By Samandar, a Baha’i in Iran
Once upon a time I was in prison. One day the investigator summoned me and kept asking me all sorts of questions. I responded, “If I answer your questions, I will be accused of teaching my faith”. He replied, “Don’t worry – just answer my questions”, so I did. A few days later, the same authority summoned my cellmate and told him that I had tried to convert him to the Baha’i Faith!
That is how it is in this country. If we sit idle and don’t do anything, they say Baha’is don’t care about this land and do nothing to improve it. (During the interrogation in jail, I was asked what humanitarian service I had performed). If we take any step towards an act of service, Hojjatu’l-Islam Rouzbehani goes on the pulpit and states, “Baha’is get involved in humanitarian services in order to manipulate the belief of the young generation”.
If we don’t participate in elections, they say we have distanced ourselves from the rest of our countrymen, and that we are trying to undermine the sanctity of Islam (one of the charges against me in jail). When the Universal House of Justice tells us we may participate in elections if we choose to do so, the authorities cause a lot of commotion and say “These Baha’is claim they don’t get involved in politics. They are definitely planning to creep in and affect the outcome of the election by their participation”.
If we keep quiet and don’t respond to their unfounded accusations, they say “Baha’is shut their mouths since they don’t have any answers”. If we respond, they say “Baha’is are teaching and their teaching is propaganda against Islam. Therefore they should be executed.”
If we have no communication with the rest of the Baha’i world, they say “These Baha’is are so lowly and downtrodden that even Baha’is in other parts of the world don’t care about them”. If we communicate with other Baha’is outside Iran, they say “Baha’is are spies and are sending secret information to Israel through other Baha’is”.
If we place headstones on the graves of our departed, they say “Baha’is have become so bold that they dare to have gravestones on their tombs”. Then, with an organized coordinated effort, they embark on demolishing the grave sites. If we don’t have headstones on the graves, they say “Baha’is are so scared that they are even afraid of putting tombstone on graves of their departed ones”.
If we don’t object when we are banned from entering college, or are expelled from universities, they say “Baha’is are a bunch of illiterates! They are content with only having a high school diploma”. If we establish a university and encourage our youth to further their education, they say “Baha’is have crossed the line and have dared to establish a Baha’i university in Islamic Iran”. Then their militia will barge in while students are writing exams, and confiscate their papers and close the university.
It is completely unclear what Baha’is are permitted to do in their own homeland. On the one hand they say, “We have dismantled Baha’i study circles and teaching activities, and have eradicated them”. On the other hand Mr. Rouzbehani announces “Baha’is are organizing teaching activities in some cities, are increasing their membership and are spreading their teachings”.
I have a few questions to ask Mr. Rouzbehani. I hope he honors me with a response.
1) You are trying to prove that Baha’is are fewer in number than their actual numbers. My question is: Why is this number important? Did Christ have any followers other than the twelve disciples and Mary Magdalene at the time of his crucifixion? Were not Christians oppressed by the Romans and the Jews for 300 years? Let’s suppose the number of Baha’is in Iran is not 300,000, and as you say is 80,000 or even fewer. That number compared to the 60-70 million population of Iran is insignificant. I wonder what worries you so much that you keep writing books, organizing seminars, publishing special issues of magazines, using the radio and television to attack and slander, and finally, imprison Baha’is with bogus accusations. Then you keep postponing their trials in the revolutionary court. I suggest that from tomorrow, just announce that there are only a handful of Baha’is are in Iran. It makes no difference whatsoever.
2) You have announced that intellectual and cultural poverty is the reason for the growth of sects. Isn’t it better to eradicate the country’s intellectual and cultural poverty instead of attacking Baha’is with phony accusations? Isn’t it better to eliminate your weaknesses so that Muslims not only avoid the Baha’is but also are not attracted to Zoroastrians or Christians?
The reason for the poverty in society to which you yourself attest is that you are ignoring your own flaws and instead are attacking others. You write inflammatory articles against Christians, Baha’is and Wahhabis. You disregard your own faults and try to find fault in others. Christ said [Matthew 7:3], “How is it that you notice a speck of dust in your brother’s eye and do not notice a beam in your own eye?”
3) You have said “Baha’is try to attract troops by their teaching activities”. Mr. Rouzbehani, are we engaged in a war that we might need an army? For once, free yourself from prejudice and unfairness, come and listen to what Baha’is tell non-Baha’is! See if they do anything other than show the path they have found, saying accept it if you like and don’t if you don’t want to. One time I heard a Baha’i explaining our activities to a Muslim, saying it is like having a potluck, people of different religions have placed their food on the table and are giving their recipe to others. If one starts attacking and insulting another, telling him by listing the ingredients of your food, you intend to find fault with my food, would his action make sense to you? If one does not share his recipe, wouldn’t others ask why you didn’t tell us? No one is forcing others to eat his food; he just offers what he has. However, there is one exception; if a Muslim wants to try someone else’s food, he will be labeled an apostate and there is a severe punishment awaiting him.
4) Mr. Rouzbehani you have written so much in repudiation of the Baha’i faith, you have come up with so many lies and slurs, you have scared people with the law of apostasy and heresy, and you have imposed so many limitations and deprivations. What are you afraid of? Are you afraid of your intellectual and cultural poverty? Don’t you realize you are adhering to a position of weakness by your way of talking and acting? When instead of talking about the strong points of Islam you spend all your time and energy finding flaws in the beliefs of others, don’t you demonstrate that you have nothing valuable to offer?
5) At the end, I request that instead of assaulting Baha’is, start a dialog with them. Let both sides openly offer what they have and kindly eliminate misunderstandings. Let people draw their own conclusions from discussions. We are all creations of the same God and we are all treading the path of recognizing and obeying the same Lord. We are all responsible for our own actions; nobody is responsible for anybody else, other than the responsibility of informing them of his beliefs. You Muslims want all human beings to be kind to each other and so do Baha’is.
Let us listen to a beautifully written poem by Fraidoon Moshiri:
- We who wanted all creation
- To be companions of each other for eternity.
- We who wanted good deeds and compassion —
- Join together and rule the world!
- See how ill-fated we were throughout our lives;
- We did not show empathy to each other.
- Oh thou, who happen to live under this sky after us,
- If you witness a time when humanity
- Attains harmony and friendship –At that time, exonerate us and remember us!
- Remember the disappointed ones, Who departed hoping for such a world …
[The above essay was published in Persian on May 6, 2009, at: http://www.negah30.info/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1054&Itemid=24. Translation by Iran Press Watch.]