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Post Baha'i Views on Israel/Palestine; Response to Several WAISers
Created by John Eipper on 06/20/12 10:32 AM

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Baha'i Views on Israel/Palestine; Response to Several WAISers (Vincent Littrell, USA, 06/20/12 10:32 am)

The several responses to my posting of Baha'i leader Shoghi Effendi's letter to the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) are all worthy of discussion. (I erred in stating that the letter was to the UN Commission on Palestine. That body didn't come into effect until 1948.)

Tor Guimaeres commented on the Baha'i Faith's not mediating the dispute in the region in 1947: "it [The Baha'i Faith] is in a unique position to actively mediate, rather than sitting on the sidelines and watch people get killed and hurt in even worse ways."

The issue of Baha'is keeping a low profile in Israel/Palestine actually has come up before. See my post of 5 January 2008:

http://www.waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=19111&objectTypeId=13361&topicId=1

Yes, the teachings of the Baha'i Faith are highly altruistic, requiring of people the most rigorous application of morality (kindness, love, mercy, purity, chastity, justice, calm, forgiveness, service to others, etc.). Contrary to Tor's wishes on the matter, at the current stage of most Muslim orthodox authority, the fact that some Muslims have converted to Baha'i actually puts the Baha'i Faith in the unfortunate position of being considered apostate and heretical. In more than a few Muslim conservative ulama minds, Baha'is "are but fit for the hell-fire." I strongly suspect any attempt by Baha'i institutions to insert themselves (even if invited by secular authorities like the United Nations) in a mediating position with regards to the Israeli/Palestinian question would result in immediate attack against Baha'is either in the media, at the Friday sermons throughout the Arab and Iranian Muslim World, or against Baha'is physically. And, not just in Iran; such is the sensitivity of the Israeli/Palestinian issue throughout the Arab/Persian/large swaths of the Orthodox Muslim World. The same held true in 1947.

Also, conservative Jews would, I would think, possibly have negative reactions to a Baha'i community asserting itself, even in a conflict-mediating capacity in the Holy Land--especially in 1947 as the State of Israel was about to form. There are specific reasons the Baha'is, though having their headquarters in Haifa, keep a low profile in that region--they are known for their beautiful gardens.

Nevertheless, it has to be noted (again, see the link above) that the Baha'i Faith has numerous NGOs involved in a plethora of human rights issues and social justice issues all over the world. Women's Rights advocacy is just one area the Baha'is are increasingly visible:  schools in India, Africa, South America, etc; the Tahirih Justice Center in Washington DC is an increasingly well-known Baha'i institution dedicated to protecting immigrant women and girls from violence (see http://www.tahirih.org/). Baha'i social justice activists do write on these issues.  Here is a Baha'i International Community statement, titled "Beyond Legal Reforms: Culture and Capacity in the Eradication of Violence Against Women and Girls":

http://statements.bahai.org/06-0702.htm.

The bottom line here is that there is copious evidence of Baha'is' world-wide efforts at educating on social justice and trying to alleviate degraded conditions. Shoghi Effendi's refusal to insert the Baha'i Faith in the politics, even in a mediating fashion, of the Israel/Palestine situation and the Baha'is' governing body the Universal House of Justice continuing a low profile in Israel are in part because of security reasons and the clear fact that the Muslim world (at least the clergy) would really reject such an effort--and quite possibly conservative/fundamentalist Judaism as well. Bahai's keep a low profile all over the Middle East and Muslim World.

The one instance I'm aware of where the Bahai's publicly interjected themselves in Israel regarding a contentious issues was over a decade ago, when a Greek Orthodox-baptized youth in Israel passed away. It turns out this youth had done something to get himself removed from the Greek Church before his death. Thus he was refused burial in the Greek Orthodox cemetery. It turns out other religions' cemeteries would not take him either, thus his body went for a short period unburied. The Baha'is agreed to take him, and as I understand it he is buried on Baha'i property near the Baha'i holy sites on or near Mount Carmel.

Regarding Alain de Benoist's comment of 18 June:  Of course the Baha'i Faith is a political religion in the sense that Alain presents politics. No dispute there. But, in the context of the Shoghi Effendi letter to the UNSCOP, the comment about the Baha'i Faith being a "non-political" religion made perfect sense. Baha'is are categorically forbidden to participate in any factionalized politics at any level of the global order today, except for the right to personally participate in electoral politics by voting.  Running for any political office is forbidden. Even recently, Iranian Baha'is who sympathized with the "Green" movement that rose up during the last Iranian presidential elections were explicitly forbidden to identify with that movement even if many Iranian expatriot Baha'is in the West sympathized. Yes, the Baha'i Faith has a vision of global salvation that includes a global political structure that reflects mankind's oneness and is envisioned as supplanting the sovereign state system in the fullness of time.  This is something that Baha'is themselves won't do, but that the world will on its own evolve towards, as the current international state system continues degrading in its ability to deal effectively with rapidly compounding global tensions.  However, the Baha'i teachings are explicit that identifying with national, racial, ethnic, religious and other types of political factionalism in this "old world order" is forbidden. Thus, in that regard the Baha'i Faith is non-political and doesn't involve itself in factionalized political activity.

Baha'is are visible however in defense of their brethren in Iran and Egypt. The right to practice religion transcends the political and the persecution of the Bahai's of Iran.  Contrary to Alain's past comment about its being strictly an internal Iranian political matter, this is a matter the impacts all religious minorities and their dispositions throughout the Muslim World.

Anthony D'Amato's comment (18 June) that the American Baha'is aren't interested in defending their Iranian brethren seems off the mark to me, in light of plenty of evidence to the contrary.  (See the most recent "Education Under Fire" initiative to acquaint universities throughout the US and Canada with the Iranian government's exclusion of Baha'is from Iranian universities and the suppression of efforts to educate their youth in the "Baha'i Institute of Higher Education.")  I've discussed this in WAIS before (see: http://www.waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=67959&objectTypeId=62209&topicId=163). Also, it is known that the governing body of the Baha'is in the United States (the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States) has instructed local Baha'i institutions to contact congressmen and senators to meet with them and explain the plight of Iran's Baha'is.

Regarding Anthony's comments about organizations accepting money over assistance, I doubt this applies to the Baha'is (at least their formal institutions). It is my understanding that the Baha'i formal institutions only accept funds from Baha'is. I'd be curious as to the reason why the Baha'is didn't accept Anthony's services. The Office of the Baha'i International Community in Washington DC (the office I'm assuming he contacted) is subordinate to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, headquartered in Wilmette, Illinois. I'm assuming an attempt by a Baha'i subordinate organization to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States would have to get that body's permissions to take on outside legal help.

Also, though Anthony correctly describes the persecution of the Baha'is of Iran as "deliberate genocide," his understanding of the reasons the Shi'a ulama rulers hate the Baha'is differs from my understanding. Islam is in theory a universalist religion, though obviously in Iran there is a strong penchant for its Persianization. With that being said, Twelver Shi'a hatred of Baha'is has more to do with interpretations of Qur'anic Surah 33:40 (Muhammad being "Seal of the Prophets" and the final revelation from God) and the fact that the Baha'is accept the idea the the Hidden Imam has returned and that all prophecies regarding a "day of judgment" in the Qur'an and in Shi'a traditions (especially regarding the coming of the Qa'im) have been fulfilled. Keep in mind that if Qa'im returns, the power positions of the traditional Twelver Shi'a hierarchy is endangered.

JE comments:  If Baha'is are proscribed from direct political activity, their expectation of a universalist world order would have to depend on the actions or intervention of non-Baha'is.  I now know why we don't have any prominent Baha'i politicians in the US.  My question for Vincent Littrell:  has this prohibition ever been discussed or re-evaluated?  It seems to me that it works against the interest of Baha'is world-wide.


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