The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience


From: "Nima Hazini" <>
Subject: Refutation of Peter Khan
Date: Monday, June 18, 2001 1:45 AM

From:  Juan Cole <>
Date:  Mon Jun 18, 2001  12:48 pm
Subject:  Refutation of Peter Khan

My refutation of Peter Khan's June, 2000, talk in New Zealand may be found

Both it and the orginal talk are at: 

I enclose the text below:

Reply of Juan Cole to Peter Khan Talk in New Zealand of June, 2000.

Dear friends:

I have been listening to Peter Khan speak since the early 1970s, when he was

teaching electrical engineering at the University of Michigan and I was an
undergraduate at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. Khan's family
was originally from Pakistan, where they had been Punjabi Sunni Muslims,
but they emigrated to Australia and converted there to the Baha'i faith.
Khan was brought up as a moderate fundamentalist, suspicious of liberal
arts scholarship but nevertheless committed to education and to the sorts
of science (e.g. engineering) that would not disturb his scriptural
literalism. Those who knew him in Australia remember him as a fierce
anti-communist cold warrior, a man of the political Right.

I remember him from thirty years ago as among the more level-headed Baha'i
speakers then on the circuit. He often attacked popular Baha'i folk beliefs
such as the idea that each soul had another soul predestined for it in
marriage, which he said he could find no authenticated text from
`Abdul-Baha about. I met him at a conference on human rights sponsored by
the State Department in the mid-1980s, where I was part of the Baha'i
delegation. He was then a counselor at the International Teaching Center,
and on the cusp of being elected to the Universal House of Justice. By that
time he seemed colder, more haughty, less level-headed than the man I had
heard speak a decade and a half earlier. After his election, I attempted to
correspond with him, and especially pressed on him the urgent need to
abolish "Literature Review," the system of prepublication censorship
imposed on all Baha'is by his institution. He wrote genial but unresponsive
replies, and the correspondence lapsed.

Then when the email discussion group was founded in
the mid-1990s, Khan came to the U.S. in 1995 and gave a number of talks. I
heard him in Ann Arbor in September of 1995. Khan has perfected a personal
style of address that allows him to telegraph to other fundamentalists in
the community that he is one of them, while not appearing to attack the
liberals. This stealth fundamentalism, which resembles American President
George W. Bush's "compassionate conservatism," is an attempt to muddy the
waters, to promote a far rightwing agenda while not enraging the majority
of persons who would oppose it if they understood what was being advocated.
I remember in Ann Arbor how he criticized the U.S. retail chain Walmart for
refusing to carry a t-shirt emblazoned with a plea for a woman to be
elected president of the U.S. Baha'is, he said, would support a woman for
president. This tack appears to have been his way of papering over the fact
that the Universal House of Justice on which he serves is all-male, and, as
a Pakistani-Australian brought up in a highly patriarchal family, that he
is among those most dedicated to keeping it that way. At one point Khan
spoke of the fall of communism, and he almost spat the word "communist."
His nose flared, his eyes blazed. Then he spoke of the likely criticisms
"Western liberals" would make of Baha'u'llah's Most Holy Book. And, he
almost spat the word "liberals." His nose flared, his eyes blazed. If you
hate both communists and liberals, I'm not sure who is left to admire but

The talk he gave in Wilmette in September of 1995 was much more hardline.
He appears in some large part to have intended it as an attack on the
talisman discussion group, without coming out and saying so. This was
certainly the way the talk was perceived by members of the U.S. National
Spiritual Assembly. Friends of mine with contacts in Wilmette said it was
seen as a "green light" to try to crack down on the free discussions on
talisman and to attack its more prominent posters. It was in the wake of
Khan's visit that David Langness began being threatened with removal of his
administrative rights, apparently for disagreeing with Bob Henderson about
what had happened during the NSA's crackdown on dialogue magazine.

Gradually it has become apparent that Khan has for some time been a secret
hardline fundamentalist, and that he has used his influence in the
counselor corps and now on the Universal House of Justice to push the
Baha'i faith in a strongly fundamentalist direction. He appears to think
that it should adopt all the same main positions as the literalist Sunni
Islam that is his family's background. The problem of undeepened Baha'is
from Muslim societies trying to import into the Faith of Baha'u'llah the
literalism and rigidity of their upbringing is a huge challenge, especially
given how centralized the institutions of the faith are and how just a
handful of fundamentalist Baha'is can push the whole organization in an
unsavory direction completely at odds with Baha'u'llah's writings. Indeed,
Khan has begun saying that Baha'u'llah's principles are not very important,
that what is significant about the faith is its administration. This is a
sort of administration-worship, adminolatry. He talks about loving
committees! It is a frightening heresy, to put aside Baha'u'llah's
teachings for the sake of the prerogatives of counselors (never mentioned
by Baha'u'llah!) and UHJ members.

In this talk of June, 2000, Khan delivered some fluff about five
"developments" during the completion of the "Four Year Plan." These
Communist-style "plans" have been a feature of our religion for decades
now, and it is time they were done away with. In actual fact, between 1987
and 1997 the Baha'i faith was completely stagnant around the world with
regard to numerical growth. In that decade about 400,000 new Baha'is came
in around the world (only 40,000 a year globally!) and these converts were
offset by withdrawals and deaths. There is no reason to think that this
stagnation ceased in 1997. In the U.S., as well, there hasn't been real
growth for a long time. The plans have accomplished nothing recently except
to make the Faith more regimented and cult-like, and if anything they are
probably driving away potential converts.

So, Khan droned on about his five points. First, the faith has spread
around the world. But this is not new with the Khan Administration. The
Faith had spread to many parts of the world already in the 19th century.
There have not been any really significant numbers of conversions anyplace
in the world for a decade and a half (the rumors about Albania were vastly
exaggerated). So, this is just to make people feel good. We have
coreligionists in Mozambique. (How many? 50? 100?). My question would be,
what are we doing for them? Or for Mozambique in general? My guess is,
almost nothing. And, this talk of a "rise" in the "receptivity to the
Faith" and the US telephone campaign is just cheerleading. There is no
practical evidence of such a "rise." If anything, the hardline
persecutorial actions of Khan and his cronies toward Baha'i intellectuals
and moderates in the past decade have alerted thinking people in the West
to some very serious human rights abuses within the Baha'i religion, as can
be seen on discussion groups on the internet.

Then he talked about the "completion" of the "Mount Carmel projects." Well,
no doubt this was a big accomplishment for a small religious community
(there are probably only really about 1.5 or 2 million of us, folks). That
is, to be able to spend some $300 million over 15 years on major building
projects is remarkable. Of course, a lot of the money came from Gulf Baha'i
billionaires. But there was lots of individual sacrifice, too. I can't,
however, for the life of me understand what this "accomplishment" has to do
with the Baha'i principles. How have we helped humankind by building these
terraces? How is anyone's life better? What have we done in the meantime
for the poor, the homeless, the persecuted? The national budget of the US
community in the 1990s was only about $20 million a year on the average.
The Universal House of Justice took an average of $6 million a year from
that. It impoverished the US community. It funneled enormous amounts of
money to these projects. Local communities were left strapped. And, when
one local community expressed its aspiration to build a local
Mashriqu'l-Adhkar (house of worship), the UHJ sent agents out to bully
these devoted Baha'is and make it clear to them that such a step (which
would after all interfere with building terraces in Haifa) was out of the
question and they should shut up and sit down, Or Else. Yet `Abdul-Baha
commanded the building of local houses of worship, which he said was an
urgent goal. And, the problem is that the "projects" are hardly completed.
These Baha'i officials in Haifa have thought up loads of building projects.
They want to go on spending $20-$30 million a year of our money on these
white elephants for the next few centuries. In the meantime, local
communities have to sit on the floor of someone's apartment during Feast
and the Faith spends almost none of its own money on charity or
development. We don't help anyone. We build large buildings and do
landscaping. This was the purpose of Baha'u'llah's suffering 40 years in

Khan then talks about the Faith "triumphing" in Iran over "severe
persecution." I am

unable, as one who follows these matters rather closely, to see any
improvement whatsoever in the past four or five years in the situation of
the Iranian Baha'is. Moreover, any change that has occurred has not been
because of anything Peter Khan did! Frankly, I don't know what he is on
about. There is enormous work to be done in emancipating them, and his glib
suggestion that the kind of persecution they face every day is just fine
now, and we don't have to worry about them any more is just

In fact, the last time the Iranian government tried to pull a mass arrest,
I started a massive internet petition drive on their behalf among
university people. This was enormously successful and spawned hundreds of
spin-off petitions. It was only adopted by the "Institutions" after some
waffling and hemming and hawing. And now, of course, people like Khan have
written those grassroots petition drives out of the story altogether.
Everything has to be about him.

 He says: "The Universal House of Justice is divinely guided, it is not
omniscient." It actually hasn't lately been acting like it is either one.
Indeed, I find the idea that any divine guidance comes anywhere near people
like Doug Martin and Peter Khan absolutely impossible to swallow. My
grandmother was more saintly than either of them.

His fourth point is that he and his colleagues have "succeeded in
accomplishing major change of tone and emphasis in the Baha'i community."
This is more Orwellian double-speak from a true master of the genre. What
he really means is that he and his cronies have been trying very hard to
push the Baha'i community in an ever more fundamentalist and even cult-like
direction. They want a community that goose-steps and shouts "Heil!" to
everything Khan and his associates ordain. Their emphasis on "training
institutes" refers to cult-like mind-control sessions that use constant
rote and repetition to dull the minds and indoctrinate them into unthinking
submission. Thinking people who have suffered through these religious
equivalents of Amway sessions complain bitterly about how mind-numbing and
senseless they are. They give no opportunity for serious, open
consultation. If 100,000 Baha'is were put through this hell over the past 4
years, no wonder the number of the glaze-eyed among them seems to have
increased. These sessions have nothing to do with real "knowledge of the
Faith." In fact, many of the serious scholars of the Faith have by now
either been bullied, intimidated, or chased out. "Knowledge of the Faith"
would threaten Khan's plan to put administration in the place of Baha'u'

Finally, he says that there has been an increase in respect for the Faith
in the wider society. I don't know how you would quantify such a thing.
Baha'is have their niche, and have had it for some time. Outsiders don't
know much about it. Mostly they are told about Baha'u'llah's wonderful
principles, without being told that Peter Khan thinks these are old hat and
that absolute unthinking obedience to him is what the Faith is really
about. I know that my own book, Modernity and the Millennium: The Genesis
of the Baha'i faith in the 19th Century Middle East (Columbia University
Press, 1998), has been read by thousands of academics, students, and
journalists in the past three years. They will have gained a positive
impression of the faith from it, despite the fact that Khan has acted
behind the scenes to ensure that it is not carried by Baha'i Publishing

Now in Part Two, Khan comes to the meat of his mission to New Zealand. He
says, "These three components are firstly, the development of the world
centre of the Faith, governed by the Tablet of Carmel of Baha'u'llah;
secondly, the development of the Administrative Order, governed by the Will
and Testament of Abdul-Baha; and thirdly, the spread of the Faith all over
the world, governed by the Tablets of the Divine Plan revealed by

 But in fact what he means is that the Universal House of Justice envisages
itself continuing to hog the lion's share of the Baha'is' material
resources for the foreseeable future. "Development" of the world center
really just means more big buildings, more landscaping, more infallible
pronouncements that no one can contradict without facing ostracism. The
development of the "administrative order" means promoting the power of
counselors and ABMs to dictate policy to local assemblies and national
assemblies, turning the Faith into a centralized dictatorship instead of a
democratic, consultative community. It has nothing to do with `Abdul-Baha,
who bestowed no such primacy on anything called "counselors." And the
'spread of the faith all over the world' is not really the spread of the
Faith of Baha'u'llah in Khan's mind, but a spread of theocratic
dictatorship. He never mentions the main themes of Secret of Divine
Civilization or the Supplements to the Aqdas. Since the latter speak of the
need to cut down on fanaticism, Khan is poorly placed-being a fanatic of
the first water-to represent Baha'u'llah's desires here.

He then says that the Western Baha'i world's main need is "to develop a
heightened spiritual consciousness." What he really means by this spiritual
consciousness is that Baha'is should give more and more money to Khan and
his cronies so that they can build more and more buildings in Haifa, and
that Baha'is should proffer abject, unthinking, knee-jerk obedience to
whatever Khan and his 8 colleagues summarily decree. He means by "spiritual
consciousness" the transformation of people into glaze-eyed cultists
sacrificing their families' well-being and their own autonomous consciences
for the sake of Khan's particular values. Notice that he never mentions
anything about helping anyone in need, unlike `Abdul-Baha.

He says: "And if we don't do that, we will be swept away. And already we're
seeing signs of this. In your community you may be aware of the fact that
people are drifting away from the Faith. Why? Because they have neglected
that sense of heightened spiritual consciousness. They're becoming bitter,
they're becoming disillusioned, they're becoming frustrated, they're giving
up on the Baha'i community - not because there is anything wrong with the
Baha'i community or the Baha'i Faith, because they have failed in their
primary duty as Baha'is to develop this sense of heightened spiritual
consciousness. We will be swept away with them also over the years to come
unless we make this our highest priority."

This is among the most flagrant exercises in blaming the victims in Baha'i
history. What Khan is referring to, without being brave enough to come out
and say it, is that he and his colleagues summarily declared Alison
Marshall of the Dunedin, NZ community, to be "not a member of the Baha'i
community." They declared her an infidel, which in Islam is called a decree
of takfir. Such decrees
were forbidden in the Baha'i faith by `Abdul-Baha, but of course Khan
deeply dislikes `Abdul-Baha and everything he stood for, so this doesn't
matter to him. Alison Marshall was never contacted by any Baha'i
institution with any concerns about her email messages. She was
investigated behind the scenes but never contacted directly. She was never
warned, never cautioned. Her messages were to small, private email lists
with no-forwarding policies. So even the "evidence" of her objectionable
views could only have been obtained by Khan through spying, as with the
Stasi spies for the communist party in East Germany. And, her objectionable
views appear only to be that she thought women should be able to serve on
the House of Justice and that intellectuals have been badly treated. She
woke up one morning to find that Khan and his colleagues had decided she
didn't belong to her own religion, with never a by your leave. It is like
something out of Kafka. And, of course, the New Zealand Baha'is who knew
the particulars and had any backbone were outraged. This is the
"disillusion" Khan is speaking of. It is the disillusion of devoted Baha'is
who thought they were joining Baha'u'llah's religion of universal peace,
love and tolerance. They have suddenly found themselves in Khan's religion,
where Khan straps on his scimitar, binds up his pugri turban, and issues
the fatwa of being a despicable infidel against inoffensive New Zealand
business consultants. And, of course, if these New Zealand Baha'is object
to people's souls being toyed with, that means in Khan's view that they
aren't "spiritual" enough!

As for his condemnation of "materialism," this is pretty funny coming from
someone who has wheedled $300 million out of a small, poor community for
the construction of faux classical buildings to house his and others'
offices in Haifa. Couldn't he have done with a less ornate office? Who is
materialistic here?

Khan goes on to reveal his fundamentalist traditionalism when he says: "The
whole question of obedience to the laws of the Faith is far more than a
rational or a logical issue, it is a spiritual issue. If somebody wishes to
argue about the laws of the Faith, 'why, why do I have to follow this, why
not follow something else', we get nowhere, if there is not a spiritual

But Baha'u'llah forbade blind obedience (taqlid) in his religion. He wanted
people to consult (i.e. argue about) the meaning of the Baha'i faith,
including its laws. He commanded them to do so. Such consultation is the
cornerstone of the Baha'i faith. But Khan, with his Sunni Muslim
background, wants to make blind obedience to the dicta of the council of
jurisprudents (i.e. the House of Justice) the touchstone of "spirituality."
In other words, he wants to put blind obedience, which Baha'u'llah ordered
us to forsake, at the very center of Baha'i spiritual life. By no accident,
the blind obedience owed is to Khan and his 8 colleagues. How convenient.

He adds, "There is no way in the world in which you can sit down logically
and prove to somebody that this group of nine individuals who gather in the
holy land several times every week and deliberate and make their decisions,
that their decisions are divinely guided by the Bab and Baha'u'llah and are
free from error."

This is because their decisions are obviously not free from error. In fact,
their decisions since 1996 or so have frequently been inquisitorial,
fascistic and illogical. Moreover, dragging the poor Bab into it seems
awfully cruel. I have seen him in dreams, and he deeply disapproves of what
they did to Alison. Khan says that Baha'u'llah guaranteed the houses of
justice "divine guidance" but he did not do so in a blanket way.
Baha'u'llah says that they are centers of divine inspiration when they
engage in true consultation and strive to do what is best for their
constituents. Baha'u'llah says that no one but the Manifestation is
infallible. Khan then tells little anecdotes about the way he managed to
turn new Baha'is into glaze-eyed cultists ready to accept the infallibility
of X institution "because Baha'u'llah said so." Khan never actually quotes
Baha'u'llah because he knows he said no such thing.

Khan says of this attitude of blind obedience to infallible authority, "It
gives us also insight to Baha'i strategy. For example, consider the Baha'i
strategy to spend a vast sum of money on beautifying Mt Carmel at a time
when the world is crying out for hospitals, for schools, for more effective
means of agriculture, for scholarships for bright kids to get a good
education." He is practicing misdirection here. He admits that many in the
community are disturbed by this set of priorities. His answer? We just have
to blindly obey whatever Khan and 8 of his colleagues order us to do, or
else we aren't spiritual. Then he mumbles something about the fulfillment
of prophecies. But no prophecy requires the deliberate investment of $300
million. If it is a good prophecy it will take care of itself. And, our
children can have toys and shoes and not live in penury to fulfill it.

Now Khan lets his bombshell drop. He says, "One of the very pressing needs
in countries such as New Zealand is a big improvement in the moral
character of the Baha'i community. We need in New Zealand as well as other
countries - I'm not picking on this poor country more than anybody else -
but in this country as well as others, we need a far greater commitment
than we have at the present time, as far as I can see, to the moral life of
the Baha'i community - to the extent to which believers follow our moral
teachings, particularly our teachings on chastity and holiness; the extent
to which their sexual conduct conforms to the laws of the Faith; their
freedom from involvement in narcotics; from involvement in criminal
activity; to the observance of the rectitude of conduct. We need in this
country, as in others, a far greater commitment from the rank and file of
the Baha'i community to the pursuit of the moral, ethical teachings of the
Faith. If this does not occur, the community will disintegrate. Masses of
people will become inactive, or leave the Faith, or become sour on it. The
time is late. This should be given the highest priority in this community."

The 3,000 or so Baha'is in New Zealand are not in fact, of course,
sex-crazed drug addicts. Khan's audience was clearly shocked at what he
said to them. But what was apparently going on in the obscure cult-speak of
the Baha'i Right, was that he was blaming the whole community for producing
independent-minded Baha'is like Alison Marshall and many others. On the
theory that the best defense is a good offense, he is deflecting criticism
for the high-handed, arbitrary actions of himself and the other House
members against Alison by attacking the nice, perfectly law-abiding New
Zealand Baha'is as pot-smoking bohemian orgiasts. It is a basic principle
of the cultic manipulation of adherents' minds that you keep them off
balance, deprive them of self-esteem, make them guilty for no reason. That
way you can control them more easily. We are seeing this sort of cultism in
action in Khan's shameful and completely unjustified attack on the Kiwi

Then he tells some potted anecdote, the point of which is that in some
country a local spiritual assembly was lenient with a druggie Baha'i youth
and didn't sanction him, and this failure on their part almost led the
Faith to be embarrassed in the press, especially before the baleful eyes of
the Iranian Shi`ites. But the real point of the story was not to attack the
LSAs for being unduly lenient about drug use among their congregants. It
was to attack them for being too accepting of moderate and universalist
Baha'is who were not Khan's sort of hardline theocrat. He wanted to stiffen
the backbone of the LSAs in throwing out the independent-minded. That he
makes the justification for all this the angry gaze of the Iranian Shi`ites
is doubly ironic. Fascistic discourse often appeals to the notion of the
"nation" being humiliated before the gaze of outsiders, which justifies
training the young people to goose step and wear brown shirts.

Khan finally breaks down and at least hints at what he has been driving at
all along:

"The House of Justice has been appalled in recent weeks to receive
vitriolic, nasty, vicious letters from New Zealand Baha'is concerned about
actions the House of Justice took with regard to a believer from the South
Island. I'm sure you are aware of it. These letters are not many, there are
a few of them, but they're probably the worst letters I have ever seen
written to the House of Justice and they came from people who are part of
the New Zealand Baha'i community. That, if nothing more, is an indication
of the need for a far greater attention to this issue in this country as
well as in other countries. New Zealand surely doesn't want to go down in
Baha'i history as the community that has produced such nasty
correspondence. Correspondence of such a kind that I am embarrassed to have
my secretary see it because of the kind of language that it uses. Anyhow,
be that as it may, it's their spiritual problem and they will deal with
Baha'u'llah as they wish."

In other words, Khan is outraged that some Baha'is in New Zealand (and,
actually, some non-Baha'i friends of the Faith) dared protest the
arbitrary, summary expulsion of Alison Marshall to the House of Justice.
The letters of protest I have seen were not the sort of poison pen letters
Khan describes them as. They were polite but firm, and were unyielding that
this sort of action is unacceptable to civilized people. Khan wants a
community of yes-men, so of course any letter of protest would seem to him
"vile." Dictators never like being called on the mat for their tyranny. The
irony is that news of what they did to Alison hadn't in fact penetrated a
lot of the New Zealand community, and in the videotape the audience is
clearly puzzled and dismayed at Khan's words. They have no idea what they
have done wrong or why he is ragging at them like this.

Khan goes on ranting, "But the point is that here it is an indication that
something is fundamentally wrong with the Baha'i community in this country
in terms of its depth of understanding of the covenant and the authority of
the institutions of the Faith. What you take as normal is not normal, but

Of course, all cultists would say the same thing. Jim Jones wanted his
People's Temple followers to believe that drinking poison cool-aid, which
they quite reasonably thought was not normal, was in fact normal. While
Khan is only advocating that we surrender our independent moral judgment to
him, rather than urging mass suicide, the former is the prerequisite for
the latter. That is, once any community is taken over by glaze-eyed
cultists and deprived of their individual moral compass, it becomes easier
and easier for some tragedy of the People's Temple sort to occur.

Khan says, "What is normal is to have in a Baha'i community a number of
Baha'is who are very knowledgable about the covenant who can share their
insights with others so that the entire community has a good knowledge of
the covenant and follows it."

In other words, what is "normal" is to have a permanent Spanish
Inquisition, in which the Baha'is who are "knowledgeable" about the
"covenant" constantly spy on, inform on and bully the community into abject
surrender of any hint of independent thinking.

He goes on, "And if that is not done, then what I foresee in the future in
New Zealand is more of the same - more vitriol, more foulness, more people
rebelling against that crowd of kill-joys in Haifa who call themselves the
Universal House of Justice and what do they know and this kind of stuff."

In other words, Khan considers that crowd in Haifa who call themselves the
UHJ to be omniscient (contrary to what he says above). They always know
about any "stuff" they choose to take up. Why, they are Oxford dons when
they write history, and they are Cardinal Ratzinger when they promulgate
doctrine, and they are Ayatollah Khomeini when they lay down the law and
declare Baha'is to be infidels. If anyone ever utters so much of a peep in
contradiction of some silly thing they have done or said (and by now the
list is a long one), then that is "vitriol" and spiritually dangerous,
little short of murder on the scale of sins.

Khan says, "Finally, let me mention, associated with this, a need for a
vastly greater study of the writings of Shoghi Effendi. People read
Gleanings, people read the Kitab-i-Aqdas, they read the Hidden Words, they
read Some Answered Questions, they read Seven Valleys and so on and so
forth. What is not being studied well enough, not nearly well enough, not a
quarter well enough, are the writings of Shoghi Effendi."

Funny, I remember `Abdul-Baha ordering us to read Baha'u'llah's
Supplements to the Most Holy Book before all else. How remarkable, to find
Khan discouraging Baha'is from reading Baha'u'llah. What am I missing here?
Aren't we Baha'is? But perhaps Khan is not a Baha'i, in the sense of a
follower of Baha'u'llah. Shoghi Effendi spoke of the dangers he saw in a
group of Baha'is he called "the extreme orthodox." It seems to me that in
this talk, Khan has given every evidence of being one of those "extreme
orthodox." Indeed, much to Shoghi Effendi's dismay, this group has now
taken over the religion and is perverting it to the extent that people are
being discouraged from reading Baha'u'llah's works!

On the belief of Baha'i cultists that the world was going to end or eternal
peace come or something in the year 2000, Khan quotes a questioner as
saying: "Related to that is the question: "I'm still waiting for the unseen
calamity by the end of the 20th century. Are we still getting it?"

He replies, "I've got news for you folks, you've got it. This stuff going
on in New Zealand at the present time, if this is not a calamity, what is?
Would you rather lose your spiritual life and your spiritual condition and
go through all eternity spiritually crippled by this? Is that worse or
better than the physical calamity of having your house blown up or having a
war occur or something like that? Our values are spiritual. The things we
value most are spiritual things. We are facing spiritual tests and a
spiritual calamity is before us. And one of the things I wanted to do this
morning is to alert you to my understanding that the Baha'is in New Zealand
are facing the very real prospect of a spiritual calamity unless urgent and
immediate measures are taken."

In other words, Khan is reinterpreting the Calamity that Baha'is have been
waiting for (and which obviously hasn't come in the way the cultists
expected) as the tendency of New Zealand Baha'is actually to think for
themselves and not bow down in glaze-eyed uniformity before the infallible
pronouncements of Peter Khan. This is so extreme, so absurd, that it is
hard for me to believe that the audience didn't just walk out on him at
that point.

Khan continues answering questions. Someone asks him, "Why is it not
appropriate to exchange the word "he" or "she" when reading a healing
prayer for a woman?" He replies: " This is part of a much broader issue in
terms of gender neutral language and you find that what we're doing is,
rather than adjusting to the existing system, we want to move the goal
posts. What we want to do is to recover the original meaning of "he", which
is the meaning in the Oxford English Dictionary, where "he" is used as a
generic term applying to male as well as female. This will take probably
some generations to do, and in the interim it feels a little awkward to be
using "he" when referring to a woman, but one can condition oneself
psychologically to return to the original meaning of the word, where "he"
is used as a generic rather than a male term."

Not content to engineer everything else about our lives, Khan now intends
to retool the English language. The fundamentalist mind is astoni
shing to watch in action. Once a premise is perceived to be from God,
everything else has to be moved around to suit the premise. Moreover, what
Khan says here is grammatically absurd. "He" has never been used to refer
to a woman in English. What in the world is he talking about? This is the
mouthpiece of infallibility???

The next day Khan answers more questions. He says, "There are always
extremes in the Faith to be avoided. The other extreme is the witch hunt.
And there are some personalities that derive a great deal of satisfaction
from witch hunting, psychological satisfaction. There are people who like
to go around because it gives them a sense of superiority, who like to feel
that they're sort of holier than thou and they know what's going on, and
who will be very happily snooping in key holes unless we stop them. And
this is not so, this is not what the Baha'i Faith's about. It doesn't have
a CIA or a KGB or anything like that. It doesn't go around snooping on

Mark Twain said that there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. This
particular load of horse manure must be one stage beyond statistics. Khan
as a counselor ran odd people called auxiliary board members for
"protection" who of course are the KGB of the Baha'i faith. And of course
they snoop on Baha'is and conduct witch hunts against them. Alison Marshall
was the victim of one such witch hunt. I was. The Walbridges were. Denis
MacEoin was. There have been more witches burnt, metaphorically speaking,
by the Baha'i authorities in the past 20 years than in all of Salem's
history. This is typical of Khan's technique of misdirection, which is that
you admit the main critiques against yourself obliquely at the same time
that you deny their validity. The witch hunt Khan went to New Zealand to
prosecute can now be confidently characterized as "not a witch hunt,"
because Khan says we don't have those. George Orwell was an unimaginative
piker next to these people.

Khan says: "Next question concerns my reference to a situation that had
occurred in the South Island of New Zealand, which seemed to elicit some
rather um, some rather condemnatory responses to the House of Justice from
some friends down there. And the question points out that most people don't
know what the devil I'm talking about or what on earth I mention and why
don't I tell them, and obviously I'm not going to do anything like, the
laws of backbiting still apply to all of us."

This is further confirmation that while Khan thought he was coming down to
condemn Alison Marshall and put out any fires her summary takfir had
caused, his audience hadn't the slightest idea for the most part what he
was talking about. I find it extremely amusing that Khan says he doesn't
want to "backbite" Alison by actually mentioning her name. But he backbit
her relentlessly without naming her! And what is worse anyway, backbiting
someone or kicking them out of their spiritual community for no good reason?

He continues: "But there is nevertheless an important point to be made and
that is: the reason I raised it is that it relates to our approach to the
covenant. It relates to an extreme form of behaviour where a few
individuals felt they had the right to judge the House of Justice's actions
on the basis of an incorrect piece of information that they received from
heaven knows where."

I don't know what "incorrect" information he is referring to. The New
Zealand protest letters were complaining that Alison Marshall suddenly and
without warning was declared not a member of the Baha'i community, and that
such an action contravened not only civilized norms of governance but the
explicit procedures of Baha'i law. And, look at what he says: No one has
the right to judge the House of Justice's actions! They are above judgment,
above the law. They are a theocratic dictatorship before which the entire
world must bend the knee in clenched silence, no matter what acts of
tyranny they commit! What an awful world this man is trying to build, so
reminiscent of medieval theocracy and absolutism. It is everything that
Baha'u'llah stood against.

Khan ends on this note:

"Another intriguing form of questioning that's becoming more prevalent in
the present day concerns the word "infallible". And this is a very
interesting way to try and erode the authority of the House of Justice,
because "infallible" is a pretty bad word - you know, nobody likes to talk
about things that are infallible or individuals who claim infallibility,
it's sort of an unsavoury concept. So in that sense, one of the forms of
opposition at the moment that's being spread in a clandestine way, is to
say: well, the word is mistranslated, it really doesn't mean "infallible",
it means "immaculate" in terms of integrity, or sinlessness, or freedom
from moral stain or anything like that, and that somehow these folk in
Haifa have taken it to be "infallible" and they go around sort of parading
up and down the place saying that they're free from error in their
decisions. And the problem with that school of thought, whether you can
speak Arabic or Persian or Turkish or any language at all, the problem is
that Shoghi Effendi has, as authorised interpreter, used the word
infallible over and over again, explaining that he means this, even though
it doesn't mean that, and so on and so forth. So one then has to tackle
Shoghi Effendi, and that leads you then to have to tackle what Abdul-Baha
said about Shoghi Effendi and his authority as interpreter in the Will and
Testament, and then you have to deal with Abdul-Baha and so it goes on.
So, these are issues that I think we need at least a few friends, if not as
many as possible, in the community to be very clear on so they can be a
help and a guide to the other believers when these sorts of issues become
prevalent, because they become the basis for assertions attempting to erode
the authority of the House of Justice."

This argument is so ridiculous that I wonder if I need say anything about
it. First of all, the word ma`sum in Arabic does not mean "infallible" in
the Roman Catholic sense. It does mean protected from sin, among other
things. How Baha'u'llah and `Abdul-Baha used it in the original is not
irrelevant to understanding it. That Shoghi Effendi translated it
"infallible" does not tell us everything that the word means in the Baha'is
scriptures (but then, Khan has already announced himself opposed to reading
these). Basically, Khan is using the mere fact that Shoghi Effendi
translated the word in this way to impose his fundamentalism on our
understanding of it. And, any attempt to understand the concept from the
original sources is a form of "undermining" Peter Khan's authority. God
forbid. I wonder if the man knows Pakistani generals. They often think in
just exactly the same way.

Juan Cole
Department of History
University of Michigan


From: "Juan Cole" <>
Subject: Re: Refutation of Peter Khan
Date: Tuesday, June 19, 2001 2:39 AM

Dear Michael:

In answer to your questions:  Yes, this talk by Peter Khan was given
in June, 2000 in New Zealand.  It has taken this long for the Kiwi
Baha'is who had a tape of it to type it up and send it around.  The
talk is excruciatingly boring and it was a great sacrifice for anyone
to spend all that time on such a banal set of thoughts.  I am sorry
to inflict it further on you all.  I think I had a complete text in
May, but I am only now far enough into the summer and away from other
obligations to reply to it.

The New Zealand audience was clearly very puzzled by several of Khan's
tirades, since most of them were not wired and they hadn't heard about
the UHJ's declaration of Alison Marshall as an infidel.  I can't
imagine mainstream Baha'is walking out on a UHJ member (despite all
protestations to the contrary, we all know they have been made into
little gods).  But they just seemed confused by his ranting at them.

It is important to note that far rightwing fundamentalists like Peter
Khan would never have written these sorts of comments down.  When he
writes for an educated audience he is all sweetness and light and
concerned to attack fundamentalists even further Right than himself
in the community, so as to give a false impression of open-mindedness.
So, the advent of the Internet has been extremely important in outing
the more cult-like elements in the Baha'i administration, who typically
tried to keep their more outrageous comments only oral, so as to leave
paper trail in their subversion of true Baha'i ideals.

With regard to my statement that the "Baha'i World Center" intends to
go on spending hundreds of millions of dollars on monumental building
works in Haifa, this is admitted by Khan himself if you read between
the lines.  But it is anyway common knowledge among the cult network
in our religion.  After all, the shrine of Baha'u'llah has yet to be
built (I like the simple arrangement that now exists, but it will be
buried under faux classical kitsch), and the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar of Haifa
has yet to be built (the truly awful, ugly design of Mason Remey will
be used, apparently), and lots of other things remain to be done.  
I don't think the building works in Haifa are even mainly the point.  I
think they are being pursued precisely in order to keep local 
communities poor and without resources, the better to dominate them
from the Center.

I do not believe that the National Spiritual Assemblies or the
Universal House of Justice spend any significant amount of money
on charitable works that actually help people.  Some Australian
friends of mine told me that they were informed in the early 
1990s that 75% of the national budget in that country went to the
NSA and its members for their activities and perquisites.  They
said they were told by an NSA member not to reveal this to
other community members, because it might unnecessarily dishearten
them.  A staffer at the National Baha'i center in the US told me
in the early 1990s that our NSA maintains a slush fund of several
hundred thousand dollars for NSA members' perquisites, such as
air travel etc.  While the Baha'i administrations loudly trumpet
their "development" work, if you look carefully you will see that
it either uses other peoples's money or is insubstantial or
consists of Baha'i Sunday schools.  Our US NSA maintains an old
people's home, but runs it as a profit-making business and pays
US taxes on the profits.  I don't really think there is any
other religion, the national and international leaderships of which,
do less to help humankind than the Baha'i Faith.  It is quite
ironic and very disheartening.  Shoghi Effendi said that a charity
fund was essential to Local and National Assemblies, that it should
be among their main activities, and that it should be spent on
non-Baha'is as well as Baha'is.  I don't think such separate
charitable funds exist very frequently.

Michael, I think you can corroborate for me that
has always had a limited no-forwarding policy, and that in fact I
tossed Iskandar Hai off it in 1997 for violating it with regard to
a particular liberal Baha'i scholar of the time.  Therefore, it is
certainly true that "evidence" against Alison Marshall was gathered

The community in the midwest that wanted to build a local Baha'i
House of Worship had purchased the land and just wanted to put up
a sign saying that it was the site of a future local Mashriqu'l-
Adhkar.  Goons from the central Baha'i administration appeared, who
insisted they take back down the sign.  This, despite `Abdul-Baha's
strict and urgent instructions that local Houses of Worship be built
everywhere as soon as possible.

cheers    JuanFrom: "Juan Cole" <>
Subject: Re: Democratic Conservatism was Refutation of Peter Khan
Date: Tuesday, June 19, 2001 1:59 PM

Dear Michael:

When I said that if you condemn Liberalism *and* Communism then you are
left with only Fascism to admire, I was using "liberalism" (it should 
have been with a big "L") to refer to the democratic tradition generally.  
Of course, this sort of Millian Liberalism nowadays would encompass all 
the major positions in Canada and the US, whether they be W.-style 
conservatives or Teddy Kennedy-style "liberals" (with a small "l") or
Michael Harrington Social Democrats.  Peter Khan's public pronouncement 
prove him to be profoundly anti-Liberal in the sense that he rejects
democracy in any form.

I think the more cult-like elements of rightwing Baha'ism are basically
fascists in their political philosophy and outlook.  I don't mean
fascism as just an insult.  I mean it as a political philosophy, a la
Mussolini.  They believe that the organic unity of the community
outweighs individual rights.  They believe in patriarchy.  They hate
parliamentary governance, seeing it as factious, preferring a form
of central committee rule.  They hate free expression, believing
strongly in censorship.  As you say, their positions on these matters
are 180 degrees away from what Baha'u'llah taught.  But then, they
are not interested in Baha'u'llah, by their own admission.

cheers     Juan

bn872@FreeNet.Carleton.CA (Michael McKenny) wrote in message news:<9gl1n5$htt$>...
> Greetings, Nima and Juan.
>     Juan asks if you hate Communists and Liberals who is left to admire
> bur fascists. I certainly understand the context behind this rhetorical
> question, and I would like to take this opportunity to underline that
> what is reprehensible about the behaviour of the UHJ is that it is
> acting precisely as have acted those whom Baha'u'llah condemned and it
> is oppressing its own people not because it is neither communist, nor
> liberal, but because it is anti-democratic, because it violates the most
> essential Baha'i principles of freedom of thought and expression.
>     In this country there is an ongoing debate of considerable proportions
> among those of conservative viewpoints and one of the most heartening
> aspects of this debate is the extent to which the term and attitude of
> democratic conservatism is used and demonstrated. The guy who, in my
> opinion, is the most articulate talk show host in this city is a great
> example of this. He continually and sincerely invites the expression of
> all points of view, admits he is expressing his own opinion, which may
> not be correct and certainly isn't the only one and states his opposition
> only to the view that there is only one permissable opinion. 
>     It is, in my opinion, essential to stress this point in the Baha'i
> context. Holding conservative views and expressing them is perfectly
> legitimate and in accord with the universalist approach of Baha'u'llah.From: "Juan Cole" <>
Subject: Re: Refutation of Peter Khan
Date: Thursday, June 21, 2001 2:21 PM

Here's Juan being honest about what Shoghi Effendi's true priorities
Trying to blame him for the way the Baha'i faith has been turned into
an ATM for high Baha'i officials is despicable.  He cared about
people.  Actually helping people.  And he tried to put that goal at
center of Baha'i administration.  The money-grubbing officials like
Khan haven't even allowed such passages to be translated from Persian
and promulgated to the people to whom Shoghi Effendi addressed them!


 Translations of Shaykhi, Babi and Baha'i Texts, vol. 3, no. 2 (March,

Shoghi Effendi the Charity Fund

Translation and Commentary by Juan R. I. Cole,
History, University of Michigan

In a large manuscript in my possession that contains some of 
Shoghi Effendi's largely unpublished early letters to the local
assembly of Tehran and then the Iran national assembly, there is a
emphasis put on the establishment of local and national Charity 
Funds. Emphasis is too weak a word. He is quite insistent. Such funds 
must help the poor and needy among non-Baha'is (aghyar), and are 
"absolutely obligatory." Such charity work is identified with the 
meaning of the phrase, 'service to mankind.' The Charity Fund must be 
founded the moment a local assembly is. Administering this Fund and 
teaching the faith are mentioned as the two paramount duties of the
assembly. Until such funds are established, the 'most beloved of
will never show her face. They are "absolutely pivotal" and by them
the cause be promulgated. 

The emphasis found below on the LSA being in control of the funds and
decisions about disbursement being final come because this step was 
necessary to prevent corruption and also to prevent powerful local
from lobbying to have some "charity" thrown their way. In societies
Iran that consist far more of families than of individuals, any 
philanthropic or development effort is often stymied by the tendency
anyone who oversees money to feel he has to share it with his cousins.
Shoghi Effendi was attempting to instill Weberian bureaucratic
into this process and to fight such nepotism and corruption. 

I know that the Iranian Baha'i community did major philanthropy and
ran at
least one major hospital. So Shoghi Effendi's pronouncements were
seriously there. Although a few passages on helping the needy can be
in Shoghi Effendi, Baha'i Administration (Wilmette, Ill.: Baha&#8217;i
Publishing Trust, 1968 [1933]), they are not as explicit or emphatic
as these Persian passages are:

&#8220;A careful study of Bahá'u'lláh's's and `Abdu'l-Bahá's's Tablets
will reveal that other duties, no less vital to the interests of the
Cause, devolve upon the elected representatives of the friends in
every locality . . . They must do their utmost to extend at all times
the helping hand to the poor, the sick, the disabled, the orphan, the
widow, irrespective of color, caste and creed.&#8221; Baha&#8217;i
Administration, pp. 37-38.

Despite this fleeting mention, I am not aware that there has been any
similar strong
stress put on charity work in the U.S. administrative tradition. But I
wonder whether similar letters were sent to the U.S. NSA and never 
published. (Apparently the vast majority of Shoghi Effendi's letters
the US are still in the archives). 


Shoghi Effendi/LSA of Tehran, 19 December 1923 

"In addition, you must endeavor to found, ensure the continuation of,
widen the scope of a charitable fund (sandúq-i khayriyyih). It is 
necessary that such charities be founded in every spot. Both members
[of the
local assemblies] and non-members must, to the extent they are able, 
contribute to this charitable fund voluntarily rather than being
obliged to
do so. Whatever is contributed should be given into the care of the
assembly's treasurer, so that it may be disbursed as considered right
by the
members of the spiritual assembly, on philanthropic causes and
spreading the
cause of God. Helping the poor, needy, orphans, widows, aged and
among non-Baha'is is most necessary and absolutely obligatory. For by
means the most great reality of the teachings of the divine Cause,
which is
service to the world of humanity, shall be vindicated and made


Shoghi Effendi/National Spiritual Assembly of Iran, 1305 s./ August

With regard to helping the friends via the charity fund, it has
previously been clearly emphasized that as soon as a spiritual
assembly has been founded and formed, without the least delay a
Charity Fund must also be founded and announced. The members of the
assembly must at every moment, generally and in writing, call upon and
encourage the divine friends to contribute to it. Whatever sums are
collected for this charity fund must in their entirety be completely,
absolutely and forever under the administration of the members of the
spiritual assembly. No one has any right to intervene or interfere.
Whatever the members of the consultative assembly unanimously decide,
and whatever sum they dedicate to this purpose, must be disbursed by
the treasurer without anything being added or subtracted. If unanimity
of views cannot be achieved, whatever the majority decides must be
implemented. No one has the right, as an independent individual, to
intervene in the receipts of the spiritual assemblies. The assembly
must, after consultation, examination and investigation into the
requirements of the cause and the needs of individuals, and in
accordance with its own capabilities, apportion its resources. Thus
will the poor, the weak, and the needy from all classes receive help
as the days pass, and thus will both public benefits and the interests
of the cause also rapidly be realized.

In the same way, the formation, continuation and expansion of a
Charity Fund at the national level for Iran must be considered the
urgent of necessities, and as a basic issue has not till this moment
enabled in the way it must be. The divine friends and the handmaids of
All-Merciful throughout the nation of Iran must be guided with respect
this important matter. Aiding the national Charity Fund is even more 
important than donating to the local Charity Fund. For it is an
factor, or rather is absolutely pivotal for the progress, institutions
foundations of the Cause. It is better and more fitting that the 
generality of persons throughout Iran and the spiritual assemblies in 
Baha'i regions should jointly donate on a continual basis to the
Charity Fund. Thus will the means to promulgate this mighty Cause in
center and in all regions be brought together as is necessary and 
appropriate. The receipts of the national Charity Fund are in their 
entirety under the absolute authority and administration of the
members of
the National Spiritual Assembly. 


Shoghi Effendi/National Spiritual Assembly of Iran, 30 December 1926 

. . . They must respect, honor, praise, and follow those with special 
expertise in arts and technology, must respect and venerate those
knowledge and erudition, must stand for freedom of conscience, must
from criticizing or opposing the beliefs, rituals and practices of 
individuals and peoples and religions--these are binding and
obligations upon the trustees of the all-merciful, the representatives
of the
Baha'is, the members of the spiritual assemblies. Self-sacrificing
The most beloved of hopes will never show her face in these lands
charitable trusts are founded, their continuation is assured, and
their scope
widened, as mentioned and underlined before in the letters of this
Note how emphatic and explicit is the pen of the [Center of] the
Covenant in
this regard: 

"Charitable foundations are among the institutions of the Lord 
of humankind. For they raise orphans, provide comfort to the poor and
and indigent, educate children, and teach the cause of the
All-merciful. You
must give the charitable foundation the utmost attention, [in
addition], so
that teachers of the faith can be appointed and promulgate the word 
throughout all regions, reciting the verses and spreading fragrances
chanting the words. Every soul who contributes to a charitable
will be the recipient at all times of divine aid and confirmations,
such that
all his or her faults will be made into perfections, and it will
become a
cause for the eternal glory of such a soul. Beloved of God, this 
incontrovertible decree is incumbent upon you! . . ." 

By charitable foundation is meant the Charity Fund, which with the
passage of time, as it grows, will be overseen with great care and
trustworthiness by the members of the assembly, who will constitute as
its principal the contributions of the friends. All the proceeds and
benefits of this charitable foundation will be spent on the
advancement and progress of the Cause of God and on extending public
benefits.From: "Juan Cole" <>
Subject: Re: Refutation of Peter Khan
Date: Wednesday, June 20, 2001 2:03 PM

Dear Michael:

The policy on the old talisman list was "no informing."  This is what
I called a limited no-forwarding policy.  It is always unethical to
report to religious or governmental officials on the private discussions
of a small group of friends unless they are doing something illegal
(and even then each individual would have to consider what was at
stake ethically; I wouldn't turn people in for talking about pot use--
that would make you a narc).  That people who have been turned in
and who admit being upset by the experience should then turn around
and do it to others says everything about their character.

These fascist idiots who support the cultization of the Baha'i faith
are always talking about how it is a "private" organization and can
do as it pleases.  A community claiming millions to which a public
accommodation is made by dozens of governments is private.  But our
little email list wasn't private?  Give me a break.

The fact is that the more cult-like and dishonest segments of the
Baha'i community are as committed to informing on their neighbors
to the authorities as Ayatollah Khamenei's SAVAMA spies in Iran are.
Vigilante informing is a key element of fundamentalist religion.  It
is a very ugly practice, and those who engage in it make themselves
ugly in character.  They justifiy to themselves what they do by saying
that it is like a Mafia informer turning state's evidence.  But what
they omit to say is that the people they inform on are not criminals.
Rather, what they do is more like what Ezra Pound did for Mussolini.

Peter Khan, of course, got to be where he is by spying and running spies
within the Baha'i community, and he is deeply committed to this 
totalitarian ethos of panopticon.

cheers   JuanFrom: "Juan Cole" <>
Subject: Re: Why does everyone have to be so Goddamn mean?
Date: Thursday, June 21, 2001 7:55 PM

Dear Milissa:

Small tend to be characterized by a great deal of hostility and
aggression.  Freud speaks of this somewhere.  Most email 
discussion groups are about the size of a village.  Anyone who
has actually had anything to do with villages (not the romanticized
version of them but the real thing) knows that they are rife with
feuds, gossip, backbiting, and taunts.

These aggressive tendencies are reinforced by the internet.  After
if you go too far in a face to face encounter, you may get beat up.
And, the person you are talking to will begin to give off body
language so indicating.  But out here you can't see faces,
or the curling of a hand into a fist.  Nor is there much that anyone
could do to you apart from hacking your system, which bears risks. 
Even so,
I know there have been LSA meetings or even feasts broken up by
or the threat of them, certainly by peole exploding with bad language.
is in the real world where there are consequences.  Here there are
few consequences, usually.

Then, too, because of the anonymity, people will confess their true
on the internet in a way they would not at a Baha'i fireside.  A lot
the peace in the community is artificial, coming from everyone showing
by their body language that only superficial plattitudes and smiles
wanted, not real opinions about real issues.  Precisely because
fundamentalist Baha'is have used such techniques to gain a lock on
discourse inside the community, they are furious that the internet has
allowed other Baha'i opinions to be heard.  Since they cannot stop
this (though they initially tried), their only recourse is to attack
the authors of the unwelcome ideas if they want
to combat it (which they desperately do).  Fundamentalism is about
ignorant persons finding ways of gaining power over knowledgeable
ones.  It is not a nice process, either in goal or method.

Then, some people use the internet to blow off steam, launching jibes
and insults here that they would not typically use in ordinary
conversation.  Maybe it depresses you to see it; but maybe it is
cathartic for them.  How do we
weigh your discomfort against someone else's satisfaction?

Of course, reasoned and persuasive discourse is always preferable to
insult in the course of any discursive dispute.  It is more likely to
gain a hearing.  But sometimes people just want to shout ef you at
someone, not gain a hearing.

I am philosophical about it.  Anyway, TRB *is* nice compared to most
of the
Usenet.  Pat Kohli is very active here, and while I don't often agree
him, he is a gentleman and an ethical person.  Michael McKenny is the
of propriety.  Even some of the more annoying characters out here
usually just call you an asswipe if they disagree with you.  Of
course, it happens.

In my view, Usenet allows the expression of the full range of Baha'i
including a heated dialogue driven by disagreements as well as
sometimes personal animosity.  But we have been told that in the end,
from the spark of differing opinions, the truth emerges.  I think over
time the truth is emerging here, and even if along the way there are
some sophomoric antics, it is all
worth it.

cheers   JuanFrom: "Juan Cole" <>
Subject: Re: Refutation of Peter Khan
Date: Friday, June 22, 2001 2:10 AM

Shoghi Effendi's letters in Persian were about the duties of the Local
Spiritual Assembly in general, not about a specific situtation in
And, he wrote in a similar vein to the West, as I quote, though the
Persian pasages are more extensive and revealing of his intentions.
Many of the letters of this period on such subjects are addressed not
only to Iran but also to India.  So, no, we don't have "charity in
one country."  In a global faith with standardized national by-laws
for each NSA, why would anyone think that these letters of Shoghi 
Effendi have no relevance to Baha'i administration nowadays.  Some
note his secretary wrote to a little old lady in Topeka is regularly
used to over-rule Baha'u'llah's principles by Baha'i fundamentalists.
But a whole book of detailed instructions specifically about the way
LSAs are to be run and what their duties are is ignored and remains

Could it be if we took Shoghi Effendi seriously then we would have to
build Baha'i hospitals in the US and some homeless shelters and even
some of the administration's money away to--gasp--non-Baha'i needy,
and this
would divert money from sculpting ever more $300 million building
projects to beautify some obscure Israeli port town?  

By the way, Shoghi Effendi legislated temporarily all the time.  The
invention of "administrative rights" and their "removal" was his.  No
sanction existed in `Abdul-Baha's time nor is it mentioned by the
Figures.  If he had wanted to declare Baha'is infidels, he would have 
done it.  He did not do it, even to people like Sohrab whom he saw as
great threats to the Faith, because he knew that `Abdul-Baha had
forbidden it.

I'm still waiting to hear about all the charitable trusts and separate
charity funds the Baha'i local assemblies in the US have established.

cheers  JuanFrom: "Juan Cole" <>
Subject: Re: Refutation of Peter Khan
Date: Thursday, June 21, 2001 7:34 PM

Dear Michael:

Yes, right on!  It is so good to hear you, one of the few true Baha'is
I have known, speaking truth to power.

Just so you know, I spent about an hour combing my archives from 1996
for your message on Enochian chess.  I regret to say that it appears I
did not archive it.  

Ask on talisman--there may be some old irfanian there who retained it.

By the way, Shoghi Effendi did not lay down any specifications for
removing Baha'is from the membership rolls.  In fact, he never once
did any such thing.  He took away Baha'is' administrative rights or
he declared them to have broken the covenant, in neither case bringing
into question their being Baha'is.  The passage that cultists like
Peter Khan, Doug Martin and Steven Birkland use from Shoghi Effendi
to declare Baha'is infidels was meant as a guide to local spiritual
assemblies in deciding whether to *enroll* someone in the first place.
Using it for the purpose of declaring enrolled Baha'is to be infidels
is completely at odds with Shoghi Effendi's intentions.  (And, the
reason Shoghi Effendi did not declare Baha'is to be infidels was
because he knew that `Abdul-Baha had forbidden this practice.)  The
keep saying they are only implementing Shoghi Effendi's instructions,
but in fact they are contravening his most deeply held convictions. 
are the ones who are betraying Shoghi Effendi, never mind Baha'u'llah

cheers  JuanFrom: "Juan Cole" <>
Subject: Re: No Room for "Dialogue"
Date: Saturday, July 21, 2001 7:09 PM

Glenford Mitchell wrote a big report on race relations in the Baha'i 
faith in 1967 and was allowed to distribute it to the delegates at 
the 1968 National Convention, with his name on it.  He was 
immediately elected to the NSA.

In fact, one of the reasons Kazemzadeh was so petrified of the 
"Modest Proposal" was that he had seen this done with Mitchell, 
maybe even been a part of it.  The Dialogue editors did not know 
how National Convention works and so had no idea that just by 
making some suggestions they were becoming "prominent."

But, people who condemn Steve Scholl and David Langness have a 
duty to condemn Glenford Mitchell, too, if this is what they are 
complaining about.

The logical conclusion is that all Baha'is must be quiet all the 
time lest their words become well thought of and a route to 
election to the NSA.  But, gee, some Baha'is aren't quiet at 
all.  In fact, one wonders what Schaut is running for, exactly.

cheers   Juan

*Modernity and the Millennium: the Genesis of the Baha'i Faith in the
Nineteenth Century Middle East* (Columbia University Press); (Dave Fiorito) wrote in message news:<>...
> Rick,

> > > Stop and think about it.  The delegates are there to choose the nine
> > > people they feel will best serve on the NSA.  If they get a document
> > > with a list of suggested changes at the national level.  If that list
> > > were to strkie a cord with a delegate it could influence their vote.
> > 
> > Actually, Dave, I'd have to agree with Paul on this one.  There is very
> > little evidence that would even suggest that these people sought any
> > authority or "power" for themselves.

> The active search for power does not need to be intentional.  If you
> circulate material at convention that positions you as one who has
> answers to national questions then you may be influencing the
> delegates.  Forget that we are talking about a specific incident and
> think about it in general terms.

> Cheers,

> DaveFrom: "Juan Cole" <>
Subject: Re: A Bahai in *Perfectly* Good Standing
Date: Sunday, July 22, 2001 4:04 PM

Dear Warren:

Your confusion comes about because the ultra-conservatives
at the top of the Baha'i administration have suddenly changed
the rules on us.

It used to be that "covenant-breaking" consisted of claiming
to be the leader of the Baha'i faith or trying to create a

And, it used to be that you could not get off the rolls of the
Baha'i community unless you wrote a letter explicitly denying
faith in Baha'u'llah.

Around 1996 the semi-cultists now running things changed both
these rules.  "Covenant-breaking" now consists of saying things
on email lists that annoy powerful Baha'i officials in Wilmette
and Haifa.  Mainly these consist of the expression of liberal,
high-minded sentiments.  Most people are not "prominent" enough
to get into trouble this way, though (you are probably not in
danger).  The charges would be launched only at someone considered
"prominent" who is not toeing an unspecified party line.

Then in 1997 they changed the rules again.  Although `Abdul-Baha
forbade the practice of takfir or declaring a Baha'i to be not a
Baha'i, the UHJ did this to Michael McKenny.  They just summarily
removed him from the Canadian rolls.  Apparently they did not like
the things he was saying on email, in particular his argument that
women should be able to serve on the House of Justice.  They did the
same thing, even more arbitrarily, to Alison Marshall in 2000.

As far as I can see, the offical rules are now that you may be 
assured of remaining on the rolls only if you do not believe women 
should be able to serve on the UHJ.  That is, this is now the 
definition of a Baha'i:  someone who accepts that ultimate 
authority in the Baha'i faith is patriarchal in nature and women 
must be excluded from it.

It does not matter any more whether you believe in Baha'u'llah.  He
is now irrelevant.  The question is whether you kowtow to Doug Martin
and Peter Khan and Ian Semple and Farzam Arbab, and their narrow,
fundamentalist and high patriarchal view of the Baha'i faith.  That
is, an *orthodoxy* is being established, which at the same time
creates the rest of us, who do not share it, as heretics.  The main
tenets of this orthodoxy sound much more like Jerry Falwell and
Pat Robertson than like `Abdul-Baha.

People who feel uncomfortable with the direction that these powerful
fundamentalists are taking our beloved Faith are welcome to join our
more moderate discussions at .

cheers   Juan Cole (Inqu329960) wrote in message news:<>...
> An ammendment to a previous post

> Dear Fred: I read the letter also The letter said that the basis for membership
> in the Baha'i Faith was that a person accepts the claim of Baha'ull'ah to be
> the Manifestation of God for this day and age. It says it is entirerly up to
> the individual to decide what level of involvment they may chose.
>From: "Juan Cole" <>
Subject: Re: A longish rant
Date: Monday, July 30, 2001 2:09 AM

Dear John and Warren:

There are alternatives to the fundamentalist version of the Baha'i
Faith, which resembles the Christian Reconstructionists in desiring
to erect a future Baha'i theocracy and ram their rigid misinterpretations
of the Writings down our throats.  I don't think either of you have a
problem with *Baha'u'llah*, as Karen has also been arguing.

A lot of this vision is being elaborated over at  , a liberal Baha'i email list
that you are welcome to join and pursue your questions.  It has functioned
for many Baha'i moderates and liberals as a spiritual home, since they have
been ostracized by the militant fundamentalist Baha'is in their local

Do come on over . . .

cheers    JuanFrom: "Juan Cole" <>

Subject: Re: common ground
Date: Sunday, January 14, 2001 3:20 AM

 I do not have the time or the inclination to spend a lot of time on
usenet right now, but since I have been slandered (and not for the
first time) by Susan Stiles Maneck in her recent posting, I am
forced to reply (yet again) to these falsehoods.

But first, I would like to make my own mea culpas.  I retract almost
everything I said about the faith on email between May 4, 1996 and
January 30, 1999.  I was very depressed in the wake of the false
charges that were launched against me, and as a result had temporarily
lost my faith, which had been at the core of my being for 24 years.  I
am a very sensitive person, and this was a nightmare ordeal for me.  I
had the misfortune of being among the first persons in history to live
through such a period of disorientation in the age of the Internet.
Lots of rightwing Baha'is were eager to misrepresent themselves as my
friends so as to get out of me my innermost thoughts, and these have
been archived in Haifa, and Maneck posts private messages from me from
that period occasionally in order to discredit me.  Well, if it
matters, I know I said a lot of things that were overdrawn or overly
emotional, in my hurt, and I disavow them now.

I consider myself a follower of Baha'u'llah again, now (however much I
am unwanted), and while I am empathetic with my unbelieving self, that
is no longer me.

I am glad to admit I got lots of things wrong.  Peter Khan's family was
Muslim before becoming Baha'i.  An Australian Baha'i misled me that
they had at one point been Christian.  I was wrong.  The members of the
House of Justice have all kinds of cars and not just Mercedes.
However, they do preside over a budget that runs to hundreds of
millions of dollars, and their refusal to publish any budget breakdown
does raise questions about the nature of finances in Haifa.  However,
if I got their car types wrong or imputed to them chauffeurs they don't
have, I am glad to retract.  Accuracy means a lot to me.  Pilgrims had
told me these things, and they were pilgrims I trust more than I trust
Maneck, but where there is doubt one cannot claim certainty.  Moreover,
some of my motives in talking about the members' lifestyle were hurt at
the enormous injustice they had done to me, which was an unworthy

>And the hypocrisy of their actions became increasingly apparent. They
>would complain of censorship and then tell me when I was moderator of
>H-Bahai that I shouldn't allow somebody to post because they were
>an "ultramontanist" and a "big Nixon supporter."

Let's talk a little bit about hypocrisy.  From about August of 1997,
when Maneck started secretly working for "counselor" Ghadirian, she
began sending him regular spy reports of the confidential deliberations
of its academic editors.  She began attempting to disrupt the list
and "muddy the waters" in accordance with her instructions.  We have a
rule that subscribers should have a master's degree or more in the
humanities or social sciences, to ensure an academic tone to
discussions.  She suddenly announced that she was going to start
enrolling persons without those credentials.  One of the persons she
proposed to enroll in this maverick way was a lawyer who is also an
Auxiliary Board Member for Protection, and who is no academic.  I said
no.  I said that, moreover, the person had kooky ideas about Nixon
having been innocent & etc.  I mentioned his thinking Dick Nixon was
the innocent target of a smear campaign (!!!) as yet another piece of
evidence that this person was not a bona fide academic; but lack of
credentials was what was determinative.

Maneck's announcement that she would ignore the rules and do as she
pleased; her frequent rejection of posts from Steve Scholl and other
liberals on purely ideological grounds; her vicious insults directed at
a prospective liberal moderator with the intent of scaring him away
from helping the list; her constant spy reports to Ghadirian; her
expression of delight that a subscriber had signed off that she viewed
as a 'covenant breaker' because she intended to mount a campaign on the
list to firm the academics up in the covenant; were all capped by a
demand that I resign as editor.  Ultimately she voluntarily resigned
from her editorship in disgrace because she inadvertently supplied
evidence, in the course of her persecution of me, that she was spying
on the list for Ghadirian.  She later publicly accused me on this very
list of having fired her!  While I would have if I could have, that was
for the Editorial Board, and she did not give even them the opportunity.

The fact is that she was misusing her position on an academic list to
undermine its independence in favor of the imposition of some wacky
fundamentalist orthodoxy, and she is still sore at having failed.

>When they tried to persuade me that the Faith had been
> taken over by a secret cabal going back to Mason Remey and Horace
>Holley, I *really* had to step back and ask myself just what had I
gotten myself into?

If you knew anything about American Baha'i history you would know that
both those individuals were deeply involved in creating a rightwing
Baha'i culture.  As for a cabal, I was upset when I said that.  But it
isn't far-fetched that the rightwing Counsellors who have taken over
the Faith have some sort of at least informal network that allows them
to politick so successfully and to come to power and remain there.  On
the other hand, this phenomenon could be more haphazard.  I frankly
don't know.  At the time, I was commiserating with someone I thought a
friend.  And people say I never admit having been wrong!

> Then I was sent a rough draft of the Panopticon article and saw it
was filled
> with distortions about matters where they author had to know better.

The Panopticon article is not filled with distortions.  I believe every
word of it to be true, and I believed so when I wrote it.  And, I sent
it to Maneck for her comments, virtually all of which I incorporated
into the final draft.  So, if it was 'filled with distortions' she had
every chance to set me straight on *all* of them, and it is her own
fault if she did not.

> Meanwhile, unfounded charges were being made saying things like the
House had
> ordered Abbas Amanat  expelled from the Faith which I knew simply
weren't true.

If that is what you thought was being said, no wonder you thought it
wasn't true.  What I said was that Derek Cockshut waged a brutal
campaign to protest the Bahai Publishing Trust's carrying Abbas
Amanat's *Resurrection and Renewal* in 1989 when it came out.  And that
the NSA took the issue to the House of Justice.  And that the House of
Justice wrote that it was all right to carry the book because Abbas
Amanat "is not a Baha'i."  Abbas, however, was and is an enrolled
Baha'i in the US community, and he has never disavowed faith in
Baha'u'llah.  In the wake of the 1990 letter the NSA sent him several
insulting letters demanding to know his conscience (I thought there was
no confession in our religion?) He declined to reply, last I knew.
`Abdul-Baha in the Hizar Bayti said we don't have the Muslim custom of
declaring believing Baha'is to be infidels because we don't like their
views, and I found the arrogance of the 1990 letter breathtaking.  It
was my first clue that something was very rotten in Haifa, and it
wasn't just Wilmette. 
If Maneck turned against me because of this
statement, she *reallY* wronged me!

> Or I was told that the NSA of Canada had sold off a important
collection within
> their archives to prevent it from falling into the hands of academics,
> something which proved to be utterly false.

First of all, I've said publicly a number of times that I was wrong
about that.  It seems to me a relatively minor little affair, anyway.
I got the story's details wrong, and a more knowledgeable poster
corrected them.  However, I am unaware that the NSA of Canada has
provided its INBA set (manuscript facsimiles of the Baha'i Writings) to
any scholars, and I think Maneck knows that it is problematic whether
they would do so.

>   And something else would happen as well. I would start have
arguments with
> people  on Talisman on basic issues like the existence of revelation
and began
> to realize that the people I was supporting didn't really believe in
it in any
> meaningful way.

In other words, we had to be basically fundamentalists or neo-
Calvinists or something, or else Maneck would gleefully join in the
auto-da-fe against anything we said.  Her idea of "Revelation" isn't
dogma that all Baha'is have to accept, and her problems with deism are
her problems.

>But it was becoming increasingly apparent that if I went down, I
> wasn't going down alone and began to realize that for the sake of
>these Baha'is I needed to search for solutions rather than add to the
>problems. So I began to behave much  less recklessly.

If you had behaved less recklessly that would have been fine.  You
turned into a Stasi-like spy, a fifth columnist, and an Inquisitor. And
you decided that only by waging a smear campaign against me could you
hope to make Baha'i scholarship acceptable to the fundies. That, you
didn't have to do.  These actions warped your personality and made you
a poor Baha'i.

> Right around this time there was a very lurid thread going on on
> discussing some prominet Baha'i's supposed sexual indiscretions.
Then Juan came
> bursting on to Talisman saying, "I've been backbitten and so have
you!" It was
> in reference to a talk Counselor Gharian had made in London critical
of the
> Talisman list.

Ghadirian's talk in London wasn't critical just of the Talisman list.
He libelled me and David Langness and did all but issue Anathemas
against us just as though he were an ayatollah in a turban.  (And I
thought you weren't supposed to backbite; David was a particular victim
in this).  Ghadirian should be careful.  In the U.K., libel is easy to
prove.  As for the other issue, that a high Baha'i official resigned in
disgrace from his profession for sexual harassment and then was
immediately appointed to a cushy Baha'i job in Geneva was of interest
to talismanians like Linda Walbridge.  She had been threatened with
being declared a covenant breaker for advocating more rights for Baha'i
women, including service on the House of Justice.  And here was a man
in the old buddy system of high Baha'i administration who was actually
promoted despite a public scandal that was in the newspapers.  It
wasn't just a matter of gossiping about someone's private life.  It was
outrage that innocent liberals were persecuted out of the faith and
calumnied, but if you had friends in high places you could get away
with anything.

> Ghadirian. how his saintliness and love eventually overcame my fears
> suspicions.

Oh, yeah, all the saints I know call meetings in London to backbite
people, and then have their agents spy on people and make reports about
their confidential conversations.  Why, the KGB was full of saints in
its heyday!!  Maneck can't see that the only reason she got love-bombed
by this manipulative physician was precisely because of his hope of
gaining a spy "asset" known to be in close contact with me.  And I have
to hand it to him, he did a world-class job of turning her into a mole.

>I began to realize that the House of Justice
> was not out to destroy academic scholarship on the Baha'i Faith as I
>had mistakenly believed all those years,

It seems to be pretty arbitrary.  Some people seem to be able to
publish and not get in any particular trouble.  Others are come down on
like a ton of bricks, and it is not always clear why.  I wonder if the
unpredictability of it isn't intended to disrupt scholarship by making
the academics nervous about saying anything at all about the faith.
Denis MacEoin told me the story of how House of Justice members Ian
Semple and David Hoffman threatened him and chased him out, destroying
his faith.  And, of course, we all saw what happened to the academics
who dared speak publicly on talisman-1.

>and that they did not eat scholars for breakfast

Mainly they seem to threaten them them with some form of ostracization
if they don't fall silent.  But they do this to some and not to
others.  I have never been able to figure out why.


Juan Cole

Juan Cole,
Buy *Modernity & Millennium: Genesis of Baha'i*

Sent via "Juan Cole" <>
Subject: Re: common ground
Date: Monday, January 15, 2001 2:57 PM

Dear Karen:

Abbas Amanat is from a Baha'i family, was brought up Baha'i.  When he
left Iran for the UK he was an enrolled member of the UK Baha'i
community.  When he came to the US, someone in the National Baha'i
Center knew about his move to Yale, and transferred his name to the US
membership rolls, where it has been ever since.  That he privately did
not like some of the policies of the UHJ and that he dared write a book
about the Babi movement from an academic point of view made him much
disliked among high fundamentalist Baha'i leaders.  So, when the NSA
inquired about whether they could carry *Resurrection and Renewal*, the
UHJ took the opportunity to privately slam him by saying to the NSA
that he was not a Baha'i. In the same letter the UHJ said Baha'is
shouldn't be upset about Abbas's book since they had a direct line to
an inspired understanding of the history of the Faith via the UHJ.

This appears to have been the beginning of the new strategy they had
developed of dealing with intellectuals they did not like, which they
later applied to Michael McKenny and Alison Marshall.  The only
difference is that back in 1990 no one in the US administration could
imagine that you could involuntarily disenroll a believing Baha'i, and
so the US NSA declined to simply delete him from its rolls.  There was
never any suggestion from his side that he was not a Baha'i.  In fact,
he has suffered a great deal for the Faith.  He lost property in Iran,
which he had to flee for his life, and he was named as an enemy of the
Islamic Republic in a published booklet, putting him in danger.  He has
suffered and done far more for the Faith than either myself or Maneck,
and it is shameful that the UHJ treated him that way.

Maneck is quoting back my initial public discussion of all this on in such a way as to imply either that I was wrong or
have changed my story.  In fact, the story is consistent, and it is
perfectly true.

I want to warn everyone that Maneck is profoundly dishonest.  In her
reply to me of 1/15/01, she stated a number of bald-faced lies.
Apparently she for some reason wants to bait me into posting private
correspondence that would prove she is lying.  She did not, for
instance, meekly resign, but rather continued in her attempt to get me
removed as editor.  She only resigned when she inadvertently let it be
known that she had been spying on the list for Ghadirian, to whom she
sent numerous detailed accounts of the confidential deliberations of H-
Net editors.

I will not be baited in this way.  But the evidence is there not only
on my hard drive but on that of several others, and eventually it will
become part of the public record and will make it clear that she her
account is riddled with deliberate falsehoods.  Why she wants to throw
away any standing she has before History by being so dishonest now is
beyond me.  We live relatively short lives.  Those who live them in a
Machiavellian way, with disregard for the truth, merely aiming at
accomplishing instrumental purposes in a dishonest manner, sully the
memory of those lives and discredit themselves forever.  It is not,
moreover, the Baha'i way.

cheers   Juan

Juan Cole,
Buy *Modernity & Millennium: Genesis of Baha'i*

Sent via "Juan Cole" <>
Subject: Re: PROFOUND dishonesty vice snookery (was: common ground)
Date: Monday, January 15, 2001 11:30 PM

1) There is a difference between getting some minor detail wrong about
contemporary affairs because of a correspondent's error and
*deliberately* setting out to commit a falsehood.  I am quite satisfied
that I did not *lie*.  As for getting things right all the time, no one
does, and more especially no one does in any kind of journalism, which
is what reporting on contemporary matters is.  That is why newspapers
carry retractions.  Even the best reporters sometimes err.  However, I
would say that of factual assertions of any importance, I have gotten
it right, and the errors have been minor.  Printing a retraction is not
a way of saying 'I'm always wrong,' but of saying 'I try my hardest to
get it right and sometimes I fail, and it is more important to me that
the truth be put out there than than I appear to be infallible.'

2) I was angry for about 2 1/2 years because the top Baha'i leadership
acted toward me and my friends in a perfidious manner, and,
outrageously, threatened us with being declared covenant breakers for
our innocent email traffic on  These charges were
brought precisely in order to inspire anger, so as to discredit us with
the community.  Baha'is are trained to see all victims of muggings at
the hands of their leaders as blameworthy, and to see any protest of
such a mugging as a sign that the victim was always in the wrong.  I
have by now learned that this sort of cult-like manipulation of people
is extremely common among Baha'i officials, and my files are bulging
with life stories of persons so harmed.

cheers    Juan

Sent via "Juan Cole" <>
Subject: Re: [ bahai ] Jenifer Tidwell - Letter to the LSA. of Arlington. Massachusetts
Date: Monday, January 29, 2001 6:22 PM

Actually, the awful, terrible conspiracy to convince Baha'is to build
local houses of worship or mashriqu'l-adhkars, *in every village and
city*, appears to have been started by a suspicious character named
Mirza Husayn Ali in his secret conspiratorial text, the Most Holy Book.

From there, certain persons with a perfervid imagination and dubious
motives, began agitating for the *immediate* implementation of this
horrid plan.  A certain Abbas Effendi, styled `Abdul-Baha, appears
repeatedly to have commanded his dupes to found as many mashriqs as
possible as soon as possible, even in *small towns* (gasp!).

Then another shadowy individual, about whom we know little, put out
scandalous pamphlets suggesting that the very work of the LSA and the
essential implementation of Baha'i values would remain incomplete until
the local mashriqs were built.  Many of these noir-like persons appear
to have adopted the Eastern honorific, Effendi, and this one was also
so styled, with the first name Shawqi, but to throw people off he
spelled it Shoghi.

Did not this rogues' gallery realize what dreadful consequences would
ensue from their despicable plan?  Would not every local community have
a place to worship?  Might not non-Baha'is feel comfortable coming
there and finding a spiritual home?  Might not the faith of God emerge
from Obscurity?  Would not the perquisites and free airplane tickets of
the Counsellors and NSA members and House members be endangered if
Baha'is diverted their funds and energies to these local architectural
monstrosities?  Might Baha'is not actually begin praying together
frequently, finding a spiritual core to their faith that would keep
them committed to it for more than six months after their conversions?
It is all, alas, too horrid, too abominable to contemplate!

But, everyone should rest assured!  The Thought Police have identified
all the latter-day bohemians who have been misled by these pernicious
texts and thoughtless individuals!  Some have been tried for buying
land and dreaming of a Mashriq.  Others have been ostracized and given
the Cold Shoulder.  Anyone who so much as lays a foundation stone shall
immediately be declared a Covenant Breaker worse than Mirza Muhammad
Ali.  The Cause is very Great, and more than great enough to prevent
permanently any threatened outbreak of spirituality or implementation
of basic Baha'i laws of worship (`ibadat).  The Cause is very, very

- The Grand Inquisitor

Juan Cole,
Buy *Modernity & Millennium: Genesis of Baha'i*

Sent via <>
Subject: invalid House of Justice Elections
Date: Friday, April 20, 2001 1:30 PM

As we all know, Baha'i elections are *supposed* to take 
place without any nominating procedure, and without 

I'd like to suggest that in the light of these principles 
of Shoghi Effendi, the last few persons elected to the 
Universal House of Justice were elected
in contravention of Baha'i electoral law and 
are guilty of de facto electioneering.

Typically, the punishment for electioneering is that 
the person's administrative rights are removed and 
the body on which he serves is often dissolved for 
new elections.

In 1963-1983, Baha'i elections for the Universal House 
of Justice, in which NSA members serve as delegates, 
appear to have been conducted in an upright manner. 
Several US and UK NSA secretaries were elected. But 
then people like Hushmand Fatheazam (India) and Ali 
Nakhjavani (pioneer in Uganda) were also put on.

From 1988, however, almost all electees have been 
Counsellors with appointments at the International 
Teaching Center in Haifa. The two exceptions prove 
the rule. Adib Taherzadeh was a continental counselor 
and Doug Martin had been brought to Haifa as a publicist 
for the UHJ. The NSA secretary of the largest Baha'i 
community, India, has never been ranked that highly 
in the voting, even though he makes the most sense 
given that most Baha'is are in the third world and 
he knows how to administer them. Likewise, NSA 
secretaries or just NSA members in large Baha'i 
communities in Africa and Asia are not considered 
eligible, apparently. There is no true Third World
 representation on the House of Justice, which is 
run by Iranian and Commonwealth males.

On Taherzadeh's death last year, Kiser Barnes, 
yet another Counselor at the International 
Teaching Center, was tapped to succeed him. 
He joins Hooper Dunbar, Peter Khan and 
Farzam Arbab, all of whom came in that way.

Now, one gets to be counselor at the ITC by 
appointment. If the ITC counselors are now 
the candidate pool for UHJ membership, which 
is what the voting pattern of the past decade 
and a half demonstrates, then *appointment 
of a male counselor to the ITC is a form of 

Counselors at the ITC travel (on your dime folks) 
all over the world to consult with NSAs, so that 
they become very well known to the very people 
who elect the UHJ. This is a form of stealth 
campaigning. They are also in a position to do 
favors for NSAs and their members.

It seems to me, then, that Hooper Dunbar, Peter Khan, 
Farzam Arbab, and Kiser Barnes got to be on the UHJ 
by nomination and campaigning. The same applies to 
Doug Martin in my view, but that case is more ambiguous.

Khan and Arbab in particular have shown a ruthless 
disregard for Baha'i law and basic human decency 
(as in the scurrilous threats launched at talismanians 
and the hijacking of the Baha'i encyclopedia by Arbab, 
and the expulsion of Alison Marshall at Khan's 
insistence). This pattern of unethical behavior 
accords well with the illegitimacy of their route 
to power.

Recently the ITC was shuffled yet again and 
counselors like Fred Schechter, who were considered too 
'soft,' were fired, with extreme hardliners brought in. 
Not only are the ITC Counselors now 'nominated' for 
UHJ membership and then sent about to campaign, but 
they are subject to an ideological litmus test that 
is ratcheting the center of gravity on the UHJ 
increasingly toward the Far Right of authoritarianism, 
disregard for the rule of law, regimentation of the
community & etc.

It an ideal world, those guilty of electioneering 
would be forced off the House, have their administrative 
rights removed, and the House would be dissolved in 
preparation for free and fair elections. But, then, 
in an ideal world, Hell would have frozen over.

Cheers,     Juan


Sent  by jrc1952 from  yahoo in field com
This is a spam protected message. Please answer with reference header.


4/21/01 2:10 AM  2 out of 3   

One of the reasons that it is objectionable for the
counselors at the International Teaching Center to
become the candidate pool for members of the Universal
House of Justice is that the UHJ appoints them centrally. All the major candidates are thus being
determined by one central agency, and it is virtually appointing its own future members.

This centralized nomination procedure is very different from the old situation in which
secretaries of major NSAs were the prime candidates. After all, the electorate in each country put
the NSA members on, and the NSA members chose the secretary-general. A person had to have a
popular base to rise to that position. Hushmand Fatheazam came onto the UHJ in 1963 from
being secretary of the Indian NSA if I am not mistaken. And Ian Semple had been secretary of
the UK NSA. That process was extremely decentralized.

Decentralized is what Shoghi Effendi was aiming for when he forbade nominations. Nominations
allow a couple of major factions to centralize the choice of candidates.

The six or so men on the ITC nowadays are basically nominated to be on the House when the
next vacancy falls open. Kiser Barnes smoothly slipped in when Taherzadeh died. Before that
Farzam Arbab and Peter Khan had pulled off the same thing. This centralization of
candidate-picking is precisely what Shoghi Effendi wanted to avoid when he forbade

Nowadays, we have an election for the UHJ where there *are* nominations. And there is
campaigning. Counsellor Arbab visits his old cronies back in Latin America, and they say to
him, can the House please put some development projects in our country and throw some money
our way; or can it please give us the millions needed to build a Mashriqu'l-Adhkar? And Arbab
says, I'll see what I can do. It is the old scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.

Counselors really should not be eligible for election to the UHJ. But they *certainly* should not
be considered as nominees for the job.

cheers Juan  
From: ""First Name Last Name"" <>
Subject: Re: invalid argument
Date: Thursday, April 26, 2001 1:40 AM

The 1990 Indian census returned 5,000 persons identifying
themselves as Baha'is in the entire country.  The census
is not perfect but could it miss 2 million people!?

Insiders in the Baha'i administration say there are actually
only about 100,000 persons in India who have a strongly Baha'i
identity.  (Most of the declaration cards were signed by Hindus
who like to join clubs and were not intending to abandon their

cheers   Juan

--== Sent via ==--

Posted from [] by way of [] 
via Mailgate.ORG Server - https://www.Mailgate.ORGFrom: "Juan Cole" <>
Subject: A New Babi History - Mazandarani's Tarikh-i Zuhur al-Haqq vol. 2
Date: Tuesday, December 26, 2000 5:41 PM

Date:         Tue, 26 Dec 2000 17:24:51 -0600
From: Juan Cole <jrcole@UMICH.EDU>
Subject:      Tarikh-i Zuhur al-Haqq, vol. 2

H-Bahai is pleased to announce the digital publication at:

of Hand of the Cause Fadil Mazandarani's *Tarikh-i Zuhur al-Haqq*, vol.
2, which covers the Babi period in over 500 pages.  It is a key
companion to his vol. 3, which he had published in 1944. This work is
digitally published for the first time from a photocopy of the

Mazandarani (d. 1956) had unique access to large numbers of early Babi
primary sources, which he used in a more rigorous manner than most
Iranian Baha'i chroniclers.  The current academic literature on Babism
depended heavily on vol. 3, but vol. 2 was heretofore quite rare. It is
exciting to think what influence it will have on the next generation of
scholarship on Babism.

This publishing event brings to 6 the number of the Tarikh-i Zuhur al-
Haqq (History of the Manifestation of the Truth) by this author
available at

The editors hope eventually to post all nine volumes.


Juan R. I. Cole
H-Bahai Web Editor

Juan Cole,
Buy *Modernity & Millennium: Genesis of Baha'i*

Sent via jricole 
4/18/01 2:13 AM  53 out of 55   

Yeah, yeah, blame the victim. Poor Deborah was dealing
with a community where Mr. Victory was telling people
arrogantly he is the voice of God (something other
residents in the community have confirmed). He even tried to tell people what books they could
read. She was being denied the right to see the LSA financial records. Since like $90,000 was
embezzled from the Baha'i fund in neighboring Phoenix not so long ago, there is every reason to
be alarmed when the LSA officers start locking up the account books. Her attempts to deal with
the problems met with stonewalling and intimidation, over years.

I fiercely applaud both her lawsuit and her making it public. Enormous numbers of lives have
been ruined and people steamrollered by authoritarian Baha'is who have misused the Baha'i
Institutions as their personal fiefdoms. There is no due process in their conception of the Faith,
no redress but appeal upward to persons who have every reason to back the more prominent
members of the LSA. It is an engine for repression of basic human rights. Of the thousands of
Americans who entered the Baha'i faith since 1968, fully half went right back out. It is not
because they were not spiritual. It was because narrow-minded bigots masquerading as Baha'is
tried to clamp down on their basic decency as human beings, and then insisted that they put up
with that in the name of community unity and 'consultation.' It is no little thing to lose half your
converts. The National Teaching Committee has pointed out that if those people had been
retained, it would have had future exponential effects on the growth of the faith. Other
denominations retain 80% of converts.

Nick, of course, is happy to give his human rights away and to call that religion. But then Nick
thinks the religion will take over the civil government. So, having given up our rights for
religion, we find that the rights are altogether gone in the end, even in civil society. We have
Khomeini's theocracy.                                       

But the rest of us are not going to go so quietly. Nick is still peeved that we kicked George III's
butt (along with the American Tories who supported his tyranny). We'd do it again, too.

4/18/01 1:48 AM  114 out of 114   

The logs are the public logs.
The rightwingers in the AO were involved in lots of
dastardly behind the scenes action that is not reflected
in the logs (which are incomplete because it takes so much time to clean them up for posting).
So, Pat, you can't know everything from them alone. 

I have gotten really tired over the years at your self-righteous pose as an even-handed
investigator of the truth. You have never given anything I've said, or any other Baha'i liberal has
said, a fair hearing. You are entirely capable of twisting words and engaging in propaganda, as
we have just seen when you called the talisman logs a dodge.

But here you go, Pat, since you seem to like playing prosecuting attorney so well. (In RC I think
that would be called playing the devil's advocate). Why don't you extract from the logs
statements of mine 1994-April 1996 that you feel are a good basis for prosecuting me as a
covenant breaker. You have enough of a pattern of my postings up there to do it if it can be done.
Let's make it a whole new thread. Let's give me the trial I never had. Maybe I can engage defense

This old crock that the UHJ didn't close down is a pile of horse manure as
tall as the empire state building. Of course it closed down talisman. It had Birkland threaten the
listowner and several of the listowners close friends with being declared *covenant breakers* if
they "repeated" the "pattern" of their postings. If you were running a Baha'i list and the UHJ did
that to you, I suspect you would close it down, now wouldn't you? Since a reasonable person
would expect that to be the result of such brutal threats, I think we may conclude that it was the
result being sought by Birkland and his handlers.

Your quotation from Ayatollah Sadiqi did not show there was dissatisfaction with the way
talisman was being run. It showed that there are extremely narrow-minded Baha'is who don't like
open discourse and will do anything to shut it off. Nolan was always engaging in special
pleading for the Right when they got suspended for breaking the list rules. Rather like you.

Birkland, by the way, was only admitted to the list by John on condition that he abide by the list
rules, which included *not* accusing people of being covenant breakers. Birkland agreed to the
condition. He also gave his word to John that he would share with him any report he wrote about
him to Haifa. Birkland broke his word on both issues. He is a liar and an inquisitor. But, he was
just following orders, rather like Eichmann.


4/17/01 4:16 PM  100 out of 114   

> dschellb 
>4/16/01 4:01 PM 

>Nobody is simply removed for expressing opinions on emails.

Actually, yes, they have been. That was the grounds for the summary disenrollment of Michael
McKenny. He expressed in very polite language the wish for women to serve on the Universal
House of Justice, a number of times on email. And he was ordered by the UHJ removed from
membership in the Baha'i community of Canada. Since Doug Martin was the NSA secretary in
Canada before becoming a UHJ member, this was almost certainly mainly at his instigation. It
was quite barbaric. Michael is a very sweet and inoffensive person who had not said anything

And, Alison Marshall was quite explicitly dropped from the rolls for her email messages, which
were also kind and sweet and spiritual. Only a barbarian could have objected to them.

And, a number of prominent liberal posters were threatened with being declared covenant
breakers for their email messages to Just for writing email messages.
They were not schismatics. They never claimed any authority. They just posted their personal

None of the defrockings that have been instanced here are at all analogous to what was done to
ordinary everyday Baha'is like McKenny and Marshall for mere email traffic. It is monstrous.
And no mainstream religious group behaves this way in the US. Tell Episcopalians, Methodists
and Unitarians about what was done and they will be appalled. They won't say, Oh, yes, that's the
way we behave, as well.

Nor is this Baha'i law. Baha'u'llah never disenrolled anyone for expressing his or her personal
beliefs. And sanctioning someone without so much as having a conversation with them is
explicitly contrary to Baha'i administrative procedure. Nor were the threats about declaring
people covenant breakers Baha'i tradition. `Abdul-Baha did that to persons who stole money
from the faith or claimed to be its legitimate head. Not to the often looney toons Baha'is like
Edward Getsinger just for having odd ideas.

It is all a crock. Nothing to do with Baha'u'llah or the real Baha'i faith. Just to do with the
enormous egoes and endless arrogance of Doug Martin and Peter Khan.

cheers Juan  
4/18/01 12:32 PM  57 out of 72   

Well, Nick, I don't think American liberties have
been taken nearly far enough. There is not too 
much liberty here, but too little.

Two million Americans are incarcerated, a huge gulag
that is per capita far more prisoners than any country
in Europe has, and resembles Russia. Last I knew, half of them were African-Americans. While a
solid core are real criminals, a very large number simply sold a little pot or something and are no
more criminal than my grandmother, God bless her soul. Large numbers are raped and brutalized
with impunity while in prison. Some are given AIDS this way, basically receiving a death
penalty, often for three misdemeanors or a minor felony.

Many Americans sentenced to death are innocent and are not allowed to use DNA evidence to
establish their innocence. This is liberty?

Americans are routinely prevented from unionizing, and may be fired for attempting to form a
union, in contravention of basic human rights.

The consolidation of publishing and other media, and the small number of media companies
means that voices of critique have a great deal of difficult finding prominent outlets. Rules
against a single company owning the major newspaper and a major broadcast outlet in a single
city have been gutted. Rupert Murdoch's version of the world is becoming the hegemonic one.

Given the vast assaults on our civil liberties made by the forces of the Right, whether secular or
religious, in the past 25 years in the U.S., to speak of giving up further rights voluntarily is to
capitulate to a horrible diminution of human agency.

You may, of course, give up all the rights you like. But I have not given up my rights and I don't
intend to allow you to dictate to me that I should.

Conservative Baha'is have all kinds of rackets going on. They'll tell you they just want to subject
what you write to 'literature review' to ensure 'dignity and accuracy.' Who could argue with that?
But what they really mean is that they want to censor everything you write to ensure it doesn't
contradict their cherished prejudices. In short, they are running a vast censorship operation. Too
many Americans have died fighting forces that wished to impose censorship and end our liberties
for me to ever agree to give those liberties up voluntarily.

The idea that Baha'u'llah or `Abdul-Baha would have *wanted* me to is ludicrous. Read what
`Abdul-Baha says about American libery in Promulgation of Universal Peace.

cheers Juan    

4/18/01 12:37 PM  58 out of 72   

No, actually I am, as a professor, quite interested in
things like the local Baha'i politics of places such
as Albuquerque (where I was born, by the way). We
professors are extremely nosey people, and we often
take up causes celebres. Voltaire did, as well, in his time. Plus, local Baha'i politics tells us a
great deal about the nature of the community. I wrote a journal article on Los Angeles Baha'i
politics that has received many accolades from other professors:

I am glad you know "the voice of God" so well. Maybe he'll put in a good word for you with the

cheers Juan  

4/18/01 7:56 PM  66 out of 72   

Dear Pat:

The word h.urriyyah which can mean either libertinism or liberty is from the root h.*r*r . In
classical Arabic being h.urr meant you weren't a slave. I prefer to be h.urr. The word hu-riyyah
with a long u and just one "r" is the Arabic for houri, the divine playboy bunnies promised us
pious folk in the next life.

Baha'u'llah in the Aqdas said that he approved of h.urriyyah under some circumstances and not
others. He makes it clear exactly what he means. He disapproves of h.urriyyah in the sense of
libertinism, of anything that might cause human beings to act like animals, without ethical
restraint. And, he approves of h.urriyyah in the sense of political liberty, as he demonstrates by
praising British parliamentary democracy and by lauding Queen Victoria for extending the
franchise and giving the reins of power into the hands of the people.

Baha'u'llah praised liberty/h.urriyyah in the sense of political liberties many, many times in His
Arabic and Persian writings, as did `Abdul-Baha. The ultra-conservative fundamentalist Baha'i
misuse of the passage from the Aqdas to *criticize* the very parliamentary democracy that
Baha'u'llah so vehemently praised is just another example of how the fundies have everything in
the Faith ass backwards.

Allow me to quote from *Modernity and the Millennium*:

"[Baha'u'llah] wrote approvingly to the Afnan clan of Shiraz and Bombay in the late 1880s that
"in reality, liberty (hurriyyat) and civilization (madaniyyat) and their prerequisites are increasing
day by day." In 1889 he wrote a letter in which he characterized his policy of allowing Baha'is to
consort peacefully with members of other religions, read their scriptures, and wear Western
clothing as the bestowal upon them of liberty (hurriyyat). We have seen that his son
`Abdul-Baha, who in this period published nothing without his father's concurrence, extensively
argued for liberty of religion and conscience, for equality, and individual rights in A Traveller's
Narrative, as well as in his 1875 Secret of Divine Civilization (to be discussed in the next
chapter). Only two years after al-Kitab al-Aqdas was completed, `Abdul-Baha was arguing to
Iranian conservatives that "This liberty (hurriyyat) in the universal rights of individuals (huquq-i
`umumiyyih-'i afrad) " is *not* "contrary to prosperity and success. SDC"

In fact, I think this subject deserves a thread of its own.

I was born in Albuquerque and maintain that I was perfectly clear in saying so.

I had enormous difficulties with "literature review" when I was a graduate student, and people
(including Glenford Mitchell) tried to browbeat me about it. I did not have trouble after that
because I paid no attention to it. It has been alleged that this is one reason they came after me.

cheers Juan

4/19/01 2:54 AM  72 out of 72   

Nick keeps ranting about how they don't have any
problems with anti-intellectualism or scholarship
there in the U.K.

Actually, the first place in the West a major Baha'i scholar was royally screwed over by the
fundamentalists was the U.K.

Around 1965 Denis MacEoin, a very bright lad from Belfast, became a Baha'i, in part under the
of Adib Taherzadeh. He was one of the youth brought to the 1968 celebrations in Haifa of the
centenary of Baha'u'llah's declaration to the kings, and was well thought of. He wrote the House
and asked them if he could do more service as a pioneer or as an academic scholar of the Faith. 

The House wrote back that both were needed services, and the decision was his.

Denis did an MA in Arabic and Persian at the University of Edinburgh. He then wrote his
dissertation on the Babi faith at Cambridge. He was the first Western scholar to work in the
National Baha'i Archives in Iran.

But, you know what? He was a good historian and he followed his sources. He started finding
alternative accounts that did not square with Nabil's Narrative or God Passes By. Not a problem,
really. History is messy, and historical accounts differ. Neither of those works is infallible. But
people in the UK knew of Denis's researches, and they kept asking him to give talks and summer
schools. They expected that he would just reconfirm their prejudices. When instead he gave the
latest research findings, they were outraged.

In 1979 or 1980 UHJ members Ian Semple and David Hoffman summoned Denis to a meeting.
They told him he would have to fall silent Or Else. Professors don't fall silent when ordered to by
failed actors. He subsequently left the Faith and has spoken critically of it on the BBC and in
print. So, the UK was in the '70s and '80s the very center of the storm at that time about
scholarship. In a sense, the fundies cut their teeth on MacEoin, and just did to the rest of us what
had already been proven to work with him.

cheers Juan  
4/19/01 2:12 PM  2 out of 5   

It has been alleged that I have posted these quotations
from `Abdul-Baha because I believe they apply only to
me. Actually, I believe they apply to everyone. They
demonstrate that `Abdul-Baha believed in freedom of expression for individual conscience. Of
course they apply to me. They also apply to everyone else. And, if I am excluded from their
purview, then `Abdul-Baha's principles have been contravened.

It has also been alleged that `Abdul-Baha thought that religious liberty should extend only to the
individual's right to choose a religion. Once the individual entered the religion, however, he or
she would have to kowtow to whatever the authorities decreed.

This pitiful attempt to pervert `Abdul-Baha's teachings so as to make them safe for
fundamentalism is ridiculous on the face of it. What could possibly be gained by having
authoritarian religions that oppressed individuals, but giving them a choice of which particular
set of ayatollahs they would be oppressed by?
Does he mean that Giordano Bruno, burned for his astronomical research, should have had a
choice of being burned either by the Roman Catholic authorities or by the Muslim or Buddhist
ones? Is that really what 
`Abdul-Baha is saying here?

According to what `Abdul-Baha has said, I think it is all right for a Baha'i biologist to say
publicly he believes in Darwinian evolution. And yet, on talisman-1 when Baha'is said that, they
were viciously attacked by the fundies in the community. That didn't look to me like the sort of
thing `Abdul-Baha was driving at.

cheers Juan


4/20/01 1:53 AM  5 out of 5   

Dear Don:

I am afraid it is even more complex than simply obeying elected institutions. 

First of all, I am sure you will agree that the elected institutions do not have the authority to
command us to do something illegal, say to murder someone. There are limits on what they can
order us to do. They should not even be allowed to order us to do something unethical, like lie.
That they are elected gives them purview over legitimate legislation, not absolute dictatorial

In addition, the elected institutions we have are all houses of justice, and they are purely
legislative in their authority. Interpretation was confined to the Guardian. We have no Guardian,
and no individual or body may now claim the prerogative of authoritative interpretation.

So, I am a historian. I write Babi and Baha'i history. Local Spiritual Assemblies and even the
House of Justice do not have authority over how I write history. It is not a legislative matter. It is
a matter of individual conscience. I have to write history truly, in accordance with the highest
standards of professionalism.

In the quote I just posted, `Abdul-Baha says explicitly that there is freedom of expression in the
Baha'i faith but not freedom of deeds. The Baha'i elective institutions have no authority from
Him to intervene in interpretive matters like someone's personal theology, or how he writes
history, or his views on evolution, etc. That was *supposed* to be what made the Baha'i Faith
different from past religions, with their inquisitions and heresy trials and declarations that
someone is not a believer.

The houses of justice may legislate on *deeds*. According to `Abdul-Baha. They could legislate
that all Baha'i men have to get their navels pierced, and I would be first in line at the local
navel-piercing shop. But they can't tell me how to write history. Unfortunately, often they want
to, and they do not accept `Abdul-Baha's delineation of their sphere of authority. They also want
to tell Alison Marshall what her conscientious beliefs must be. They threw her out over matters
of interpretation and conscience, not behavior. They stepped over the line that `Abdul-Baha and
the Guardian clearly drew. So you see, there is liberty in the Baha'i faith, according to its Holy
Figures. Current practices notwithstanding.

cheers Juan  

4/19/01 7:38 PM  65 out of 68   


I am not bitter. I am filled with righteous anger at
the way the beautiful faith of universal love and tolerance is being turned into something
resembling the Spanish Inquisition or Jerry Falwell's church in Lynchburg, Va. Read the book of
Isaiah. You'll find a lot of 'bitter' things said there. In this dispensation we all have Isaiah's
station. Most of us don't have the gumption to speak out the way he did. Besides, on my part, a
litle bit of attitude saves me a whole lot of time. Because rightwing Baha'is start out thinking
they can just throw [their interpretation of the] scripture at you and a few threats to declare you a
cb, and you'll just crumble. And, this all takes a lot of time and is pretty useless. So, I think we've
established with remarkable swiftness that such tactics won't work here, and that is a gain to us

with regard to public criticism of the Baha'i institutions, I agree that under most circumstances it
is counter-productive. You're in some small community, the LSA has a policy you don't like; get
over it.

But what if the LSA does something criminal, like embezzlement? Then that has to be exposed,
doesn't it? As in Phoenix. That was a multi-year embezzlement, and someone on the LSA knew
about it and sat on it. That was wrong. Even though it meant it would become public, the whistle
had to be blown. And, what, you were going to complain to the Treasurer of the LSA about it?
Appealing to the body you disagree with isn't every often going to produce results, especially if
they are involved in something unethical.

Deborah's case in Albuquerque is another good example, of where she tried to fix things over
years but was stonewalled. In the end she had to take action. When they're refusing to show LSA
members the financial accounts, that is scarey.

So then you get to the real big biggie. What if the UHJ does something unethical, as with the
disenrollment of Alison? Who are we going to appeal to about that? We just have to silently
accept it? That seems pretty shitty.

And, remember that these fundamentalist Baha'is wish to create a theocracy in which the Baha'i
institutions overthrow the US government and abolish the Bill of Rights. And then the
*government* will be able to begin treating each of us the way the UHJ treated Alison, in
summary fashion with no due process and no possibility of redress. That's what we really needed,
folks, *more* government intervention in our lives. I thought we wanted to get the government
off our backs? These people want it sitting in our living rooms, and they want it to have divine
exemption from even being *criticized*.

Worse, they maintain that these are teachings of Baha'u'llah, when in fact Baha'u'llah stood for
the separation of religion and state.

cheers Juan 

4/19/01 2:27 PM  1 out of 14   

In Islam there is a custom called "takfir" where some Muslims get together and call other
Muslims infidels, unbelievers, "not Muslims." Actually, one Shi`ite ayatollah issued such a
decree against Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa'i, declaring him not a Muslim.

When you are declared 'not Muslim' it puts you outside the law. So, anyone can steal from you,
rape you, murder you, without fear of punishment by the authorities. One of the ways the Baha'is
from a Muslim background in Iran are persecuted is for the clergy to declare them "not Muslim."

Pithy, Dusty and others have declared Alison Marshall and Karen Bacquet "not Baha'i." That is,
they have issued a Baha'i takfir against them.

There is only one problem, folks. In `Abdul-Baha's Tablet of a Thousand Verses He explicitly
abrogates the custom of takfir. He says it does not exist in the Baha'i faith. Baha'is are not to
declare other persons, who claim to be Baha'is, "not Baha'is."

What about, you may ask, villainous covenant breakers like Mirza Muhammad `Ali? Surely they
could be tossed out of the Faith? 

Nope. This letter is specifically about covenant breakers. Even they can't have a takfir issued
against them.

So, the neo-Muslim-fundamentalist Baha'is on this list who have put on large green turbans,
cultivated bushy beards dyed with henna, strapped on a saber about their waists, and called for
their amanuenses to issue the dire writ of takfir against Karen and Alison may be very proud of
themselves. But they have broken Baha'i law and displeased `Abdul-Baha, who is weeping at
their antics as he looks down from the Abha kingdom. He thought we'd be able to get past these
feudal customs, of takfirs and heresy trials. It was the point of the coming of a *new* religion.

People like the old.

cheers Juan  

4/19/01 7:52 PM  5 out of 14   

Yes, removal of administrative rights does not stop someone from being a Baha'i. But that isn't
what was done to Michael McKenny and Alison Marshall by the UHJ. They were declared unfit
to be "members of the
Baha'i community." That sounds to me like a takfir
pure and simple. I believe that the House of Justice
has contravened the Law of God as laid down by `Abdul-Baha in behaving in this way. Perhaps
it was in ignorance of the Law, but in that case they should reverse their decision.

As for the rest, Pithy and Dusty have stridently asserted that Karen Bacquet is not a Baha'i,
despite her own assertion that she is. That is also a takfir.

Thanks to Pat for pointing out that it is a severe offense in Islam to issue a groundless takfir.

Here's something I've written on the Tablet, with a provisional translation of the key sentence
and the citation to the original text. There is no official translation. 

"In the religion of God," `Abdul-Baha asserted, "there is no practice of declaring believers to be
morally corrupt (tasfiq) or of declaring them not believers (takfir), nor is debasing or showing
contempt for others permitted."* In Islam, the ulama declared suspect Muslims to have departed
from the faith for reasons of moral lapses or incorrect doctrine. In medieval legal theory,
Muslims found to be actually infidels were open to having their lives and property taken by
others without fear of legal reprisal. This practice was distasteful to Baha'is for many reasons.
For one, they were often victims of it at the hands of the Muslim clergy. For another, it offended
against the ideals of unity, tolerance and freedom of conscience for which many Baha'is felt their
religion stood."

*Abdul-Baha, Majmu`ih-'i Makatib, INBA Private Printing Volume 59 (Tehran: National Baha'i
Archives, 1978; digitally reprinted, East Lansing, Mi.: H-Bahai, 2000), pp. 340, published on the
World Wide Web at 

4/20/01 1:08 AM  8 out of 14   

I have to keep repeating this. The administrative rights of Alison Marshall and Michael
McKenny were
not removed. They did not experience tard-i idari.
Also, they were not declared covenant breakers, which
is tard-i ruhani. These are the only two sanctions we
know from the time of `Abdul-Baha and Shoghi Effendi.

Instead, Michael and Alison were declared to be *not* members of the Baha'i community and
their names were removed from the rolls of the Canadian and New Zealand Baha'i communities
respectively. This was never done by any of the holy figures. These two believers were declared
to be not Baha'is, which is takfir. Takfir or declaring someone an infidel was prohibited by
`Abdul-Baha. Ipso facto, the House of Justice contravened `Abdul-Baha's explicit instructions
when they acted in this manner.

And, your point raises the perfectly reasonable question of why, if Michael and Alison had in
fact broken Baha'i law, they were not formally charged and tried for doing so, with presentation
of evidence, and why their administrative rights were not simply removed.
Alison not only was not charged with wrongdoing, she had no idea she was even on trial until
she suddenly learned she had been turned into a non-Baha'i. This is like something from a Kafka
novel. You are on trial but you don't know what the charges are. You go to bed a Baha'i and
wake up a non-Baha'i because people you don't know have decided what religion you are.

I know it is very hard for people to hear criticism of the House of Justice. It is especially hard for
those brought up Baha'is, who imbibed reverence for this institution in their childhoods. I
understand that and do not wish to hurt their feelings for no reason.

But it is very hard for *me* to see `Abdul-Baha trashed, to see the clear text of his explicit
command blithely ignored. I feel he has been disrespected, major-league. We used to sing about
him, "Look at Me, follow Me, be as I am." Don't people sing that any more? Don't they want to
be like our Exemplar?

In this case the House of Justice has contravened a clear principle of `Abdul-Baha. There are no
easy choices. Either you can sweep aside `Abdul-Baha's concerns and disobey his clear
directive, or you can stand up for the arbitrary actions of the Martins and Khans. You may love
and want to obey `Abdul-Baha and love and want to obey the House of Justice. But here you
cannot do both. If you acknowledge `Abdul-Baha as having a higher station than the House of
Justice, then you must recognize that He is right and they are wrong.

The institution is new, is growing in maturity, and will make some mistakes along the way.
These expulsions are such mistakes. Recognizing and fixing them will make the Faith stronger
and better. Leaving them to fester will undermine it.

cheers Juan 

4/20/01 1:20 AM  9 out of 14   


The analogy for what was done to Michael and Alison would be more along these lines.

A student is admitted to study in a university. The student goes to classes, pays tuition
(McKenny had given the Faith a several-thousand-dollar interest-free loan), thinks she is doing

Then one day she gets a letter from the provost saying she is no longer a student at the
University. This is not because she has poor grades. It is not because she has behaved
improperly, or at least no mention of any ethical lapses is made in the letter.

The regents have just decided that they don't want people like her on campus. She isn't the right
sort of person to be a student at this university. Doesn't fit the profile.

If a university administration actually tried to pull this crap, they'd be slapped with a multi
million-dollar lawsuit, and the complainant would win hands down.

cheers Juan

4/19/01 2:48 PM  117 out of 120   

Dear Grahame:

Many thanks for your balanced comments.

In Shi`ite Islam there is a principle that one must
give absolute obedience to the Supreme Jurisprudent
(Ali Khamenei). It is even illegal to criticize him
publicly or to question his absolute authority. Ayatollah Montazeri was jailed recently for doing
just that. Sort of as if we should put Gephart in jail for criticizing Bush.

This principle of blind obedience to religious authority is called in Islam taqlid. It is one of the
things Baha'u'llah most vehemently denounced. He came to abolish taqlid. Blind obedience to
authority was, in his view, to be replaced by the exercise of public Reason or wisdom (`aql).

Many Baha'is, however, have rejected Baha'u'llah's teachings in this regard, and gone back to the
comforts of blind obedience. In essence, they have reverted to Shi`ite Islam, and just substituted
their "institutions" for the ayatollahs. 

With regard to Alison, the point is not that she is necessarily a saint (though I personally think
she is). The point is that by the standards of Baha'i law that have prevailed for the past century,
she a) did not do anything wrong and b) did not receive what in *Baha'i law* is required as due
process. She is an example of the new ultra-Rightwing faction that took control of the HOJ
between 1988 and 1993 trying to push the community in a cult-like direction. Now, Baha'is don't
have rights, even to their own email self-expression, and don't have to be counselled or tried or
anything before being punished. Instead of just having their administrative rights removed (bad
enough) more extreme steps are taken like throwing them out of the community altogether or
threatening them with being declared covenant breakers. This isn't the way the Baha'i Faith
functioned when I joined in 1972. It is a new development. And it is very, very dangerous. It is
contrary to everything the Baha'i Holy Figures stood for.

cheers Juan  

4/20/01 1:37 AM  120 out of 120   


Alison Marshall was not "counseled" before she was expelled. She never heard anything from
anyone. She explicitly asked a visiting ABM if there were any problems in New Zealand and was
told, "no." If anything she was lulled into a false sense of security.

So, the scenario I depicted is perfectly correct in her case, and hers is the most recent major case
of sanctions, so it probably points to where things are evolving. It is toward Baha'i Kafkaism.
You are on trial but no one will tell you for what. You wake up declared a non-Baha'i but you
still think you are a Baha'i.

I don't think Baha'i Kafkaism has any future as a world religion. Maybe some people in
Greenwich Village will think it is kind of neat.

cheers Juan  
4/20/01 12:35 PM  78 out of 83   

The real story of Nabil's Narrative is that Baha'u'llah asked him to write the history of the Faith,
and he did so, finishing around 1888. He showed his draft to Baha'u'llah, who was appalled at all
the miracle stories included, and all the unlikely events. Baha'u'llah wrote on this draft in his own
hand something to the effect that "we had expected from you a solid history of the Faith" but that
that was not we we got.

Nabil was very embarrassed, so he wrote a second draft, which was much more careful and with
its feet on the ground.

The second draft appears to have gone into the hands of Mirza Muhammad `Ali and to be
unavailable. All the World Centre has is the first draft, of which Baha'u'llah *disapproved*. That
is why Shoghi Effendi edited it so heavily before translating it.

As for *God Passes By*, Shoghi Effendi disclaimed being infallible on matters like economics,
science and history. It is a great book. It has some errors. Moreover, there were lots of sources
SE did not have access to.

The attempt to recreate biblical inerrancy by Baha'i fundamentalists using these texts is doomed
to fail. But don't worry, if you want infallible history and inerrant texts. I hear the Southern
Baptists are looking for converts. 

cheers Juan  

4/20/01 6:15 PM  81 out of 83   

Don, the reason you don't find so many miracle stories in the Dawnbreakers is that Shoghi
Effendi edited them
out. He was aware of how Baha'u'llah had disapproved of the first draft of Nabil's Narrative. But
the second draft has gone missing, so he exercised his judgment in which passages to translate.
What we have in English is not the whole Persian text; it is bits and pieces chosen by SE and
woven together by him into a seamless narrative.

As for Baha'is believing the Dawnbreakers is inerrant or unchallengeable, this is a very common
belief in the community. Dusty appears to hold it. Zikrullah Khadem was a fanatical believer in
it. Furutan made another Hand of the Cause, Fadil Mazandarani, apologize for publishing early
Babi texts that contradicted Nabil, and saw to it that his immense 9-volume History of the Faith
was never published. A lot of Iranian Baha'is of a fundamentalist turn of mind believe in this
infallible Nabil nonsense, and it has seeped over into a lot of the American community. Or
maybe the Americans reinvented it.

Nabil in fact makes lots of errors and did not always depend on the best sources, as John
Walbridge has shown.

cheers Juan  

4/20/01 12:42 PM  71 out of 82   

Dear Chris:

The problem is that you are thinking juridically rather than in terms of human rights. You are
focusing on the process rather than on the outcome. This is a basic error of logic.

"Consultation" can produce erroneous decisions. `Abdul-Baha did not say it always produced
right decisions. He said the errors would get corrected over time.

The "consultation" that produced the expulsion of Alison Marshall was such an error. All Steve,
Karen and I are asking for is that the error be corrected. What is going on here is consultation, as

That you do not have the UHJ perspective on the expulsion is one of the things we are
complaining about. *Nobody* was given that perspective, least of all Alison herself. She has no
idea what happened! She was never contacted, never received formal charges, never had a chance
to defend herself, never received an explanation of any sort. It was completely arbitrary. That is
precisely the problem.

I do not believe, if this were done to you, you would accept it cheerfully. Nor do I think you
should. Nor should anyone. It is horrible.

cheers Juan  

4/21/01 1:14 AM  80 out of 82   

Dear Pam:

The quote you give, purportedly from `Abdul-Baha, is a very bad translation of a text, the
Persian of which no longer appears to exist. The translation was also tampered with by later
editors. It is certainly a mistranslation, which contradicts everything else `Abdul-Baha said on
the subject. It is worthless as evidence of what `Abdul-Baha thought on the subject of the
separation of religion and state, which He taught ceaselessly. It is less than a pilgrim's note.

The problem is that in technical Islamic jurisprudence, "siyasi" authority referred to the
legislation of post-scriptural prohibitions and ordinances by the duly constituted authority.
However, the word "siyasi" came to be used as the new coinage to translate the modern western
conception of "politics" through the early 20th century. So, some of `Abdul-Baha's translators
misunderstood what he meant by the term when he was speaking classical Arabic or technical
Persian. They thought he meant the new sense of 'political' when he was actually talking about a
category of law.

Anyone who is actually interested in *`Abdul-Baha's* views on the separation of religion and
state should read his c. 1892 *Treatise on Leadership*:

Baha'u'llah and `Abdul-Baha genuinely opposed theocracy or the take-over of civil political
regimes by religious organizations. They both believed strongly in the need for world-wide
parliamentary democracy that would make a place for religion in public life.

As for accusing me of contacting the enemies of the faith, this really is too much. In 1998 when
the Iranian regime closed the Baha'i Open University, I organized massive internet protests and
helped contacted the Chronicle of Higher Education to do an article. I gathered hundreds,
perhaps thousands of signatures for an academic internet petition on behalf of the freedom of the
Iranian Baha'is, and I sent the petitions and signatures to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President
Mohammad Khatami myself, with a letter signed by me. For a person prominent in Iranian
studies to do this was rather dangerous, but I stuck my neck out for my Baha'i co-religionists.

As Rick Burns the Computer Guy says on SNL, "You're welcome . . ."

cheers Juan 

4/20/01 6:06 PM  26 out of 39   

Dear Sherry:

You said that you are not saying I am not a Baha'i, only that I am to a lesser degree a Baha'i than
you are.
So, how many of us second-class Baha'is are there? And when will Queen Sherry present
Parliament with our names so that we can be recorded as "Lesser Degree Baha'is"?

As for your charge that I am attacking the Faith, I am doing no such thing. Baha'u'llah is my
hero, and I won't stand for a word to be spoken against him. His Scriptures and His Principles are
the greatest thing in religion ever. I have devoted my life to studying them and trying to
understand them. Read my book about Him, *Modernity and the Millennium*, available via

What I am doing is insisting that the hardline fundamentalists don't own the Baha'i Faith. And,
believe it or not, 99% of Americans will be really, really relieved to hear this and much more
interested in the Faith once they've read what I have to say. It is the authoritarian fundamentalism
of some of the posters here which turns people off, and several seekers following this board have
even said so.

cheers Juan  
4/22/01 3:57 PM  12 out of 16   

I am indeed sincerely concerned, precisely because I am zealous for the legitimacy and honor of the House of Justice, our legislature.

Shoghi Effendi forbade nominations and canvassing. Period. If delegates to the international elections are allowing appointment to the International Teaching Center to function as a nomination, then they are breaking Baha'i law. Period. 

If they are being swayed by not only such a "nomination" but also by the possible favors these Counselor/candidates might do them, then they are breaking Baha'i law. Period. 

Any LSA elected like that would be dissolved yesterday and its members sanctioned. How can we expect the LSAs to elect in an upright manner, in accordance with Shoghi Effendi's instructions, if the international elections are flaunting his rules?

Shoghi Effendi well predicted the consequences of this sort of nomination process--the rise of factionalism, the dominance of personalities, the deprivation of delegates of their right to choose more widely among candidates. These are precisely the ills that affect the international administration of the Baha'i Faith at the present, and they flow from the ITC members being viewed as having been nominated for high Baha'i elective office.

The delegates have a responsibility to reject the notion of nominations. They must kick the habit of doing the easy thing and voting for the ITC counselors. But the UHJ also has a responsibility, to put the ITC members and continental counselors off limits for election to the House, the way the Hands were.

Our international administration is behaving erratically, unjustly, unfairly, in contravention of basic Baha'i principle and procedure. We all have a responsiblity for righting this problem lest it take us to the jungles of Guyana in the end.

cheers Juan  
5/2/01 2:44 AM  9 out of 10   

Ultimately the aforementioned member of the UHJ, Doug Martin, sent a counselor to my house
to interrogate me. "How can you say you believe in Baha'u'llah when you speak of him as a
historical personage?" he asked me, along with many other similarly stupid questions. The
counselor, Stephen Birkland, called me up a month and a half later to say that the UHJ and the
International Teaching Center had authorized him to tell me that I had been found guilty of
"making statements contrary to the Covenant." This was clearly a threat to declare me a c.b. for
my postings on talisman (which can be seen and evaluated for heresy at

I felt that for the UHJ (or more precisely Doug Martin) to make such threats behind the scenes
was morally unconscionable, and I could not remain a member of any administration that these
persons headed up.
And, I didn't know any way of being a Baha'i under such a situation. Plus I was worried about
my friends, about the future of the faith, etc. It seemed best for all that I withdraw, since that was
apparently what the UHJ wanted.

Over time, however, I found again my faith in Baha'u'llah, and gradually became detached from
all the other issues, so that I publicly declared my faith in Feb. of 1999. I have not forbidden
anyone to enroll me administratively, but it is all right with me if no one does. I am living for
Baha'u'llah now, not for a registration card. 

I do not mean by telling you this to attempt to shake your faith in the House of Justice. After all,
the latter body existed before 1993 when Doug Martin was elected to it, and will exist after Doug
is, alas, no longer with us. It is not the body that lacks legitimacy. It is that some members have
recently gotten onto it by electioneering, and have misused their power to abuse the basic human
rights of thinking Baha'is. The body itself will survive these shenanigans, and will denounce the
perpetrators of these high crimes and misdemeanors in the future.

In the meantime, we have a message to promote. It is the message of Baha'u'llah. It is the oneness
of humankind (yes, even the oneness of Doug Martin and Juan Cole, however much he may
dislike the idea of being mentioned in the same breath with me). It is love for all, tolerance for
all, unity in diversity (which is not the same as demands for uniformity). It is a lot of work. So
stop goofing off on the internet and get busy.

cheers Juan Cole  

5/2/01 3:09 AM  54 out of 58   

Dear Tranqulplaces:

Shouldn't that be Tranquil?

You know, Senator John McCain was captured by the North Vietnamese and spent years in a
prison in Hanoi. While he was there the North Vietnamese succeeded in breaking him. He signed
a confession of wrong-doing, condemned the United States, supported Vietnamese communism,

Apparently about 50% of prisoners of war break in this way.

I don't know of anyone who served in Vietnam who is in any way critical of Senator McCain for
having caved. He was under enormous psychological and physical pressure. He has gone on to
serve his country admirably and has redeemed himself. He certainly would have been a better
president than the current incumbent.

Although my own situation is only vaguely analogous to that of McCain, there are faint parallels.
Cult-like organizations indoctrinate their members to have a horror of being declared heretics
(here, "covenant breakers"), which is seen as a supernatural sort of taboo. In the hothouse
atmosphere of 95-96, when the internet was fairly new and powerful fundamentalists on the UHJ
were convinced that the genie could be put back in the bottle, I was subjected to enormous
psychological pressures aimed at making me either fall silent or resign.

I regret, of course, that I succumbed to them, though it is still not clear to me what else I could
have done. But unless you have been in a similar situation, you quite simply don't have the
standing to accuse me of being a coward.

By the way, I pioneered for Baha'u'llah in Lebanon during the Civil War, and had mortars go off
quite nearby me. I insisted on staying. I don't believe I am a coward. Have you ever risked your
life for Baha'u'llah?

Juan Cole  


Your belief that the uhj is going to reform itself appears
 to me quite naive. I argue the shape is set for things to 
come. It's also plausible that the uhj has unavoidably 
disclosed what the bahai faith *is* and has been all along. 

It's just as likely that the uhj has been following the 
examples of both Baha'u'llah and Abdul-Baha: public support 
and expressions of largely liberal and progressive values
while concealing an inveterate fundamentalism....

A conclusion difficult to escape given the past decade
and so forth.


7/3/01 1:40 AM  1 out of 30   

The following is also posted at:

Commentary On Amin Banani, "Some Reflections on Juan Cole's Modernity and the

Juan R. I. Cole 

I would like to take this opportunity to respond to Amin Banani's meditation on my recent book
(Amin Banani, "Some Reflections on Juan Cole's Modernity and the Millennium," Baha'i Studies
Review, Volume 9 (1999/2000), pp. 159-162). It has been necessary for me to reply on the
Internet because the journal itself was forbidden by higher Baha'i authorities to allow me to reply
to this review in its pages. Having Banani's reactions to the book is particularly interesting, since
he has been so crucial to the development of Iranian studies in the United States during the past
half-century. Despite being an immigrant from a very different culture at a time when the U.S.
was relatively closed to immigration, he pursued a highly successful academic career in his
adopted country, which welcomed him without regard to the issues of religious orthodoxy that
had hounded his coreligionists in the land of his birth. His first book, on Reza Shah's
modernization program, in many respects still stands today, a remarkable feat. His pioneering
researches on Shi`ite passion plays foreshadowed a flood of later work. His sensitive and selfless
co-translations of poets like Furugh Farrukhzad, in which he called upon the cooperation of
prize-winning English-language poets, constituted a major paradigm shift in our approach to
literary translation of Persian. He was also instrumental in introducing this prominent woman
writer to English-speaking audiences. At UCLA, he mentored, without any fanfare or due
recognition, a stream of doctoral students who went on to make key contributions to the
academic study of Iran and the Middle East. 

Banani's help and encouragement have thus been important to many scholars of the Middle East
over the past 40 years, including to myself. Clearly, he is not responsible for what they go on to
write, and it is natural that he would wish in some instances to make his differences with his
former students clear. I deeply appreciate his forthright acknowledgment of the value of my book
at the beginning of his meditation, in which he points to its importance for Iranian historiography
and for the study of modernity in the Middle East. While he does not use the word "brilliant"
lightly or often about scholars, in this case his application of it to yours truly, a mere yeoman
historian, is surely a sign of his own generosity of spirit more than anything else. 

Banani's subsequent comments come under three headings. First, he objects to what he perceives
as an implicit assumption in the book that good scholarship is agnostic and incompatible with
faith. Second, he is under the impression that I have traced "every bit of what is modern in
Baha'u'llah's thought to direct or indirect influences of the West," and have done so with too
little real evidence for such influences. Third, he objects to a small paragraph at the end of the
book in which I suggested that "some contemporary leaders" of the Baha'i faith were committed
to principles such as scriptural literalism, patriarchy, theocracy and so forth. 


7/3/01 1:42 AM  2 out of 30   

I would like to reply to each of these points very briefly. First, I wish to query Banani's
assumption (that seems to be all it is) that Modernity and the Millennium advocates an implicit
agnosticism. His conclusion is certainly not one that other reviewers have come to. The
Islamicist Merlin Swartz wrote in his review of my book [in The American Historical Review,
Volume 105, no. 3 (June 2000): 1049, the flagship journal for some 17,000 professional
historians in the U.S.] that it depicted the Baha'i faith as critical of the excesses of Enlightenment
rationalism and Jacobinism, saying: 

"Baha'ism insisted that only a religious dimension is capable of providing the kind of constraints
that the secularist and rationalist aspects of modernist doctrines need to protect them against
excess a concern dramatically underscored by the events of the modern period." 

The author of the review then adds: 

"To the degree that Cole endorses this Baha'i emphasis on the importance of a religious
dimension, some readers will undoubtedly see the present work as in part an apologia for
religion. Whether one agrees with the position articulated in this work or not, one must concede
that Cole has raised a set of issues that demand careful, critical attention." 

Thus, the "agnosticism" of Cole's approach in Modernity and the Millennium appears to be more
a subjective impression of Banani than an objective assessment. Other reviewers have seen the
book as the work of an "apologist" for "religion." This phrase keeps cropping up among Western
academics that read my work. A draft of the article in The International Journal of Middle East
Studies that later was reworked into chapters 2 and 3 of the book was criticized by one of the
outside readers as "a clever apology for Baha'ism." The editor nevertheless published it. 

Moreover, it would be extremely difficult to discover any affirmation of faith in a specific
religion in `Abdul-Baha's Secret of Divine Civilization, a book of social and religious
reformism aimed at the wider Middle Eastern society, which was published anonymously in
Bombay in 1882. Like contemporary academic scholarship, the language of nineteenth-century
reformism participated in certain universal assumptions and vocabulary that were not specific to
particular religious or cultural groups. `Abdul-Baha unhesitatingly adopted this language in
order to reach his audience, suppressing open acknowledgment of the inspiration for many of the
ideas he advocated. To the extent that `Abdul-Baha is an exemplar for contemporary Baha'is,
one might expect this lack of explicitness to be more common in Baha'i writing about the social
principles of their religion than it is. 


7/3/01 1:44 AM  3 out of 30   

It strikes me as particularly odd that I should be accused of agnosticism, since I am to my
knowledge the only academic Baha'i historian of my generation who has also written theology.
If the accusation is that I reserve theological assertions for theology and historical ones for my
history-writing, I plead guilty. However, a similar approach to historiography is visible in others.
It is difficult for me to see any difference in the style in which Modernity and the Millennium is
written and the academic historical writings on the Babi-Baha'i tradition of Alessandro Bausani,
Abbas Amanat, Peter Smith, Todd Lawson and Moojan Momen. In a 1983 article for IJMES,
Momen actually applied a sophisticated mathematical formula to establish that the class origins
of the Babis as Tabarsi were statistically similar to those of Iranians as a whole! (Moojan
Momen, "The Social Basis for the Babi Upheavals in Iran (1848-53)," International Journal of
Middle East Studies 15 (1983):157-183.) Indeed, I cannot recall Banani himself publishing
anything on the Baha'i faith in refereed academic venues outside the Baha'i publishing
establishment, which gave any practical demonstration of a successful alternative, pietistic
approach to the writing of Baha'i history. It seems to me that my book is being singled out for a
style that is commonplace in academic writing on the history of religious movements, which has
been employed by a number of prominent Baha'is in good standing. 

The second main issue with which Banani is concerned in his meditation is what he sees as my
attempt to trace all the major Baha'i principles to Western influences. Here again, I explicitly
deny in the book (and I continue to deny here) that this dichotomy is a useful way of thinking. I
note that modernity was felt as alien in Europe, just as it was in the Middle East. The antinomy
between the "West" and the "Middle East" is itself an artifact of a modernist outlook, rooted in
binary oppositions and nationalist claims on knowledge. `Abdul-Baha in The Secret of Divine
Civilization denounced the anxiety among Iranian Shi`ites of his time to avoid "Western"
influence as a piece of foolishness. Nineteenth-century modernity was global in its origins and
impact. "The West" is not a useful category for considering this phenomenon. The Chinese
invented printing, gunpowder and bureaucracy, and there is some evidence that Europe derived
most if not all of these from East Asia. Algebra and key advances in astronomy were invented by
the Muslims. Benedict Anderson has argued that nationalism was first imagined in Latin
America. The great colonial empires were Creole, hybrid affairs. A Muslim pilot guided Vasco
da Gama to India. Baha'u'llah lived his life in the Greater Mediterranean (including five years on
European soil), and responded to the crises and conundrums faced by the people around him who
felt the impact of modernity, whether they were Europeans or Middle Easterners. All prophets
address both transcendental spiritual and ethical concerns and more immediate social problems,
and this book is about the latter. 


7/3/01 1:45 AM  4 out of 30   

With regard to peace thought, I talk of India's Akbar and of Shi`ite millennialist traditions and
hopes, not just about Western European movements. I give clear evidence of the importance for
Baha'u'llah's thinking on collective security of the 1856 Treaty of Paris (which ended the
Crimean War), a document hammered out by Middle Easterners like Mehmet Emin Ali Pasha as
well as by European and Russian diplomats. To see this treaty, which pledged several Western
European nations to go to war to protect the Ottomans from any future Russian aggression, as a
"Western" document would be to ignore the Ottoman context of and key contributions to it.
Rather, it was a document that evolved in the interaction and dialogue (violent and peaceful) of
the peoples of the Greater Mediterranean, articulating the principle of collective security, which
Baha'u'llah approved of as a model for global peacekeeping. I show the ways in which
Baha'u'llah presents a severe critique of reigning European ideologies such as Romantic
nationalism and Enlightenment deism, and suggest its indigenous roots. 

Where I sketch parallel European developments, these are instanced as contributory to the
Zeitgeist of the Greater Mediterranean during Baha'u'llah's lifetime, not necessarily as direct
influences on him. The evidence for his interactions with progressive Ottoman officials and
intellectuals, however, seems to me far more extensive than Banani is willing to admit, going
rather beyond casual coffeehouse conversations, to actual correspondence and long association,
not to mention awareness of the Ottoman press. The problematic of my book is not
Westernization, the old paradigm so crucial to Banani's early work on Reza Shah at Stanford in
the 1950s, but modernity and postmodernity with their global contexts and impact. That he
insists on reading the latter through the lens of the former seems to me to say more about his
unwillingness to abandon the old paradigm of modernization theory than about my book. 


7/3/01 1:46 AM  5 out of 30   

Banani characterizes me as having asserted the influence of "fundamentalism" among some
contemporary Baha'i leaders, and goes on to say that I was "presumably" speaking of "Shoghi
Effendi and the Universal House of Justice." I must confess myself absolutely astonished that a
scholar of Banani's caliber and eminence should have chosen arbitrarily to put words in my
mouth in this way. Since I was speaking of the contemporary Baha'i community, I obviously did
not have Shoghi Effendi in mind. I spoke simply of "some leaders." Moreover, this particular
tack in his argument bewilders me because I have listened to endless complaints from him about
the Universal House of Justice's policies toward scholarship. He complained about having his
own translation work interfered with on a number of occasions. He angrily withdrew his name
from his introduction to Muhammad `Ali Salmani's My Memories of Baha'u'llah, when the
translation by Marzieh Gail was ordered bowdlerized by the Universal House of Justice in 1982.
I heard through a friend that he was criticized for this move in Haifa as "spineless." (Apparently
his unwillingness to defend the censorship of primary sources was seen as a sort of cowardice
and lack of commitment to the Baha'i Cause.) Nor did the Amin Banani I knew have much
respect for the intellectual acumen of the Baha'i establishment in Haifa. He once told me, "The
problem with Haifa is that they do not know what they do not know." For him now to insist that
there is no hint of religious fundamentalism attaching to anyone in the Baha'i world center, as he
does in his "meditation," seems to me contradictory to everything he ever said to me privately on
this subject. While I would not ordinarily begrudge him this bit of pious dissimulation, it does
seem a bit hard for him now to take me to task for saying publicly what he has long said
privately. As for my general point, I cannot see how it differs in any essential way from that of
Moojan Momen in his article on fundamentalism in this very journal (Moojan Momen,
"Fundamentalism and Liberalism: Towards an Understanding of the Dichotomy," Baha'i Studies
Review, vol. 2 (1), [1992]). Momen makes the same argument as I do, that fundamentalist and
liberal tendencies both exist in the contemporary Baha'i faith, and that the conflict that
sometimes breaks out between the two can be painful for individuals. That this somewhat
obvious assertion should cause any controversy somewhat amazes me, since by now there are a
fair number of well known such conflicts. 


7/3/01 1:49 AM  6 out of 30   

That a small paragraph in a 264-page book, virtually the only passage that is anything but
laudatory about the movement, should be the focus of so much commentary, suggests to me that
it is being used as a hook rather than being the actual subject. It is a hook for bringing up the
discontents I have expressed, not in this book but in other forums, about anti-intellectualism in
the contemporary community (the justice of which Banani graciously acknowledges). This book
was substantially completed before those controversies broke out, however, and the comments in
the conclusion about a contemporary fundamentalist tendency were simply intended to
demonstrate the fallacy of essentialism and the fluidity of religious responses to modernity. I
should therefore be sorry to see one sentence dominate discussion of a book that is largely about
another subject altogether. 

Finally, I am disturbed by a particular aspect of the Banani review. He objects to the use of the
methodologies of what I called formal academic scholarship in the study of the Baha'i religion.
Yet these methodologies are simply the ones of contextualization and historical explanation, the
same ones he has used all his life and for which he represented himself to stand before the U.S.
academic community. His equation of these methods with the lifework of Shaykh Muhammad
Taqi Isfahani Najafi, the prominent Shi`ite clergyman of nineteenth century Isfahan, seems to me
actually bizarre. Shaykh Muhammad Taqi, whom Baha'u'llah called "the son of the Wolf," never
wrote anything at all employing the modern historical methodologies to which I appealed to in
my book. He was simply a traditional nineteenth-century clergyman. He attacked Baha'u'llah on
theological grounds, not academic ones. And, of course, he had a number of Babis and Baha'is
killed as heretics. To equate a figure like Shaykh Muhammad Taqi with contemporary academic
historians of the Babi and Baha'i religions seems to me a category error to say the least. For my
own part, I not only have not attacked Baha'u'llah (in whom I am a believer and whose cause I
have served for nearly 30 years), but I have been vocal and active in defending the Iranian Baha'i
community from persecution. I decline to speculate as to why Banani chose to bring up Shaykh
Muhammad Taqi in this context, because all the explanations I have been able to think of are

That subject of my book was the alternative image of modernity presented to us by Baha'u'llah,
a vision of peace, tolerant spirituality, global cooperation, human rights, the advent of reason
among the masses and the concomitant rise of parliamentary governance, the equality of women
and men, and the development of the potential of societies and persons throughout the world.
Many would call it a hopelessly utopian and unrealistic vision. They would point out that if
minor differences concerning the presentation of it are capable of dividing old friends like Amin
Banani and myself, who share that vision even if we do not agree about the best ways to achieve
it, then it really is nothing more than a chimera. I for one refuse to believe that either of these
latter, cynical propositions is true. 

*Modernity and the Millennium: The Genesis of the Baha'i Faith in the 19th Century Middle
East (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1998) is available from at:

7/3/01 8:42 AM  7 out of 30   

Dear Juan,
An excellent response to a very disingenuous article. That the powers that be have forbidden
your response from being published in BSR is no longer surprising and indicative of what they
perceive "Baha'i scholarship" to be all about. 
Nice to "hear" from you again!

7/3/01 1:17 PM  9 out of 30   

1) Hi, Paul! Thanks for the kind words. It is great to hear from you, too. Why don't you join us
over at

I should be clear that the editorial staff at the
Baha'i Studies Review are not to blame for my 
inability to reply to the review there. This was
something imposed on them from higher up, either the
UK National Assembly or the Universal House of Justice.
Of course, behind the facade of niceness, the Baha'i
"Institutions" have a strong totalitarian streak. 
In-house journals like BSR are viewed by them as 
places where they can beat up on people they don't
like and deny the victims any voice in reply. The
same thing happened when I tried to reply to an
article trashing me by Nader Saiedi in the Journal
of Baha'i Studies. I was not even given the courtesy
of a reply by the "editor" Wendy Heller (not someone to my knowledge with any serious
academic credentials.
Something like JBS (but not BSR) is a kind of front
organ for trying to influence academics in a cult-like direction, similar to what the Moonies do.

2) With regard to "Baha'ism" and academics, the use of the term does not imply lack of expertise.
I have heard Amin Banani, a Baha'i professor who taught for decades at UCLA, argue that we
should use the term rather than the awkward "the Baha'i Faith," which no copy-editor would
accept as good English. Academics call the Society of Friends "Quakers", the Church of Jesus
Christ of the Latter Day Saints "Mormons," etc.,
etc. It doesn't mean they lack expertise; sometimes they have studied these movements for
decades and know
much more about them than casual believers do. I myself
use "the Baha'i faith" and have convinced the copy-editors to let me do so, because I want
Baha'is to feel comfortable reading my academic scholarship on our religion. But I don't objec to
"Baha'ism." And, in some languages, like Russian, even the Baha'is use the equivalent.

cheers Juan Cole    

7/4/01 1:45 AM  12 out of 30   

H-Bahai routinely publishes replies from authors
whose work has been criticized on the list. It
is genuinely an academic list, and follows standard
academic procedures as mandated by H-Net. The policies
are set by the editorial board, which includes seven or eight prominent academics and archivists
who have demonstrated a strong commitment to academic values, who have higher degrees and
posts at universities, and who have earned the right not to be smeared by Pat Kohli.

The fact is, Pat, that when a journal publishes a strongly negative review of a book, it has an
obligation to allow an author response. I do this frequently at the *International Journal of
Middle East Studies* (Cambridge University Press), which I edit. For the journal to be forbidden
to allow an author reply by an NSA or by the UHJ is just sleazy, and demonstrates how radically
unfair the typical behind the scenes practices of the Baha'i administration really are.

I don't believe you could quote anything from *Modernity and the Millennium* that would show
I am an agnostic. I believe you might even find that I talk about Baha'u'llah "revealing" Tablets!
As for people who want to criticize the norms of academic writing about religion, they have a
responsibility to actually demonstrate how it could be done better. We are waiting for *your*
book published at a university press, Pat.

cheers Juan


7/4/01 2:39 PM  14 out of 30   

Dear Don:

Academic scholarship is not so different from writing
software code. There are rules for how to find out
why a particular program functions as it does. If you
follow the rules, you get a pretty good idea of what
drives the program, what bugs it has, etc. Academic historians have developed rules for trying to
understand what happened in the past and how it has shaped the present. Mostly nobody minds
that they do this. But somehow when they apply the same rules to the history of religions, there
are howls of protest. People who have a fundamentalist approach to religion want to deny that
their church or religious community has unfolded in *history* and that its history can be
recovered by the same methods as the history of a nation or a civil association. But this is just
special pleading. Religions may or may not receive inspiration from outside History, from the
Transcendent. That is not something a historian can decide. But whatever their original
inspiration, religions are human institutions with a human history just like everything else. Nor
are prophets non-human.

As for your problem with Denis MacEoin, no one will assert that any particular conclusion
reached at any particular time by a specific historian is necessarily correct. One can always find
things to disagree with in the work of any historian. The point is that the academic historian's
*methodology* is most likely to give us the best over-all view of how a religious movement
developed over time. Academic history always involves an argument among historians and their
readers, which also tends to bring certain conclusions into question over time and provokes a
search for more evidence and analysis. The picture delivered by academic history improves over
time. MacEoin was a pioneer. Some of his conclusions may not stand. But he showed the way to
a new understanding of the Babi and Baha'i religions that is far more solidly based than that of,
say, Esslemont (which is the kind of thing we had before).

On the specific point you raised, Baha'u'llah disavows the idea of incarnation (hulul). However, it
is true that his diction changes over time. In the 1860s and 1870s when he says "Haqq" (Absolute
Truth), it is always a reference to God. In the late Akka period he often uses "Haqq" to refer to
himself. So Denis may or may not have gotten the nuances right, but his point is not without
foundation in the textual evidence.

cheers Juan    

 jricole on beliefnet 
6/10/01 10:50 PM  26 out of 27   

Allah'u'Abha, all.

Yes, I am a Baha'i, and a follower of Baha'u'llah.
Have been since 1972, with a short hiatus in the
mid to late 1990s. I have not be declared a 
non-Baha'i by anyone to my knowledge, except 
bigotted ignoramuses masquerading as tolerant and loving Baha'is. I am the only Baha'i author that
thousands of non-Baha'i academics and journalists
have ever read, so I am not only a Baha'i but I
am a well-known one, relatively speaking.

I guess I don't think it is netiquette to put an
individual's name in the subject header. We 
wouldn't allow that at,
where moderators also exclude ad hominems and
declarations that so-and-so is not a Baha'i. Those
of you reading this who like intellectual,
no-holds-barred discussions that are nevertheless
not personal slugfests are invited to join us over

That said, I recognize that authors are public persons
and that it is inevitable that if you write a book
at some point people will discuss you. I'm
philosophical about it. I wish everyone with any
interest in the subject would read *Modernity and
the Millennium: The Genesis of the Baha'i Faith in
the 19th Century Middle East* (Columbia Univ. Press,
1998) and look at two Web pages:


If anyone has specific questions, I'd be glad to answer
them, but please cc me at and say this
is on beliefnet.

And, yes, I accept the legitimate authority of the
Baha'i institutions, though I think they sometimes
exercise it in a way damaging to the Cause of God,
because of their immaturity. And, no, I don't want
any followers. People should get their own goddamn
schtick. Sheesh.

May the Glory of the All-Glorious be upon us all -

cheers Juan

4/17/01 1:35 AM  24 out of 30   

I was surprised to see my name in the heading of the thread. I don't get time to read these boards
very often, and would appreciate not being made the title of postings here unless I am cc'd at my
regular email address.

I was called 'not a Baha'i.' I consider myself a believer in Baha'u'llah. I became a Baha'i in 1972.
I had resigned under duress May 1996-Feb. 1999 when I re-declared, but for much of even that
period my heart was with Baha'u'llah. And it had been for a long time. I pioneered in Lebanon
during the early years of the Civil War there and risked my life for the Baha'i Faith. I also
became deathly ill in India while pioneering there, was unconscious for several days, and could
easily have died. One doesn't normally wish to bring such matters up. But when a coddled
suburban American who has never risked his life for Baha'u'llah excommunicates you, you are
sort of forced to present counter-evidence.

It is quite irrelevant to me whether some persons wish to set up criteria for throwing people like
me out of the Baha'i faith. I have not done anything to them, and I have not brought into question
*their* faith. I have never forced my opinion on anyone. They are acting aggressively toward
someone who only wanted to serve Baha'u'llah. That service and that faith will continue whether
they like it or not. A lot of people have been excommunicated by their communities. Spinoza
was thrown out of Amsterdam's Jewish community by the rabbis. Hindu religious leaders
excommunicated Gandhi. Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa'i was declared an infidel, putting his life at
risk. I am just an ordinary historian and so am even more liable to being so treated than those
great souls were. I can't see what harm it did them in the end. We heretics are the ones who write
the interesting books, the ones that get read even after we are dead.

So, I am too a Baha'i. Nyaaah.

cheers Juan