The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience

From: Juan Cole <>
To: Burl Barer <>
Cc: <>
Subject: Re: shunning and the law
Date: Friday, June 05, 1998 2:23 AM
Have a good and safe trip, Burl, and godspeed.
As for me, the time is rather past for tact.  In 1982 I was a young,
sincere, devoted Baha'i graduate student at UCLA.  I had become a Baha'i
ten years earlier, and had immediately begun learning Arabic in order to
read the writings of my beloved in the original.  I had pioneered in
Lebanon during the 5 year plan, and the behest of the Universal House of
Justice, and tried my best to stay there to fulfill the plan goal even
though the civil war had broken out.  In 1982 I was doing a degree in
Islamics at UCLA in order better to understand the background of the faith,
and was planning to do my research in India, in part because I knew my stay
there would also allow me to do some travel teaching (which I did end up
doing among villagers in Bengal and elsewhere).  In 1981 at ABS's request I
had made time to write that essay on the 'Concept of Manifestation' for them.
In 1982 Doug Martin pulled aside John Walbridge and told him, "Juan Cole is
a covenant breaker."  He backbit me.  He lied about me.  He launched the
gravest of accusations against me without the least authority to do so.  I
was still in my twenties, stars in my eyes, worshipful of the Baha'i faith
and its administration.  I had no idea such things went on routinely behind
the scenes.  He may as well have reached into my chest and pulled out my
heart, bloody and still beating.  Remember that this is 1982.  No Dialogue,
no Talisman.  I hadn't ever broken a Baha'i law, or shown the slightest
disrespect or disobedience to a Baha'i institution.  I had never caused any
trouble in any community to which I belonged.  I hadn't even so much as met
Doug Martin.  And when Martin managed, after years of subtle campaigning,
to get himself elected to the House in 1993, he had within 3 years found a
means of having me at last *formally* charged with contravening the
covenant.  And you know what my real sin was?  That he disagreed with my
point of view.  This in a leader of a religion that is supposed to preach
love and tolerance and the unity of the peoples of the world.  He couldn't
even tolerate another Baha'i with a different point of view.
So, I have rather lost my sense of tact in regard to some people, and I'd
like to see an apology before I even think about regaining it.
`Abdul-Baha was right that one shouldn't put one's faith in other human
beings, and also that we human beings need to pull together despite our
differences.  But that lays responsibilities on religious leaders not to
gossip and backbite and create division with false charges and bullying.
And no amount of exhortation to good will is going to produce harmony if a
religion's leaders consistently mistreat their followers.
cheers   Juan
>so my server doesn't get clogged by
>the plethora of brilliant, tactful, and tasteful posts flowing to Talisman?
>If so, thanks.
>Your tactful friend (for real)