The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience



Abbas Amanat

Resurrection and Renewal: The Making of the Babi Movement in Iran, 1844-1850
By Abbas Amanat; Cornell University Press, 1989. 464 pgs.


See Professor Juan Cole's comments below. Also search for "Abbas Amanat" at the bottom of this site's home page for a complete list of references to him and his important book.

"The true story of Abbas Amanat is as follows..." (follow link... for its entirety.)

"The true story of Abbas Amanat is as follows. He was brought up a Baha'i, in a Kashan family that had traditionally been Jewish but that had converted to the Baha'i faith in the previous generation. His brother Husayn designed the monument at Azadi square in Tehran, and also the seat of the universal house of justice. His father is an accomplished historian and is writing a mult-volume history of the Kashan Baha'i community. His brother Mehrdad is also a historian and co-authored the section on Qajar Iran in the prestigious Cambridge History of Iran. As a young intellectual at Tehran University and then later at Oxford, Abbas noticed that there was an authoritarian and anti-intellectual streak to the Baha'i organization, as exemplified in bigots such as Furutan (who had played a very sinister role in the attack on and suppression of Mazandarani's scholarship back in the 1930s and 1940s). Abbas therefore very wisely decided rather early on that he wanted nothing to do with the Baha'i organization. However, he has said repeatedly and publicly that he is "in love with the Bab.""



For Cole's comments back in January on Maneck's slanderous tactics,
essentially "hikmat":

Then click Edit, Find "Maneck" for message below and other comments:

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

ALSO Cole17.htm