The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience

For Dr. Linda Walbridge, a prominent anthropologist of Islam, an authority on Shi`ite Islam, and former associate director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia University, also see the following links

"Critics chafe at Baha'i conservatism" By IRA RIFKIN
February 27, 1997, Religion News Service Obituary 2002 by Juan Cole

Juan Cole - Menu

From: Juan R. I. Cole <>
To: Richard C. Logan <>; Talisman <>
Subject: Re: anonymous remailers
Date: Friday, December 05, 1997 1:08 AM
>I said I imagined you believe you are doing some kind of good and I meant 
>it,  but I don't believe you can step back from yourself and see the harm 
>you are causing.  
Dear Richard:
Could you please be more specific about *my* causing any harm?  Human
beings, real, living human beings, are being manipulated, libelled, given
nightmares, silenced or forced out, and having the most treasured parts of
their identity torn from them.  It happened to me.  It happened to Linda
Walbridge.  It happened to Steve Scholl. It happened to Michael McKenny.
And it has happened to many others behind the scenes, who decided to handle
it differently.  This is being done to devoted Baha'is.  Linda Walbridge
pioneered in difficult circumstances in both Lebanon and Jordan, and she
made enormous sacrifices (including monetary and quality-of-life sacrifices
with regard to her children) for the faith while her husband was working for
it on the Encyclopedia project.  She never harmed the faith she loved.
Unlike the treasurer of the Phoenix LSA, she never embezzled  $70,000 from
the Baha'i faith, yet the treasurer of the Phoenix LSA is still a Baha'i and
has not been accused of contravening the covenant.  Unlike some high Baha'i
officials she was never guilty of any infraction of Baha'i law or of sexual
harrassment or of lying to the Baha'is.  Yet they have cushy offices and
make pompous speeches and are being paid out of your donations to the faith.
What was her crime?  To express her views on email, views which were
legitimately hers as a Baha'i in good standing (i.e. she was guilty of doing
the same thing that Richard Logan and Burl Barer do every day).  She had the
right to declare her conscience and express her views, according to Shoghi
Effendi.  That right was withdrawn from her suddenly, by narrow-minded
elderly men eager to slap down an uppity woman.  And she was forced out of
the faith she loved, by the very people who should have been nurturing her
faith and helping her forward.  She was betrayed, deeply, treasonously,
And this is somehow *my* fault?
>I'm convinced 
>that it was unnecessary for things to have come to this--that you allowed 
>yourself to be swept into a self-fullfilling prophecy.  I could be very 
>wrong in this but I'm letting know as a brother and a collegial admirer.
Richard, if I wanted revenge there are lots of ways for me to get it far
more efficacious than sending occasional messages to 80 Baha'is.  I was in
the religion for nearly quarter of a century.  I have lots of documentation
of Baha'i leaders' peccadilloes.  I'm not interested in that sort of thing.
When you set out for revenge you have to be sure to dig *two* graves.
What I am interested in doing is protesting against the *systemic*
injustices being committed against Baha'is by their own administration.  And
I have the same interest in this as I do protesting, as a member of Amnesty
International, violations of human rights in any setting.  When the Baha'i
administration stops conducting intellectual pogroms and inquisitions that
are contrary to Baha'i law and contrary to basic Baha'i scriptural
principle, then all you will hear from me is translations of Baha'u'llah's
>The question of credibility is always at issue when allegations are made.
I said that I was provided information from a source I trust (who was in
direct contact with the principal), that an Irfani is currently being
prosecuted for email messages that include Irfan messages, which the
prosecutors (i.e. the uhj and the counselors) can only have received
illicitly and can only use by disregarding the right to privacy and
confidentiality that should be enjoyed by everyone on irfan.  I stand by
this statement and I think there are enough others who know the particulars
such that I need not be seen as the only source for this information, nor is
it biased in any way.
As for the possibility that I could have handled things differently, I
respectfully disagree.  While I am glad to say I am all to fallible and make
mistakes all the time (something your uhj, out of institutional pride, would
never admit about *itself*), I do not believe this was one of them.
You see, I put up with quite a lot over the years from the Baha'i
administration, and I never considered leaving the faith.  It was not a
matter, as with Louis Gregory, of my simply being dropped off salary.  I was
never on salary, and never sought to be.  I endured being buttonholed and
hassled about my academic writing (which is no one's business but mine), and
I endured being backbitten & so forth.  For 24 years. 
But when the Baha'i *institutions& *falsely* accused me of contravening a
covenant for which I had risked my life on more than one occasion, it
demonstrated to me that the religion had gone seriously bad, that it had
become corrupt and cult-like, and that there was no place in it for persons
like myself except if they should live their lives in silence and in fear of
the ignorant and narrow-minded.  Since this is demonstrably the opposite of
what Baha'u'llah and `Abdul-Baha wanted for the world, it is hard to escape
the conclusion that the religion has been betrayed by its leaders, just as
Islam was betrayed by the ulama and Christianity was betrayed by the popes
and the priests.
Roman Catholicism has benefitted enormously from the Protestant, secular and
other non-Catholic critique it has been submitted to in the past 400 years,
and is demonstrably a better religion after Vatican II than it was during
the Inquisition.  And in the same way that the non-Catholics have done so
much to help the Church right itself after it had gone deeply astray from
Jesus's principles, so non-Baha'is with an intimate knowledge of the Baha'i
faith have a duty to try to help that religion return to its scriptural
roots and principles.  This is all the more urgent given that those Baha'is
within the administrative order who speak out about the problems they see
are swiftly silenced or expelled.  And just as the Vatican has never thanked
Voltaire for helping reform it, I doubt the Baha'i authorities, after they
finally have their version of Vatican II and release the poor Baha'is from
intellectual bondage, will thank any of us who helped them achieve that
reform.  So be it.  But that is what is desirable: that the Baha'i
institutions start acting as Baha'u'llah and `Abdul-Baha and Shoghi Effendi
would have wanted them to, instead of like Inquisitors and musty Stalinists.
cheers    Juan