The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience


From: Juan Cole <>
To: Burl Barer <>
Cc: <>
Subject: Re: driving Ms Scholars
Date: Wednesday, June 24, 1998 1:25 PM

Dear Burl:

I have great respect for Peter Khan.  However, the Sept. 1995 talk he gave
in Wilmette did enormous damage to the Cause of Baha'u'llah.  By
insinuating that the prominent academics on Talisman were "insidious
lukewarm intellectuals" comparable to the German Baha'is who stuck to
`Abdul-Baha's policies and rejected Shoghi Effendi's authority, he gave a
"green light" to hardliners in Wilmette who wanted to move against Talisman
1.  Very soon after that talk, Robert Henderson initiated the process that
ended in David Langness's administrative rights being removed, simply
because Henderson's version of the *Dialogue* events differed from David's.
 When you get to the point where posting an email with an alternative (even
if inaccurate) view on history is a sanctionable offense in Baha'i law, you
have arrived at a very weird, surreal, and authoritarian place.

I also fear that positioning the counselors as the happy mean between the
over-critical, destructive academics and the overly rigid traditionalists
just won't work (except perhaps with regard to Khan himself; I don't know).
 Denis MacEoin wasn't doing anything destructive in his studies of the Babi
era, and he certainly wasn't doing anything that would have caused him to
be forced out of normal religions.  Nobody at all was doing anything
destructive on Talisman I; it was just an email discussion list, for God's
sake.  And, alas, my experience with the counselors leads me to suspect
that the gap between most of them and the overly rigid traditionalists has
somehow been miraculously erased.

Also, while I agree that it is highly regrettable that the best Baha'i
historians of this generation have for the most part been either silenced
or driven out of the religion, I am confused as to why anyone would think
that "regrettable" but continue to endorse the methods of behind the scenes
bullying and false and outrageous charges of covenant breaking that
resulted in their departure.  I would also note that the general reaction
of the Baha'i authorities to these departures has been one of
self-congratulation and gloating rather than regret.

As for my respect for Burl, it is quite simple.  I have enormous admiration
for *anyone* who can publish any kind of fiction with a respectable
publisher.  No one who hasn't tried has *any idea* how difficult this is,
and what sort of special intelligence is involved.  I admire Denis MacEoin
in this regard as well.

cheers   Juan