The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience

From: <>
Subject: Re: Majnun post
Date: Wednesday, February 17, 1999 6:21 PM

Dear Don:
I continue to think that a private message that is accidentally posted more
widely is nobody's business among gentlemen and gentlewomen.
I don't know if it will ever be possible to convince you that, yes, majnun
was mostly for discussing Arabic and Persian scholarship, and that forays
into other things were rare, and that the mis-posted message was
unrepresentative (and that the posting to which it came as a reply was
absolutely weird and condemned as a non-starter by everyone).  I can only say
that all this is true.
With regard to the posting you want to talk about, I have already pointed out
that far from exhibiting a desire to act in any way contrary to the Baha'i
institutions, the author counsels complete inaction with the sole exception of
simply keeping the list going.  And the reason for this
sentiment is the same reason a lot of people wanted TRB, which is that it is
necessary for the flourishing of the Baha'i faith that a public, unmoderated
medium of communication be established where everything can be hashed out.
It is true that the author had grievances.  He had given a decade of his life
to a massive Baha'i Encyclopedia that cost the faith several hundred thousand
dollars, and which was at the last moment hijacked by Farzam Arbab and more
or less scuttled or ruined.  I don't know how you would feel if you worked
for 10 years on a book about West African Islam, and then your publisher went
through and dumbed it down, introduced inaccuracies, and delayed its
publication indefinately.  I'm not sure why it matters that Mr. Arbab managed
to get himself elected to the house of justice in 1993, mainly because he had
been appointed by his cronies as counselor at the International Teaching
Center.  Arbab is not a professional editor and knows nothing about making an
encyclopedia, and never even bothered to learn Persian!  Why shouldn't not
only the author of the errant message but all Baha'is be extremely annoyed at
him for putting his fingers into something he knows nothing about and ruining
it, wasting enormous amounts of money and bullying and insulting the previous
devoted Baha'i editors as crass materialist humanists?
Despite his grievances, however, he counseled inaction and steadfastness in
the faith.  I think this should be a cause for admiration rather than
Incidentally, the only person actually named in the errant message had done
and said *nothing* wrong, but because he was young and had made a minor
comment, was upbraided.  Be annoyed all you like, but it *is* hilarious
(maybe tragicomic) that as a result of his having been mentioned, this young
man was vilified in Haifa as "very dangerous" and spied upon by an ABM and
had nasty letters written about him to Australia by Robert Henderson, who
advised that he be avoided.
Finally, do you really think this sort of silliness is the sort of thing over
which a devoted pioneer for the cause of Baha'u'llah who gave his life to the
study of the faith should have been so shamelessly bullied and threatened
that his heart was broken and he ultimately left the faith?  Lives were
destroyed over this idiocy.  And to what end?  The unmoderated lists are more
widespread than ever, and the scholarship will still be done, which an
attempt was made to stop.
cheers    Juan

In article <>,
  "Donald Z Osborn" <> wrote:
> I suppose the subject of the infamous "inadvertant posting" on the old
> list (already 3 years ago now!) was bound to come up again and the message
> itself get reposted on the net.
Juan Cole
History, U of Michigan
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