The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience

From: Juan Cole <>
To: Dean Betts <>
Cc: <>
Subject: Re: Kalimat Press
Date: Monday, May 11, 1998 1:10 PM
I'm not sure which list the inquiry about my book being 'reviewed' came
from, and hope Dean will be willing to forward this reply to Ed Price and
others with this question.
The official position of the Baha'i institutions as I understand it is that
articles and books not written by members of the Baha'i faith are not
required to be refereed, and Baha'is are free to read such materials as
they wish.  For instance, any Baha'i may read Edward Granville Browne's
works on the Babi and Baha'i religions.  Likewise, when questions were
raised about whether the Baha'i Distribution Service could legitimately
carry Abbas Amanat's *Resurrection and Renewal* about the Babi period, the
UHJ replied that since Professor Amanat is not a Baha'i, the book could be
distributed at will.  This came up at a meeting in London a year or so ago
in which Baha'is asked UHJ member Ian Semple if it was alright to read Juan
Cole's translations of the Baha'i scripture, and Semple said it was, and
that there had always been provisional translations. 
For those with an open mind, the very fact that my book was *not* produced
under conditions of  ecclesiastical control, but is rather an honest piece
of spiritual and academic free inquiry, will recommend it.
For other Baha'is, I think the decision about whether to read the book must
be very complicated.  They must take into account that it is written by
someone who was a Baha'i for nearly a quarter of a century, who pioneered
in Beirut during the civil war and who while pioneering in India fell ill
for months, who served on LSAs and national committees (abroad), and did
extensive travel teaching, who defended the Iranian Baha'is in journals of
record such as History Today and the Encyclopedia Iranica; but who was in
1996 accused by the Counselors of the International Teaching Center, at the
instigation of Douglas Martin, Ian Semple and Farzam Arbab of the UHJ, of
'making statements contrary to the covenant' on in
1994-1996; and who had his faith in Baha'u'llah's religion shattered by
these false and outrageous accusations coming from persons supposed to be
trustees of Baha'u'llah's own message of universal love and tolerance.  I
think they should all know these things about the author, and should make
their individual decisions about whether in consequence this is a book they
wish to read.
As for me, I really don't care one way or another.  I didn't write the book
for a readership.  I wrote it for the sake of the truth, and for
Baha'u'llah, that Great Soul.  I am quite sure He is pleased with it.  And
I will go to my grave with that certainty and that is all that matters to me.
Juan Cole
Department of History
University of Michigan