The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience


Susan Maneck, Baha'i scholar 

See also Susan Maneck, Baha'i scholar: 


From: Juan Cole <>
To: <>
Subject: [bahai-faith] on the bites on my back
Date: Monday, October 12, 1998 12:34 PM

I guess I'm distressed that I am being libelled on an email bulletin board
somewhere at AOL, in my complete absence and with no opportunity of reply
or even being cc'd by the persons discussing me!  Unlike the Baha'i
administration I don't have regularly employed spies and therefore it was
entirely possible that I might not even have seen these scurrilous attacks!

I have been accused of being 'status seeking.'  This is a typical way for
anti-intellectuals to dismiss anyone who dares speak.  Meanwhile, the
people who are *really* status seekers are considered humble and
self-effacing!  Even denouncing intellectuals is itself a way of getting
status in the Baha'i community.  As for myself, if I had wanted status I
would have allowed myself to be silenced and 'turned' by the high-up
cultists in the adminstration; they intimated that that way I might even
have had a shot at membership on the NSA.  By speaking out against
injustice I have lost all status in the Baha'i community, being completely
humiliated as an apostate and critic.
I myself publicized the false and
scurrilous ITC/UHJ charge against me of 'making statements contrary to the
covenant.'  What status did I gain from that?  I have spoken out precisely
because status is not important to me.  Human rights are important to me,
and I believe Baha'u'llah stood for them in a way his supposed trustees do
And for me, Baha'u'llah as one of the great spiritual teachers is who
is important, not some strutting martinet who managed to get himself
elected to something.

I have been accused of uttering 'slanderous' 'lies.'   I can only say that
I have never, on email or in print, written anything that I did not believe
was true, and which I did not believe I had good reason to think was true.
I have never 'slandered' anyone, which in the law requires that one utter a
falsehood publicly about another person with full knowledge that it is a
falsehood, in such a way as to damage their property or reputation.  I have
*never* done this.  I know that Maneck believes I have, or says she
believes I have. 

I cannot explain why she believes this except that she desperately wants
to.  Because admitting that I am entirely sincere and also that I am
brutally honest would mean she would have to take my critique of the more
cult-like side of how the Baha'i faith is run seriously.  How much easier
(if intellectually lazy and irresponsible) it is simply to dismiss me as a
'hatchet man.'  Of course, this particular account assumes her good will.
When we take into account that she actively and systematically breached
editorial confidentiality by spying on me for Counselor A.M. Ghadirian (who
did not have the decency to instruct her to cease invading my privacy), we
have also to raise the question whether she hasn't been given the mission
by someone of doing a hatchet job on *me*.  Isn't it sort of suspicious
that she shows up at AOL backbiting me so assiduously on a forum where I am
not even present?

Maneck criticizes me for reading Baha'u'llah through an 'Enlightenment'
lens.  But Maneck cannot even read Baha'u'llah's Arabic well enough to know
what he said or in what context.  She knows no Ottoman Turkish.  She has no
basis for dismissing my argument about Baha'u'llah's Young Ottoman (and
therefore pro-Enlightenment) stance.  She decided in her youth that she was
against the Enlightenment and has misread Baha'u'llah and `Abdul-Baha as
equally against it.  She is a prisoner of her prejudices and cannot do the
research that would be necessary to prove her argument and disprove mine.
A wiser person under such circumstances would be more circumspect.

As for my article in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion this
past summer, Maneck knows full well that everything reported there is true.
 She knows that a "counselor" libelled a Baha'i academic by telling Baha'is
in the Minnesota region to 'shun him as though he were a covenant breaker'
when he was no such thing.  She knows that David Langness and Steve Scholl
were railroaded by the Baha'i administration.  She told friends in the wake
of the 1988 crackdown on Dialogue magazine that she did not know if she
could continue as a Baha'i in the face of such injustice.  Now she is
whistling a different tune, all of a sudden justifying all sorts of
injustices.  She even incorrectly made statements about Steve Scholl on SRB
that she had to retract. Is the only way to stay a Baha'i to capitulate
morally in this way?
  If so, surely it is not worth it.

She herself was given the opportunity to comment extensively on a draft of
my article and I tried my best to take account of her comments
Unfortunately, she simply has no serious training in the social sciences
and her atomism and nominalism make her unable to understand the structure
of my argument, leading her to dismiss it.  Note that the structure of the
argument passed through rigorous double blind refereeing at a major social
science periodical. She can argue that the reviewers may not have been
knowledgeable about the Baha'i faith (though we cannot in fact assume
that); but they certainly would be attentive to methodology, documentation,
and argumentation, and they recommended it for publication. She once said
she would have no quarrel with anything I could get into print under those
circumstances.  That was before I got things into print that she did not like.

I really would appreciate not being further libelled on AOL.  I am not
guilty of any 'slanders' or 'hatchet jobs.'  The only 'status' I'm
interested in is being recognized as a broken man of shattered faith,
betrayed by numerous old friends like Susan Maneck.  I'm just trying to do
my job, as a public intellectual, in the best, most upright and most
responsible way I know how.  That includes blowing the whistle on coercion,
manipulation and abuse by Baha'i administrators of innocent adherents.  I
plead for all right thinking and compassionate persons to join me in trying
to reform the Baha'i administration by critiquing it.  It is out of kilter.
 Its members know it is out of kilter.  It needs to be righted.  Kowtowing
only keeps it out of kilter.

Cheers Juan Cole