The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience


See also:

Making the Crooked Straight - Reviewed by Denis MacEoin posted on H-Bahai, 2001

Cole's Further Comments on Dennis MacEoin

Denis MacEoin, Crisis in Babi and Baha'i Studies Bulletin, (British Society for Middle Eastern Studies), Vol. 17, No. 1 (1990), pp. 55-61.
Denis MacEoin, A Few Words in Response to Cole's 'Reply to MacEoin.' British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 18, No. 1 (1991), pp. 86-87.

From: "Juan R. Cole" <jrcole@u...>
Date: Sat Nov 1, 2003 5:09 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Denis MacEoin

Denis MacEoin did not withdraw from the faith, he was chased out by
powerful Baha'i fundamentalists who were deeply threatened by the
implications of his historical work. Denis became a Baha'i in North
Ireland around 1965 and quickly emerged as a Baha'i youth leader. He was
chosen to come to Haifa to commemorate the 1968 anniversary of
Baha'u'llah's Letters to the Kings.

He then wrote the House saying he did not know whether to serve the Faith
by becoming an academic scholar of the Middle East or by going pioneering.
They wrote back that either path would be praiseworthy. (They later stabbed
him in the back about this). He therefore entered graduate school at
Edinburgh in Middle East Studies, then went on to Cambridge University for
his Ph.D. He was the first academic to study the Babi movement with all
the tools of modern scholarship, and his findings were groundbreaking.

Denis made the mistake of continuing to be an active Baha'i. Since the
community is so heavily dominated by aggressive fundamentalist fanatics, if
a genuine academic wants to be a Baha'i s/he has to keep a low profile.
Denis did not. He gave summer school talks. He was once viciously
attacked by Abu al-Qasim Faizi. His new ideas were upsetting the
conservative British community. He objected when the Baha'i authorities
supported dictators like Pinochet and Bokassa. He corresponded with the
Los Angeles Study Class and some of his letters were published in their
newsletter (a newsletter that the Baha'i authorities later closed down, for
all the world like Tehran ayatollahs pulling a publishing license).

Around 1980, fundamentalist UHJ members Ian Semple and David Hoffman called
Denis to a meeting and told him he would have to fall silent (rather as the
Vatican did to Leonardo Boff). Hoffman was especially harsh. Denis
declined to fall silent, and ultimately withdrew from the Faith. He was
pushed out by anti-intellectual bigots who had risen high in the Baha'i
hierarchy and become Infallible. Denis's works on the Babi and Baha'i
movements are some of the few pieces of solid scholarship that exist.
Instead of being grateful to him for sacrificing all those years living in
penury as a graduate student, studying Arabic and Persian, traveling to a
dangerous Middle East, all for the service of Baha'u'llah, the community
could think of nothing better to do than viciously attack him and throw him
in the gutter of infamy.

Denis's story is the story of most thinking people who have anything
serious to do with the Baha'i faith. Either they adopt a cult-like mindset
of true believers and covenant breakers, in which case they gradually cease
being thinking persons, or they get chased out by the wild-eyed. A few
people manage to avoid either fate by not drawing attention to themselves.
The Baha'i Extreme Orthodox are like the Borg in Star Trek. They want to
assimilate you, but might leave you alone if you stay quiet.


Juan Cole

From: "Juan R. Cole" <jrcole@u...>
Date: Sun Nov 2, 2003 2:23 pm
Subject: Re: [talisman9] Re: Denis MacEoin

He wasn't saying anything polemic. He was just discovering who the Babis
really were from solid historical sources. The powerful Baha'is, who have
all the open-mindedness of Wahhabis, did not like it. It did not look like
the fireside talks everyone grew up with, so they shoved Denis out of the
community with threats of sanctions echoing about his ears.

cheers Juan

From: "Juan R. Cole" <jrcole@u...>
Date: Tue Nov 4, 2003 12:59 am
Subject: Re: [talisman9] To what did the Baha'i authorities object?

Denis's works were mostly published in Middle East or Religion journals or
as academic books, and most could be gotten on interlibrary loan. There
may be some things at , and there certainly is a
bibliography there.

I apologize that I am off to a conference, so cannot go into depth but
there are others here who can discuss Denis's findings.

As to why they should have angered anyone, I suppose you'd have to pass
them by a Baha'i fundamentalist and they would tell you. You could just
ask about MacEoin at e.g. soc.religion.bahai or about his ideas on Babis.
Or at beliefnet. I presume you will get an earful. One of them once more
or less threatened to cut my head off with a sword, so they can be an
irritable bunch.

cheers Juan