The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience

From: Juan Cole <>
To: Burl Barer <>
Cc: <>
Subject: Re: 4 year plan
Date: Tuesday, June 23, 1998 12:52 PM

Dear Burl:
Here are some instances of individual initiative in the Baha'i community:
1) In the early 1970s young Baha'is showed initiative in opening up South
Carolina to mass teaching, with enormous success.  As a result, Firuz
Kazemzadeh and others on the NSA closed down the mass enrollment process,
diverted funds away from teaching, and ordered the successful teachers out
of the area, thus stopping the entry by troops there.
2) In the late 1970s young individuals in the United Kingdom showed
individual initiative in beginning academic conferences on Baha'i studies.
They were slapped down with nasty letters from Haifa and the person with
the most initiative, Denis MacEoin, was driven out of the faith by AQ
Fayzi, David Hoffman, Ian Semple, and others.
3)  In the late 1970s young intellectuals in the Los Angeles area showed
individual initiative in setting up a study class for Baha'i studies.
Local Baha'is declared them outside the covenant because the meetings
weren't sponsored by any Baha'i institution.  When other individuals showed
initiative in asking for typescripts of the discussions, they showed the
initiative of putting out a newsletter.  They were slapped down by nasty
letters from Wilmette, and ordered to submit the newsletter for official
Baha'i censorship.  Gradually the class petered out.
4) In the mid 1980s young intellectuals in the Los Angeles area showed
initiative in beginning *Dialogue* magazine.  They were immediately
informed through intermediaries that people like Ian Semple felt they had
showed *way* too much initiative, and they were ordered by Wilmette and
Haifa to take the word 'Baha'i' out of their title and subtitle.  After the
magazine had run for a couple of years, with the editors submitting the
articles for censorship, the editors were attacked on false charges by
Firuz Kazemzadeh at National Convention in 1988, their personal letters
were read out by him on the convention floor, and the NSA interrogated the
editors in an attempt to intimidate them, which succeeded, and the magazine
5)  In the late 1980s and early 1990s John Walbridge and Moojan Momen
showed initiative in beginning and editing the Baha'i Encyclopedia.  After
Farzam Arbab was elected to the universal house of justice in 1993, he
stopped this project in its tracks, had nasty letters written to everyone
involved in it, and insisted it be redone along fundamentalist lines.
6) In 1994 John Walbridge showed individual initiative by beginning a
listserv for Baha'i studies, .  After a couple of
years he and several other prominent academic posters there were accused by
the Baha'i authorities in Haifa of 'making statements contrary to the
covenant' and threatened with being shunned if they did not fall silent.
The listserv was disbanded and those accused either fell silent or left the
7) In the mid-1990s Said Khadivian showed initiative in trying to get mass
teaching off the ground in Houston.  When some success began to be
realized, Henderson insisted in coming in and taking over the project,
which then collapsed, and Khadivian was ordered back to Taiwan.
I take away from all this the distinct impression that the praise of
individual initiative by the institutions and persons you list is an
instance of 'words, not deeds,' and, indeed, a smokescreen for the severe
disapproval in which individual initiative is in fact held by the entire
Baha'i administrative apparatus, which is far more interested in
maintaining *control* than in expansion, either of numbers or of Baha'i
When they match their words about individual initiative with deeds, then
the Baha'i authorities will have some hope of growing the faith, in
quantity and quality.  At the moment it is stalled in the West, and the
blame rests squarely on the shoulders of the nsa and the universal house of
cheers    Juan