Editor’s Note: Below is a summary of an interview with Mr. Vahed Kholusi, conducted by Talatum Information Dissemination Centre, in a translation by Iran Press Watch. Mr. Vahed Kholousi is an Iranian Baha’i student deprived of obtaining higher education by the Islamic Republic of Iran, because of his belief in the Baha’i Faith. The Islamic regime, established over 30 years ago, ordered the expulsion of all Baha’i students from universities and all other institutions of higher education. Occasionally, a few Baha’is have been allowed entrance; however, they have subsequently been expelled without any reason given. In this interview Vahed was asked about his perception of the principals of the Baha’i Faith and the present situation in Iran.
Q: Before proceeding with the interview, please tell us a little about yourself.
A: I am a Baha’i student who has been deprived of access to higher education. I would like to elaborate that my responses to your questions are only my personal views and perceptions of the Baha’i teachings. I am by no means representing the Baha’i world community or any particular group of Baha’is.
Q: Considering the present atmosphere of Iran and the complicated issues with respect to the struggles for upholding the rights of different ethnic groups in Iran (Kurds, Baluch, Azaris, etc.), what solution can the Baha’i Faith offer? Does the Baha’i Faith believe in equal rights for diverse races and ethnic groups?
A: The Unity of Mankind is one of the most fundamental principles of the Baha’i Faith; it transcends the rights of individual religions, tribes, ethnic groups and other divisive manmade boundaries within geographical borders. The Unity of Mankind creates and brings about friendship, cooperation and association among all the peoples of the world. The Unity of Mankind guarantees a world free from war, a world where permanent peace can be established among all the nations and governments of the earth. The principal impediment to unity is prejudice, whose footsteps are noticeable in all aspects of the lives of today’s generations. In the Baha’i Faith, prejudice is considered to be the cause of the obliteration of the foundation of humanity. With the elimination of gender, religious, political, economical, national, tribal, cultural and all other types of prejudice, humanity will step into a new world where the whole earth is considered to be one homeland and all its people to be residents of the same country. Building such a world might seem impossible at first, but considering the gradual growth and development that humanity has achieved throughout the ages, we can conclude that we have reached such a stage of maturity that approaching a united world is attainable. In fact, the world will witness a gradual movement towards the Unity of Mankind over time, and no power on earth will be able to prevent it.
In reality, discrimination against any minority is an impediment that delays the establishment of the Unity of Mankind, the perpetrators of which bring shame upon themselves in the recorded pages of history and in the eyes of future generations.
Universal peace can be established when destructive and irrational prejudices eventually give way to the thought of the Unity of Mankind in the hearts of all the citizens of the world. Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, conveyed this message of the Unity of Mankind over 150 years ago. Many took his teachings to heart. Baha’i communities around the world are testimonies of how people of varied tribal, racial and ethnical origins can live together in peace and harmony. All religions, in their own way, have helped humanity move forward in the path of unity. In the current era, the Unity of Mankind is within reach. This unity is unity in diversity. In an orchestra, the harmonies of the tunes of various musical instruments together create a beautiful masterpiece. In the same way, the diversity of human beings will generate beauty, harmony, love and unity among nations.
Q: We live in the 21st century; in an era of widespread democratization, in which, under the influence of “The Third Wave” (The Information Age), the world is moving towards a civilization that accepts the pluralism of society. What path can the Baha’i Faith tread with respect to this new world culture and pluralism?
A: A new mindset and culture has emerged across the globe, because of centuries of suffering and tribulation from which no country has been spared. These roots have generated enlightened thoughts, which are a sign of humanity’s yearning for a new world order. I believe the path that the Baha’i Faith treads is a dual transformation that will happen simultaneously, both in the consciousness of human beings as well as in the world’s social structures. This path will offer freedom from the extremes of Socialism and Humanism (focusing on selfish interests), and will produce an equilibrium that will exalt the station of individuals and thus of society. The Baha’i Faith emphasizes the freedom to believe in one’s own convictions, as long as one’s liberty is not a cause of distress to another. The obstruction of anyone’s rights is contrary to the principal of the Unity of Mankind. It is impossible to build a united world while clinging to old ideas shrouded in superstitions and rituals or merely based upon materialistic foundations. Building a new civilization requires a new perspective on our behalf; it demands an understanding of the true meanings of concepts promoted by the Baha’i Faith, such as Justice, Consultation, the Harmony of Science and Religion, the Equality of Men and Women, the development of a Universal Auxiliary Language, the Elimination of Prejudice of All Kinds, Universal Compulsory Education and the Elimination of Extremes of Wealth and Poverty, to name but a few.
Certainly new initiatives and approaches will emerge by individuals and groups in resolving the problems that encompass humanity, all of which require further investigation and immersion in the Baha’i writings.
Q: As we flip though the pages of history, we observe that the followers of the Baha’i Faith have been subjected to limitations and harassment. We witness that the Islamic regime, especially within the past few years since the establishment of the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has allowed these atrocities to gain momentum. What is the reason for the limitations and accusations imposed on the followers of this faith?
A: The restrictions and accusations started in the 19th century from the inception of the Faith. At the time, our ancestors took the message of Baha’u’llah to heart and partook in the sufferings inflicted on their beloved messenger of God; the herald of a new civilization and a new culture in the world of humanity.
It can be said with certainty that from the beginning of the Faith to this date, no Baha’i family in Iran has been spared from harassment and atrocities. Baha’is in their homeland have been subjected to slander, attacks, belittlement and insults. They have sacrificed their comfort, social status, belongings and sometimes even their lives. By labeling Baha’is as untouchables and spies, and by giving no opportunity to them to defend themselves, the Muslim rulers and clergy have created an environment in which the population living alongside the Baha’is have essentially abstained from approaching them in order to gain any familiarity with Baha’i beliefs and views. Consequently there has been little dialog between the Baha’is and their surrounding communities. However, fortunately, in the past few years the gap has been reduced due to noticeable cultural changes in the Iranian community. The nation has learned to look at Baha’is with the same eyes as any other member of society, and at least to express their empathy and sorrow for the atrocities that have been inflicted on the Baha’is.
The main reason for opposing the Baha’i Faith is the fact that its founder promoted a message of equality, human rights and social justice among the world of humanity, at a time when the opponents of the faith were frightened that they would not be able to maintain respect for themselves and their mundane ideas within their society. Fear of losing their position has been the cause of continuous harassment of Baha’is. What God has ordained for the maturity and expansion of the capabilities of the followers of the Baha’i Faith, though met with affliction, is the building of a community destined to fulfill the establishment of the magnificent goal of the Unity of Mankind. This is why Baha’is prefer death to denouncing their convictions.
Even though Baha’is have been deprived of freedom, they are on the verge of claiming their rightful spot as honorable citizens of the Iranian community, and will succeed in providing their service for the glorification of their sacred land.
Q: Considering Iran’s atmosphere after the election of the 10th government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, what is your opinion about the future of the regime, and what are the views of your faith regarding the recent unrest in Iran?
A: Certainly recent events in Iran have caused me distress and sadness. I must emphasize my disassociation from any political tendencies whatsoever. My concern is that the lives and security of young Iranians, hoping for the blossoming of their vast capabilities and hidden potentials, have been endangered. Baha’is, due to their religious beliefs, strongly refrain from any involvement in partisan politics. It is the belief of the Baha’i Faith that the creation of a moral and ethical world is possible by spiritual means, and not by a material or political approach. Participation in partisan politics is contrary to the spirit of the Unity of Mankind, which is the main aspiration of the Baha’i Faith.
Q: There are many questions to be asked with respect to the views of the Baha’i Faith and its call for unity; however time is limited – before ending the interview, I request that you state what you see to be necessary, as your concluding remarks.
A: The Baha’i Faith is a religion with the potential to encompass the world. The Baha’i Faith offers ways and means for the establishment of World Peace and the Unity of Mankind. All that has been mentioned in this interview is just a brief overview of the principles of the faith. What is of the utmost importance is to instill the glorious idea of unity in the hearts of men, and to encourage commitment in working towards it. If this commitment remains at the level of ideas and partial activities, its result will be limited and transitory. Lasting commitment to work towards unity will be attained through profound beliefs and convictions.
What the Baha’i Faith is offering is not a collection of dry superficial ideas and discriminatory demeanors; it offers wide perspectives and important principles. The teachings of the Baha’i Faith present sublime ideas and a spirituality that will ensure the permanent glory of the human world.
What is expected of a living and life-giving religion is for it to be sensible and rational, and yet to instill compassion and consideration in people. The Baha’i Faith encourages the independent investigation of truth. It is the responsibility of all individuals to autonomously search for truth while freeing themselves from prejudice and refraining from imitation and attachment to any pre-conceived notions. Humanity has reached a state of growth that is capable of reaching the truth by thinking and investigating independently.
 The Third Wave is a book published in 1980 by Alvin Toffler. Toffler’s book describes the transition in developed countries from Industrial Age society, which he calls the “Second Wave” to the Information Age, “Third Wave” society. See, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Third_Wave