The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience


Universal Religion, Jenabe Fazel Mazandarani


From: Juan Cole <>
To: Dagur Nordberg <>
Cc: <>
Subject: Re: Mazandarani and the Interrogation
Date: Friday, June 12, 1998 11:05 PM

Dear Dagur:

You will note that I am not sending my replies to Irfan because I don't
think that is the right place for this discussion.

Basically, I feel that you are not open to what I am saying, and I
therefore am not particularly interested in pursuing this with you.  You
have as much as called me a liar, said I was guilty of character
assassination, and so forth.  I realize that these responses well up from
your faith, and from a reluctance to give credence to charges that, if
true, reflect very badly indeed on the leaders of the Baha'i faith.  You
won't want to believe it, but I have no wish whatsoever to rob you of your
faith.  I want the Baha'i faith to be better and more successful than it is
as an organization. Just as I believe that American democracy is better for
the exposure of Nixon's abuses in the Watergate affair and for the anti-war
movement during Vietnam, so I believe that a critique of the Baha'i status
quo, while painful, will leave the religion stronger and better and more
successful in the future. 

Let me ask you why in the world you think that I would risk my professional
reputation by publicly stating falsehoods?  And why in the world would I be
so angry at the Martins, Arbabs, Furutans, etc., etc., if they haven't in
fact victimized my friends and people I admire?  The very technique of the
more glaze-eyed among these people is to unbearably bully a Baha'i whom
they don't like, use unjustified threats of declaring him or her a CB to
silence the individual, and if the person will not be silenced, then to
depend upon the gullibility of the Baha'is in refusing to listen to any
victim's story because, of course, the Baha'i institutions are infallible
and divinely guided and could never do anything wrong.  It is a perfect

Of course, this technique of making liberals go away has been enormously
successful, and ex-Baha'i liberals have no credibility with the remaining
Baha'is nor do most of them have any energy to continue to make a case,
either to the Baha'is or the outside world, for the incredible abuses that
go on inside this organization ostensibly committed to tolerance!

So, I accept all that, and I knew it when I resigned from the Baha'i faith.
 I knew I would be vilified, dismissed, called prideful for refusing to
allow myself to be bullied, called dishonest, etc.  This is fine with me.
I am well aware of my faults.  No one is more aware of them.  I am the
proverbial broken winged bird, a broken man, a man with shattered faith, a
man betrayed by supposed friends of 25 years.  No insult, no condescension,
no charge of dishonesty or madness can take anything more away from me than
the power-hungry and cruel men who sat down and deliberately planned out
how to rob me of Baha'u'llah.

As for my meeting with Birkland, I shall relate the entire story in detail
eventually.  Initially it was mutually agreed that there should be a
consultation.  But unexpectedly, instead of a consultation, he had brought
along a pre-prepared set of stupid questions which in fact were basically
charges of thought crimes.  "How can you say you believe in Baha'u'llah if
you talk about him like a historical figure?" "Do you think any passage of
scripture can be understood apart from historical context?"  "You are
critical of the accuracy of texts like Nabil's narrative; but these heroic
narratives have done rather well for us."   The idiocy, the absolute
idiocy.  It was the fast, and I kept my cool.  I did not throw him out of
my house and I did not speak sharply to him.  I now wish I had, but I
didn't.  I was too nice, too obedient.  He wrote a report to Haifa which
resulted in heresy charges against me.  He called me up after ten p.m. on a
Tuesday and informed me that the ITC had concluded that I had 'made
statements contrary to the covenant.'  "I'm sorry." he said in a funereal

Many of the Talisman I discussions are up on my web site.  Anyone can read
them to see if they think I was expressing the sincere views of a convinced

Incidentally, Birkland also interrogated John Walbridge and others in
exactly the same way.  He gave a pledge in writing to share with Dr.
Walbridge his report to Haifa.  He reneged on that pledge.  He is a liar in
addition to being an inquisitor.

But Birkland is not important.  He is a gopher.  If the people in Haifa had
told him to come to my house and kiss my feet, he would have done that.
The ones who drew up those stupid questions were people like Doug Martin.
They hide behind the screen of institutions with grand names, and plot on
how to chase out or silence anyone who does not fit their narrow-minded
conception of what a Baha'i is.  Why do you think Denis MacEoin and so many
other thinkers who were once so devoted to the faith are no longer Baha'is?
 These people were *mean* to them behind the scenes. And then all the
Baha'is see is an angry person denouncing how the Baha'i faith is run, and
they have no sympathy for the one victimized.  You'd be surprised how
effective making someone's life hell can be if you are supposed to be his
religious leader and he begins by being full of awe for you, and what you
want is to get rid of him.  It is as with love.  A sudden betrayal can
break a heart, and then it is over.

Am off on vacation.  Don't be prideful in my absence.  :-)

cheers Juan