The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience


(Hoda Mahmoudi's email may be found at the end.) 

March 31, 1997

The Universal House of Justice of the Bahais of the World
Haifa, Israel

Dear Members of the Universal House of Justice:

After careful reflection and prayer for the past few days, I've 
decided that open public discussion and knowledge are more 
important than my own status as a Bahai.

I have been a Bahai for more than twenty years, since 1976. I 
became a Bahai by reading almost every single Bahai book 
published at the time. Given my background as a Catholic and 
poet, I was deeply moved by the beauty and profundity of the 
Bahai Writings. As a young person, I spent two months travel 
teaching throughout Michigan with several other youthful, 
innocent Bahais. Like many, I have sacrificed financially to 
contribute to the Bahai Faith. I pioneered for a year and a 
half in Japan, for two years on an American Indian reservation, 
and have travel taught in China. The spiritual profundity of 
the Bahai vision, as reflected in the work of the 
African-American poet Robert Hayden, inspired me to study at 
the University of Michigan under him and to spend considerable 
time and labor editing his collected poems and prose for 
Liveright and the University of Michigan Press. I have 
published two essays in the Bahai magazine World Order and 
spent more time than I can remember at Bahai summer camps, 
workshops, and deepenings. Throughout all my varied Bahai 
experience, I have loved the Figures and Teachings of the Faith 
even as the conviction has grown that all information and 
discussion in the Bahai Faith is subtly manipulated, controlled, 
and distorted for the "good of the Faith." There seems to be a 
pervasive, rigid control of all thought, ideas, and information 
that calls into question the motives of the individuals in 
power in the Bahai Administration.

As a published writer and former college and university 
instructor of rhetoric and literature for over ten years, I 
believe the whole process of "review" has become a complete 
farce and disgrace to the Bahai Faith and is suggestive of the 
worst censorship under the most repressive regimes, religious 
or secular, of historical experience. If one truly wishes to 
understand why many Bahais, both highly educated and others, 
leave the Bahai Faith or become "inactive" and withdraw into 
silence and uninvolvement with the religion, one need only to 
look objectively at what seems to be the oppressive and 
coercive methods of people in the Bahai Administration itself 
to find the answer.

My experiencing of these same methods of censorship and 
distortion on soc.religion.bahai proved to be the last 
intolerable straw. My attempt to form an unmoderated newsgroup 
on the Internet that no one could manipulate and censor has a 
long experience of Bahai tyranny in the background. The 
resorting to deceit and back-channel communication by the 
moderators of soc.religion.bahai and others naively believing 
they're working for the benefit of the Bahai Faith by 
campaigning for 691 unethical NO votes on talk.religion.bahai 
further proves the pervasive acceptance of disreputable tactics 
by Bahais in their attempt to maintain a stranglehold over all 
thought and discussion.

Recently, more than ever, I've often recalled the words to me 
in private several times of Robert Hayden, the only Bahai to 
be appointed Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress: 
"Why I continue to have anything to do with the Bahai Faith, I 
do not know, I do not know."  I myself no longer know.

I suppose I hope that the oppressive, coercive methods that  
have come to be accepted and justified in the Bahai 
Administration, demonstrated for instance in the crushing of 
the magazine Dialogue, the incidents surrounding the Bahai 
Encyclopedia, the listserv Talisman I, and the continuingly 
crude, unreadable propoganda vehicle of the American Bahai, 
might yet be put aside in favor of the beautiful vision of 
Baha'u'llah and Abdul-Baha for freedom of religious conscience 
and belief and a humane, tolerant universalism. I fear that all 
too often the religious totalitarianism of Baha'u'llah's 
fanatical homeland has seeped into every nook and cranny of 
His religion, smothering out the free light of the human soul 
and hamstringing His Administration.

It was with the bitterest of feelings that I observed some 
time ago the Bahai exhibition, a deceitful propaganda event 
really, on freedom of religious conscience and belief sponsored 
by the National Spiritual Assembly in the rotunda of the 
Capitol in Washington, D.C., so far in reality from the truth 
was it, so misled, trusting, and uninformed were the 
Congressmen of my country....

If censorship is allowed in the Bahai Faith, I would like to 
know what passages of the Bahai Writings support it and what 
are the "rules," if you will, of Bahai censorship.  It seems to 
me that censorship pervades the Bahai Faith so thoroughly that 
some Bahais regularly use it as a method of intimidation and 
silencing of anyone with an unconventional opinion by accusing 
the individual of being a covenant breaker. This tactic was 
used against me by at least three Bahais during the discussion 
period for talk.religion.bahai and tacitly condoned by the 
moderators and others.

I include, at the end, a threatening, coercive email message I 
received on March 27, 1997, from Mr. Hoda Mahmoudi, 
Auxiliary Board Member for Michigan, at a crucial juncture of 
the discussion and voting for talk.religion.bahai and would like 
an explanation of his motives.

I, and perhaps the rest of the world, would greatly appreciate 
evidence that there are not now nine ayatollahs residing in 
Israel on Mt Carmel.



Further details on Hoda Mahmoudi's coercive email

David Langness on Hoda Mahmoudi

Paul Dodenhoff on Mahmoudi

Some might want to compare Mahmoudi's tactics with those used against Kalimat Press and Juan Cole. Below, Mahmoudi is clearly intervening in the first interest poll voting for talk.religion.bahai the very day when the RESULTS we're released, revealing over 600 bahais had voted NO to oppose the formation of the newsgroup, an unprecedented number of NO votes for any poll on Usenet. Since I was the primary advocate of its creation, Mahmoudi's intentions below, to anyone familiar with how the bahai administration regularly operates, was to coerce and silence me and stop the creation of an unmoderated newsgroup forum uncontrolled by bahai fundamentalists.

>Date: Thu, 27 Mar 1997 15:45:46 -0500
>From: Hoda Mahmoudi <>

>Dear Mr. Glaysher:
>I have been reading your e-mail postings recently.  I would like to speak
>with you by phone about some of your throughts and opinions regarding
>matters relevant to the Baha'i Faith. As an Auxiliary Board members for
>Michigan, I am always interested in issues which relate to individual
>spiritual responsibility and the Baha'i Faith's principle of unity.  My
>phone number is 616/789-0590. 
>Hope to hear from you soon.
>Hoda Mahmoudi, Ph.D.
>Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs
>Olivet College
>Olivet, MI 49076

Re: Letter to Mahmoudi: The Old Lie

See also:

From the UHJ: 14 October 1997
From the UHJ: 19 December 1997
To the UHJ: December 21, 1997
To the Universal House of Justice - July 24, 1998  
To uhj 12-10-1999