The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience


Juan Cole - Menu

Juan Cole on Baha'i Takfir

FROM Biography of Juan Cole: (if link broken, see )

"Being in Evanston, Juan in 1972 encountered the Baha’i religion, which has a temple in nearby Wilmette, and embraced it. The Baha’is said they believed in the unity of the world religions, the elimination of racism, the equality of women and men, and world peace — values that resonated with Juan’s own interests and convictions.

"He continued, however, with his studies of Buddhism and Sufi Islam, and was always a fish out of water in the often cult-like and anti-intellectual Baha’i community. Individual Baha’is and families were often very kind to him, and he is grateful to them and respects their beliefs. But it ultimately wasn’t for him. It gradually became apparent that most Baha’is do not actually believe in the equality of women and men, excluding women from their elective highest body, the Universal House of Justice, and giving speeches about how women have a different function in society than men and how men are the heads of the household. Then it gradually became apparent that whatever they privately believed about racism, they were unwilling to take a stand, as quietists, against Apartheid– and, indeed, were entirely willing to cooperate with the South African government if their religious institutions thereby gained freedom of action. Then it became clear that they are no more religious pluralists than Roman Catholics or Muslims, admitting partial truth in other traditions, but insisting that only in their own tradition is the fullness of the contemporary truth manifest. Then it became clear that the Baha’i authorities were not exactly pacifists. The top leadership has a secret cult-like belief in a Baha’i theocracy that will rule the world, rather on the same model as the theory of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that Muslim clergy should replace civil governments globally. Some Baha’i communities were frankly reactionary, as with the Chilean community, which kept trying for photo ops with Gen. Augusto Pinochet. The community, for understandable reasons, opposed the Iranian revolution of 1978-79 in Iran, but many went further and privately warmly supported the shah for the most part. Cole gradually lost his enthusiasm for the community and the administration. When he married outside it in 1982, he stopped going to services because his non-Baha’i wife was excluded. He was also increasingly disturbed by the censorship practices imposed on Baha’i writers by the religion’s administration, and refused to submit to them.

"(When email lists came along in the 1990s and he was active in Baha’i discussions of the religion’s history and policies, in which he retained an academic interest, and some hopes of reform, and he came to be hated by the fundamentalist leadership. In 1996 they had a high official call him at home and threaten him with being declared a “covenant-breaker,” i.e. a heretic, because of his critical email postings. Baha’is shun “covenant-breakers” and shun people who are in contact with them. Cole was astonished at the narrow-minded and coercive tactics of the administration, and declined to remain in the community. He angrily resigned. He is now not interested in organized religion as a personal matter. Cole was all along an American liberal, and had thought the Baha’is were on his side, which he discovered to be an error, at least with regard to the secretive and duplicitous leadership. His political and social philosophy is rooted in American traditions going back to the Transcendentalists and going forward to Martin Luther King, Michael Harrington, and other progressives, and all along has been. He vigorously disputes the baseless and misleading editorializing in his current Wikipedia article that his views of international politics in the twenty-first century are still shaped by his youthful Baha’i misadventure.)"....

.... The rise of email lists and of the World Wide Web had allowed Juan to get back in touch with Baha’i studies in the early through mid-1990s. He was able to trade Babi and Baha’i manuscripts in Persian and Arabic with other afficionados, including other scholars and Iranian-Americans, building up a much bigger private collection than he had had before. He was then able to discuss new discoveries and contexts on email discussion groups. This new access to materials, his researches on the Ottoman and Young Ottoman context of Baha’i thought in the 19th century, and the email discussions resulted in his 1998 book Modernity and the Millennium. Unfortunately neither the discussions nor the academic character of the book were welcome to the fundamentalists in the religion’s leadership. The book appeared a couple of years after Cole had been threatened with being declared a “covenant breaker” and with being shunned, and after he had noisily resigned from the religion. In many ways writing about Babi and Baha’i issues turned out to be unproductive. Few Western academics are interested in minority Iranian religious traditions, and theory coming out of the study of religion has had little resonance in most academic writing. In Iran itself, the Baha’i faith is a taboo subject and Baha’is are persecuted, and as a result most Iranists avoid the subject. And many if not most Baha’is are hostile to academic scholarship on their tradition. So writing such a book was the closest thing to pure scholarship, since it was unlikely to be widely read or discussed by any of the three discourse communities concerned. Merlin Swartz reviewed the book in The American Historical Review, calling it “carefully researched and perceptive” and “reflective and insightful.” Margit Warburg of the University of Copenhagen observed in History of Religions, “Cole analyzes the original writings in Persian and Arabic in their contemporary context of Middle East reform thought and politics, in particular the Young Ottoman movement and dissident governmental circles in Iran. He makes use of a wealth of primary sources in Persian, Arabic, and Turkish, and he uses his extensive knowledge of the Baha’i religion and the history of the Middle East to build up an excellent, convincing, and detailed study of intellectual history. Cole wants to “employ microhistory in order to help diversify our image of the region” (p. 14), and he succeeds in giving the reader insight into the little researched area of political reform thought in the Ottoman Empire and in Iran. He also links these ideas with European, in particular French, political and utopian philosophy, noting the parallel between the Saint-Simonians and the Baha’is, with respect to both their ideas and the social position of their followers (pp. 136-37).”

[other references to Baha'i on his blog biography, via the link above.]

Given Professor Cole's extensive work on the Baha'i Faith, I suggest the newcomer might find it helpful to start with his following first three articles in this order:

"Fundamentalism in the Contemporary U.S. Baha'i Community" Religious Studies Review, 2002. Essential Reading  Broad Survey
"The Baha'i Faith in America as Panopticon, 1963-1997" JSSR, 1998. In depth on a briefer period
"Race, Immorality and Money in the American Baha’i Community [LA]" Religion, 2000. Focus on one incident
"The Evolution of Charismatic Authority in the Baha'i Faith (1863-1921)," in Robert Gleave, ed., Religion and Society in Qajar Iran (London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2005), pp. 311-345. [Although Cole appears to take the fraudulent will and testament at face value, this article is an insightful reading of the interplay of Max Weber's conception of chrisma and money as they play out in the rise of Baha'i Faith. Well worth the effort to obtain and read it.]
Cole on New Orthodoxy of Baha'i Faith 2005

"The Evolution of Charismatic Authority in the Baha'i Faith (1863-1921)," in Robert Gleave, ed., Religion and Society in Qajar Iran (London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2005), pp. 311-345. [Very important article but not available online. Demonstrates and documents the role of money in establishing the Iranian Baha'i orthodox interpretation. Unfortunately, Cole seems yet to realize the purported will and testament of 1921 is actually a fraudulent document.]

"Globalisation and Religion in the Thought of Abdu'l-Baha ." In Margit Warburg, Annika Hvithamar and Morten Warmind, eds., Baha'i and Globalisation. Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 2005, pp. 55-75.

"The Azali-Baha'i Crisis of September 1867." In Moshe Sharon, ed. Studies in Modern Religions, Religious Movements, and the Babi-Baha'i Faiths. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2004. Pp. 227-251.

"World Theology and the Baha'i Faith," in Thomas Ryba, George Bond and Herman Tull, eds., The Comity and Grace of Method: Essays in Honor of Edmund R. Perry (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 2004), pp. 391-414.

"Millennialism in Modern Iranian History," in Abbas Amanat and Magnus Bernhardsson, eds. Imagining the End: Visions of Apocalypse from the Ancient Middle East to Modern America (London: I.B. Tauris, 2002), pp. 282-311.

"Behold the Man: Baha'u'llah on the Life of Jesus." Journal of the American Academy of Religion vol. 65, no. 1 (1997): 47-71.

"Baha'u'llah and Liberation Theology," in Jack McLean, ed. Revisioning Theology. (Los Angeles: Kalimat Press, 1997), 79-98.

Extensive documentation of censorship and other fundamentalist Bahai maladies available on Prof. Cole's website:

Shunning > Menu

Patrick Henry May 12 1999, 12:00 am show options
Newsgroups: talk.religion.bahai,alt.religion.bahai
From: "Patrick Henry" <>
Date: 1999/05/12
Subject: Re: 'Abdul-Baha on how we should see others

<> wrote in message
> I have witnessed the top Baha'i authorities chase educated people out of the
> faith for 20 years
(there didn't seem to be so much of this in the 1970s). I
> have seen the coercive and manipulative psychological techniques of
> "counselors" and "ABMs" applied in case after case, with the abused and
> frightened victim pouring his or her heart out to me afterwards. It is not a
> pretty thing to feel persecuted by your own religion merely for your private
> religious beliefs


It may very well be that prior to the 70s the same thing was
indeed taking place; you were merely unaware of it.

Patrick Henry
"Give me liberty, or give me death."

The point is that the Baha'i institutions have developed a mixture of
totalitarian and fundamentalist ideology that disallows academic scholarship
(thus the silencing of Fadil Mazandarani, the expulsion of Abbas Amanat, and
the charging of Linda Walbridge and me), disallows independent Baha'i media
not controlled by the institutions, and disallows the public expression of
individual faith commitments at variance with the
totalitarian/fundamentalist orthodoxy. 
Juan Cole, Anonymous3.htm


Selected Messages of Juan Cole for 2003

Cole regarding Denis MacEoin Nov 1, 2003


Re: Individual conscience... and Doug Martin's statement. 5/12/2002 Prof. Juan Cole, University of Michigan 

"A weird Baha'i sub-cult has arisen. It structurally resembles al-Qaida..." Juan Cole 2002

Selected Messages of Juan Cole for 2002

See especially Re: [talisman9] Problems with Facts


Selected Messages of Juan Cole for 2001


Selected Messages of Juan Cole for 2000 70k 

High Baha'i divorce rate, marginal people
"they are love-bombed and find a high proportion of other marginals in
it. A high rate of marginality is fostered by the cultists who have
infiltrated the administration, since only such individuals would put
up with being ordered around summarily or would eat up conspiracy
theories about bands of dissidents seeking to undermine the


Techniques for saving Iranian Baha'is: and for saving the Baha'i community 8/4/99
Baha'u'llah the greatest spiritual teacher of the past two centuries 7/7/99
Shoghi Effendi believed 1963 would be the calamity year 7/8/99
Re: Book recommendation 7/9/99 re Denis MacEoin
Re: censorship on Baha'i Studies 7/29/99
censorship on Baha'i Studies 7/28/99
Re: Baha'i Historian and Distorting History 7/10/99
Re: Character Assassination 6/26/99
Re: The Most Right Scholar 6/27/99
Re: Letter of resignation 6/28/99 (Of Paul Dodenheoff)
Re: Hooper Dunbar and Austin Powers 6/28/99
Re: Hooper Dunbar and Austin Powers 6/28/99
Re: Hooper Dunbar and Austin Powers 6/28/99
Another Inquiring Mind 6/28/99
Re: Members of the Universal House of Justice 6/30/99
station of scholars and historians in the Baha'i faith 6/10/99
Re: Bahai Dialogue Magazine 5/13/99
service and its prerequisites 5/13/99
Re: Bahais, Adminstration and Juan Cole 5/11/99
Re: Resignation 5/8/99
Re: Censorship - Bahai Chairman Steals from Dead Widow 5/7/99
Re: Religions unified this century 5/7/99
'Abdul-Baha on how we should see others 5/6/99
Re: Baha'i Scriptures and Universal Declaration of Human Rights 4/26/99
Re: Obedience, humanism, etc 4/24/99
Dismissal of Chair of US NSA for Financial Improprieties 4/6/99
Re: sanctions for email 2/23/99
Re: Baha'i backbiting 2/23/99
Re: Baha'i Schools of Thought 2/16/99
Re: Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Freedom of Conscience 2/15/99
Re: Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Freedom of Conscience 2/14/99
Re: Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Freedom of Conscience 2/13/99
Re: Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Freedom of Conscience 2/12/99
Re: What is a Cult? 1/29/99
Re: Ms Maneck, Dr Cole 2/21/99 Comments on Susan Maneck
Re: Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Freedom of Conscience 2/10/99
Re: An apology to Fred 2/10/99
Re: Houses of Justice 2/5/99
Re: Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Freedom of Conscience 2/6/99 ** "Counselor" Birkland calls Cole in the night **
Re: Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Freedom of Conscience 2/5/99
Re: Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Freedom of Conscience 2/4/99
Re: Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Freedom of Conscience 2/3/99
Re: Some thoughts 2/2/99
Re: ra'y as idiosyncratic legal opinion 2/1/99
Re: bickering intellectuals or why can't the UHJ read texts? 1/31/99
Re: ra'y as idiosyncratic legal opinion 1/30/99
Re: ra'y as idiosyncratic legal opinion 1/29/99
Re: What is a Cult? and McKenny case 1/29/99
Re: What is a Cult? 1/29/99
Re: What is a Cult? 1/29/99
Baha'u'llah against tyranny 1/29/99
Re: What is a Cult? 1/28/99
Re: What is a Cult? 1/27/99
destroying intellectuals 1/20/99


Re: [bahai-apologetics] Cole part 1 11/14/98 Includes all five parts.
on the bites on my back 10/12/98 Maneck's slander on AOL
mutilation theology and Dr. Maneck 10/5/1998 Regarding AOL & Maneck's "misrepresentations."
[bahai-faith] Re: Checks & Balances (was fw Juan Colemutilation theology) 9/16/98 No checks and balances
Re: [bahai-faith] mutilation theology 9/4/98 No checks and balances
[bahai-faith] mutilation theology (further) 9/4/98 No checks and balances
Re: 4 year plan 6/27/98 Initiative of individuals crushed
Re: driving Ms Scholars 6/24/98 Talisman I
Re: 4 year plan 6/23/98 Driving people out of the Faith
Re: Mazandarani and the Interrogation 6/12/98 Victimized friends, the technique of driving people out of the Bahai Faith
Re: uniting Talisman and Irfan 611/98 anti-intellectualism
Re: discussions of problems 6/11/98 Falsely and outrageously threatened me and my friends, techniques of Scientology
Freedom of Conscience and Women's Service 6/11/98 `Abdul-Baha promised freedom of conscience and speech.
Re: fw from Poland (was: censorship) 6/10/98 Bahais backbiting
Re: shunning and the law 6/5/98 Bahais backbiting
Re: [bahai-faith] Fw: fw Juan Cole: censorship 6/3/98 Bahais backbiting
RE: institutions and circumstances associated with birth of Faith 6/1/98 Deteriorated into a narrow organized religion
censorship 5/27/98 FG's report of censorship practices at SRB mirrors my ownexperience.
Re Kalimat Press 5/11/98 Inquiry about my book
Re: Covenant Breakers 3/3/98 170 Individuals subscribed to Talisman I
two wrongs make a wrong 2/10/98 Dr. Hossein Danesh charged by *three* women patients w/ taking advantage of them
criticism and attacks 2/10/98 The typical stance of the Baha'i Right
Re: New Zealand shunning of non-Baha'i 2/8/98 U.S. case law on shunning
New Zealand shunning of non-Baha'i 2/8/98 *two*non-Baha'is are being shunned by the Baha'i community.
Re: Shunning and religious tolerance 2/8/98 Leaders rideroughshod over human rights
New Zealand shunning of non-Baha'i 2/8/98 Ms Pauline Smith has broken the Covenant and expelled from the Faith
Re: Control of media? 2/8/98 NSA of Australia injured Nima Hazini'srights
Re: Control of media? 2/8/98 Authoritarian and anti-intellectual streak to the Baha'i organization
Re: Control of media? 2/6/98 Harrassed by Baha'i authorities, subjecting my academic writing to prepublication censorship
Re: Khomeinism and phenomenology 2/3/98 Shunning in Iran and the USA


Re: democratic (ha!) 12/15/97 Dnuffingout individual initiative
democratic (ha!) 12/12/97 The point of these inquisitions and expulsions is to ensure conservative hegemony
Re: forward too to UHJ? 12/3/97 They are going to declare you a covenant breaker eventually
Re: Re[2]: anonymous remailers 12/3/1997 Persons were signed on to Irfan under false pretences, as,essentially, spies
Re: Re[2]: anonymous remailers 12/3/1997 Bahais backbiting
Re: anonymous remailers 12/3/1997 Bahais demonizing others
anonymous remailers 12/3/97 Under investigation by the counselors
Freedom of speech and conscience, and Interpretation #2 10/22/97 Abdul-Baha advocated freedom of conscience/speech
Freedom of speech and conscience, and Interpretation 10/21/97 Vast chasm between Baha'i scriptural ideals and practice
Administrative Expulsion #3 1/31/97 Administrative rights taken away for publicly criticizing the National Spiritual Assembly
Administrative Explusion #2 1/29/97 Administrative rights taken away for publicly criticizing the National Spiritual Assembly
Administrative Expulsion 1/29/97 Administrative rights taken away for publicly criticizing the National Spiritual Assembly


Denial of Freedom of Conscience in Bahai 10/22/96 Comments on reactions to his withdrawal from the Bahai Faith


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