hundreds of Bahá’ís have been either executed or killed, thousands have been imprisoned, and almost all have been deprived of jobs, pensions, trade and educational opportunities. All Bahá’í administrative structures in Iran have been shut down by the Government authorities and holy places and cemeteries have been destroyed.

In June 1983, the Iranian authorities arrested ten Bahá’í women and girls. The charge against them: teaching children’s classes on the Baha’i Faith – the equivalent of Sunday school in the West. The women were subjected to intense physical and mental abuse in an effort to coerce them to recant their Faith, Yet, like most Bahai’s who were arrested in Iran, they refused to deny their beliefs. As a result, they were executed.                                                                                                                                            – bahai.org (report)
The persecution of Baha’i faith in Iran can be uncovered to many factors.The Bahá’í Faith is often observed as an Islamic blasphemy in Iran. Since the Bahá’í faith was developed somewhere around the 19th century out of Shi’a Islam. Thus, it is often observed as an inaccurate divergence from its true meaning, since other religions predate Islam. Moreover, apostasy is seen as a consequential offence within Islam.

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Iran’s leaders have repeatedly stated that they consider Bahá’í faith to be more of a political group than a religious one. This has thus given them an excuse to deny them their religious freedom for such reasons.

Baha'i faith
Free Prisoners, Bahá’í in Iran (Representational Image). Image source: oreaddaily.blogspot.com

The Bahá’í Faith is today headquartered in Haifa, Israel and has good relations with the Israelis. To simply put this, the Iranians hardliners don’t like the Israelis. The threat to clerical power is another reason for the preservation. Bahá’í has no priests and places the responsibility for spiritual interpretation completely in the hands of its followers.

A mobile billboard marking the seven prisoners. Image source: bahaiteachings.org

International protest against the ill-treatment against the Bahá’í faith has been widespread and well known. Thousands of news articles about the scenario of the Bahá’ís community in Iran have appeared around the globe. Noteworthy international organisations, such as the European Parliament and the united nations, have passed resolutions expressing deep concern about the Bahá’í community.

Most importantly, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) and the General Assembly has put a lot of pressure on the Iranian regime to observe international human rights accords from time to time. Despite these efforts, the situation of Bahai’s remains much the same, perhaps worsened without any guarantee of their fundamental right to religion and their struggle for freedom continues.

– prepared by Yajush Gupta of Newsgram, Twitter: @yajush_gupta

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  • Della L. Marcus

    Two clarifications are needed in connection with the above article:

    1. While the Baha’i Faith did have its origins in the Muslim Shiite country, Iran, and can indeed be said to “have its roots in Shiite Islam,” this description of its origins can be compared to Christianity having its roots in Judaism. The Baha’i Faith should not be mistaken with sects of Islam, some of which have indeed achieved a status of their own, distinct in a way from the mother religion, Islam, because of the number of members and supporters.

    2. It is not correct to state that the Baha’i Faith “has achieved a status of its own,” because it has in fact always had a status of its own as one of the independent religions of the world. The Baha’i Faith describes religion as a Message brought down from God periodically through a Manifestation of God to assist humanity to live good and productive lives by the application of such Divine Guidance.

  • AJ Krish

    There will come a time when the oppressed and the shattered will rise again to glory. The people of the bahai-faith will not remain discriminated against.

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  • Della L. Marcus

    Two clarifications are needed in connection with the above article:

    1. While the Baha’i Faith did have its origins in the Muslim Shiite country, Iran, and can indeed be said to “have its roots in Shiite Islam,” this description of its origins can be compared to Christianity having its roots in Judaism. The Baha’i Faith should not be mistaken with sects of Islam, some of which have indeed achieved a status of their own, distinct in a way from the mother religion, Islam, because of the number of members and supporters.

    2. It is not correct to state that the Baha’i Faith “has achieved a status of its own,” because it has in fact always had a status of its own as one of the independent religions of the world. The Baha’i Faith describes religion as a Message brought down from God periodically through a Manifestation of God to assist humanity to live good and productive lives by the application of such Divine Guidance.

  • AJ Krish

    There will come a time when the oppressed and the shattered will rise again to glory. The people of the bahai-faith will not remain discriminated against.

Next Story

Christmas and Controversies

The Christmas tree came from Germany, Christmas card from England, Santa from the USA, and secular celebrations started all over the world.

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Christmas
Christmas was invented to convert people by appropriating pagan’s original practices with Christmas.

-By Bharti Raizada

Bharti Raizada
Bharti Raizada

To my knowledge, no other festival is as universal and controversial as Christmas.

As per M-W dictionary, the definition of Christmas is as follows:

“A Christian feast on December 25 or among some eastern orthodox Christians on January 7 that commemorates the birth of Christ and is usually observed as a legal holiday.”

Christ- Mas: is the church service that celebrates the birth of Jesus.

X- Mas: X is the Greek letter Chi that is a short form of the word Christ. In Greek, Christ’s name is Xristos. Therefore, X- mas is the same as Christ-mas. For some, X removes the religious aspect of Christmas by replacing Christ with X and this celebration then becomes more secular to them. You can fill X with anything you like.

People observe or celebrate Christmas in many different ways: religiously, in a secular way, or as a holiday. Some people do not pay any attention and become part of the Christmas in a mixed way.

Christmas
Christmas is celebrated every year to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ

Those who do not celebrate are either indifferent or wage a war against it.

Pagans are unhappy for Christianization of Saturnalia. Christians are complaining about paganization or secularization of Christmas. Some Christians believe that it is not their festival at all.

Actually, if we dig deep into it, we come to know that Christ’s birthday and life have been surrounded with assumptions. There is controversy whether he was Jewish or Christian; and whether Jews or Romans crucified him.

Contrasts between Hinduism and Christmas

Now, before we go further into the roots of this topic, let us take a glance at Christmas from the Hindu point of view. Here is how I would summarize a few contrasting points.

  1. Trees are sacred to Hindus. We worship them and believe that Devi, Devtas, or Bhagwan (God) live in them. We do not believe in cutting trees at mass level and bring cut trees inside our home for decoration purposes. We do not believe in the sacrifice of living beings/trees.
  2. We have all four kinds of weather and many varieties of trees but the Christmas tree is typically not found in India.
  3. Chimney is not a common architectural entity in Indian households. Hindu children typically touch the feet of elders, in morning, and get gift of blessings every day. The focus of secular Christmas celebration is expectation of a gift by Santa. Materialism and expectation of gift is not a central part of any Hindu celebration. Hindus give gifts on many occasions but expecting a gift from someone is not a primary theme of any celebration.

    Christmas
    The tree has pagan origins but now it represents Christian beliefs.
  4. Hindus go by facts. Hindu scriptures have a birth date for Ram and Krishn. Christmas celebration is based on an assumption- the assumption that December 25 is the birthday of Jesus.
  5. In Hinduism, one is not a sinner by birth and therefore does not depend on Jesus to save him or her. We all are part of the supreme divinity.
  6. Jesus died in place of all other humans so that they can live, i.e., he rescued humanity. We believe inkarma and therefore do not need Jesus for salvation. Someone else cannot own our sins and give us Moksha. Moksha is attained individually.
  7. Vegetarianism is a common theme in Hinduism. Christmas feasts in church typically include meat and alcoholic beverages.
  8. Hindus have so many festivals. It is not an exaggeration to say that every day is an occasion or festival for Hindus. We do not need more from other religions.

Christmas was invented to convert people by appropriating pagan’s original practices with Christmas. We know, the birth of Christ is not that important to Christians as his Resurrection. Protestants/Puritans do not even consider Christmas as their festival. Initially, the agenda of this celebration was conversion by assimilation.

 When we adopt festivals and traditions, which are not our own, it dilutes our own traditions and festivals and slowly our celebrations are replaced and become obsolete. Additionally, it does not take long (takes only a few generations) to lose our own practices.

Why do some Hindus celebrate Christmas?

  1. While Hindus do not believe in Jesus and Christianity, they get attracted to the holiday by the decorated trees, lights, and Santa. They take pictures, share them on social media, and may inadvertently give the false impression that they believe in Jesus.
  2. Some celebrate it just to show that they are secular and tolerant of other religions.
  3. Some who live in Christian dominated societies celebrate it for the inadvertent fear of exclusion, or to become a part of the process.
  4. Some do not think about it much and take it in a neutral/secular/holiday way. They believe in going by the flow.