Boycott of Kalimat

Most Baha’is will have no clue what is behind the decision of the US NSA to boycott Kalimat Press. Nor will they understand how exactly a publisher of such high caliber can be charged and convicted of acting against ‘the best interests of the Faith’. No doubt some will write to inquire just what variety of the finest Moroccan chronic inspired the NSA to come up with such a decision. I share their perplexity.This latest decision is in keeping with the recent pattern of behavior from the NSA and other high ranking Baha’i institutions. It comes in the form of an accusation, judgment and conviction all rolled into one (skipping that pesky little ‘old-world’ due process thingy). And it is both sufficiently vague and ominous sounding to make any attempt at defense further proof of guilt.

As Steve mentions on his new blog, there is no rational or logical explanation for this decision. Were the intentions of the US NSA to ‘protect’ the community from ‘inimical’ books, then they could just ask Kalimat to either stop marketing books which have not undergone Baha’i review or instruct the Baha’i distribution channels and LSAs to not buy and resell these books specifically. After all, Baha’i books which have indeed passed through review, can not be ‘inimical’, can they? But the imposition of a wholesale and blanket boycott of all of the offerings from Kalimat Press smacks of something else entirely.


“Hi, we’re from the NSA’s Book Purity Committee. Got any from Kalimat?”

But before we get to that, lets assume for a minute that the intentions of the US NSA is to ‘protect’ the community from inimical books… do I really need to point out and discuss just how ludicrous this is from an institution which should be inspired and motivated by Baha’i ideals? What is a book, after all, if not ideas? Do you really expect me to expound on the ridiculousness of the whole affair in the light of the principle of the independent investigation of truth? in the high esteem that scholarship and study are held within the Baha’i Faith? in the light of how each Baha’i is expected to deepen in the Faith through contemplation? in the light of how each Baha’i is instructed to read the Writings morn and eve?

Here’s the thing: even if a book is the most hateful, vituperative, and inimical work out there, and even if it is authored by the biggest and baddest Covenant-breaker, Baha’is are still allowed to read it. I know this is an extreme example and that Kalimat Press has never carried such works nor do they presently carry such works in their inventory… but I’m saying, even if they sold that extreme of ‘inimical’ books, it would not be a reason to boycott them.

As Baha’is, we are given permission to read even such vitriolic words. The choice is ours to make! It has not been made unlawful. So how in the world – when a Covenant Breaker book is permissible – then, can an NSA make a decision to shut down access to Baha’i books which are either recognized academic works or Baha’i books having gone through the NSA’s own review process?

Anyway I try to look at this decision, it just doesn’t make any sense. The only way I can make it have meaning, unfortunately, is to see it as a thinly veiled attempt to extinguish Kalimat Press. Having expelled the author of a book they do not like, action is now taken against the publishing house.

I assume a very large portion of Kalimat’s sales come from the channels offered by Baha’i institutions. (In most countries, a Baha’i distribution network is set up which buys and resells books and materials from publishers. When you go to a Baha’i bookstore, say at the Baha’i center in your locality, they have acquired their books through such channels.) Of course, there are sales which are made to the customer directly. And this portion would be growing, I imagine, with the trend towards online shopping. But still I don’t imagine that it represents any significant portion of Kalimat’s total sales.


“Right. Now, if you’d just step aside, we’ll take it from here.”

Losing access to the Baha’is through the channel provided by the Baha’i distribution system in the US is devastating to Kalimat from a financial point of view. Overnight, they are faced with not only a sudden stoppage in sales, but a return of material as obedient Baha’i centers, localities and bookstores everywhere return their merchandise. Oh, yes. If you recall, the NSA’s letter instructed the Baha’is to not acquire or sell – which means that no new purchases will happen and those already made will be reversed though returns.

And although the direct channel continues to be technically open, the fact is that many Baha’is are simply not versed in using the internet, are not willing to pay the shipping cost or don’t trust making online payments. But beyond these niggling disadvantages, the huge barrier to direct sales will be that most Baha’is will interpret the decison of the NSA to boycott Kalimat to mean that they themselves should not buy from them either. Of course, this is not what the NSA said at all. But at the same time, the NSA is keenly aware that such a decision will have this sort of repercussion. This allows them to disavow responsibility (if Kalimat does go under) because they did not explicitly direct Bahais to boycott Kalimat, but rather only denied them access to internal distribution channels. Machiavelli would get teary eyed to have such proteges.

So far, Kalimat has publicly responded only by adding this to their website in red text:

All books published by Kalim??t Press have been reviewed and approved for publication by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States.

They can also, of course, appeal the decision. But realistically it doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of being reversed. In fact, I would not at all be surprised to see other NSAs soon following the lead of the US in this decision. In that case, it would confirm my suspicions that it did originate from the House of Justice (and/or the ITC).


‘Paragraph 77′ ? What do you mean, ‘Paragraph 77′ ?”

The more I think about it, the more I realize that Karen is right when she says that ‘they’ don’t really care who they marginalize, who they malign, who they shut out. They don’t really care how much they damage the Faith, both from inside the community and outside. They really don’t. As astoundingly crass and insensitive as such an attitude is, they do harbor it. They are ready to destroy the village, in order to save the village. This latest decision stands out among a handful of stupid decisions – quite a feat in and of itself – and proves it beyond a doubt.

Look, I admit it. Things look pretty grim right now. But we can either look myopically to right here, right now, and get downright depressed. Or we can choose to extend our vision beyond ourselves and into the future. If we do that, we see what Abdu’l-Baha meant when He described such things as ‘foam of the ocean’. Eventually they will be cast onto the shore and expelled from the mighty and surging waters of Baha’u’llah’s Faith. In the meantime, there are much more positive things that we can be doing.

Related Links:

Karen’s commentary on her blog.
Alison’s commentary and podcast on her blog.
Kalimat Press website.

US NSA’s letters to LSAs and to Kalimat re its boycott of Kalimat.
NSA letter to LSAs (pdf file).
NSA letter to Kalimat Press (pdf file).

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  • Sercxu

    “Look, I admit it. Things look pretty grim right now. But we can either look myopically to right here, right now, and get downright depressed. Or we can choose to extend our vision beyond ourselves and into the future. If we do that, we see what Abdu’l-Baha meant when He described such things as ‘foam of the ocean’. Eventually they will be cast onto the shore and expelled from the mighty and surging waters of Baha’u’llah’s Faith.”

    Baquia, how can you say that when there is no hope of expelling the offenders from the administration? They’re going to keep right on doing what they’re doing, and because of the nature of Baha’i elections, which is tilted radically in favor of incumbency, no one’s going to get voted out anytime soon. And look at the trend in the last couple UHJ elections to elect ITC members as replacements for those who retire. The UHJ, because it appoints the Counselors on the ITC, is basically appointing its own successors, in violation of every principle of Baha’i democracy. Back in 1963, the Hands recused themselves from election to the first House. The rules should be changed so that their successors, the Counselors, are similarly ineligible. As it stands now, the line between the institutions of the “learned” and the institutions of the elected is being blurred, perhaps wiped out.

    Look, I’d like to think that things are going to change. But I just can’t make myself believe it anymore. They’re going after the academics and those with alternative points of view, and that is never pretty. Once they’ve expelled them all, there won’t be anyone left in the Faith except the Kool-Aid drinkers, and they’re going to meekly accept whatever the UHJ and NSA throw their way.

    My decision is made, and it’s a painful one. After decades of accepting Baha’u’llah, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that it’s all a sham. I have not one, but three resignation letters written. Now I just have to decide which one to send in. I am leaving the Faith, and may God have mercy on those who are destroying what was once such a beautiful thing.

    Sercxu

  • Sercxu

    “Look, I admit it. Things look pretty grim right now. But we can either look myopically to right here, right now, and get downright depressed. Or we can choose to extend our vision beyond ourselves and into the future. If we do that, we see what Abdu’l-Baha meant when He described such things as ‘foam of the ocean’. Eventually they will be cast onto the shore and expelled from the mighty and surging waters of Baha’u’llah’s Faith.”

    Baquia, how can you say that when there is no hope of expelling the offenders from the administration? They’re going to keep right on doing what they’re doing, and because of the nature of Baha’i elections, which is tilted radically in favor of incumbency, no one’s going to get voted out anytime soon. And look at the trend in the last couple UHJ elections to elect ITC members as replacements for those who retire. The UHJ, because it appoints the Counselors on the ITC, is basically appointing its own successors, in violation of every principle of Baha’i democracy. Back in 1963, the Hands recused themselves from election to the first House. The rules should be changed so that their successors, the Counselors, are similarly ineligible. As it stands now, the line between the institutions of the “learned” and the institutions of the elected is being blurred, perhaps wiped out.

    Look, I’d like to think that things are going to change. But I just can’t make myself believe it anymore. They’re going after the academics and those with alternative points of view, and that is never pretty. Once they’ve expelled them all, there won’t be anyone left in the Faith except the Kool-Aid drinkers, and they’re going to meekly accept whatever the UHJ and NSA throw their way.

    My decision is made, and it’s a painful one. After decades of accepting Baha’u’llah, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that it’s all a sham. I have not one, but three resignation letters written. Now I just have to decide which one to send in. I am leaving the Faith, and may God have mercy on those who are destroying what was once such a beautiful thing.

    Sercxu

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/1062602 Karen

    Dear Baquia,

    I, too, noted that Kalimat had added a statement to its website that its publications have passed review.

    It is, of course, monstrously unfair that a publisher that puts up with the policy of review is in no way protected from these kinds of attacks. The same thing happened to *dialogue*.

    In Kalimat’s case, it appears that the books the administration finds objectionable are those that are being distributed by Kalimat, but published elsewhere. If the NSA wanted to address the “problem” it could easily do so in ways that would not require a full-scale boycott.

    But, no, they want to destroy this publisher.

    Buy Kalimat!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/1062602 Karen

    Dear Baquia,

    I, too, noted that Kalimat had added a statement to its website that its publications have passed review.

    It is, of course, monstrously unfair that a publisher that puts up with the policy of review is in no way protected from these kinds of attacks. The same thing happened to *dialogue*.

    In Kalimat’s case, it appears that the books the administration finds objectionable are those that are being distributed by Kalimat, but published elsewhere. If the NSA wanted to address the “problem” it could easily do so in ways that would not require a full-scale boycott.

    But, no, they want to destroy this publisher.

    Buy Kalimat!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/1082818 Baquia

    Sercxu,

    How can I say that? While I totally empathise with your feeling of sadness, I read the following:

    “The Hand of Omnipotence hath established His Revelation upon an unassailable, an enduring foundation. Storms of human strife are powerless to undermine its basis, nor will men’s fanciful theories succeed in damaging its structure.”

    And when I remind myself that it is:

    “God is sufficient unto me. He verily is the All Sufficing. In Him let the trusting trust.”

    Not, ‘The institutions are sufficient unto me….’

    I hope that explains why I continue to hold such views. Nevertheless, I do acknowledge everyone else’s responsability and right to make such decisions for themselves and in no way do I expect or wish for others to emulate my position in this matter.

    I do wish you the best if you do decide to resign officially from the community. Now, I’m off to say the Tablet of Ahmad for the Nth time…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/1082818 Baquia

    Sercxu,

    How can I say that? While I totally empathise with your feeling of sadness, I read the following:

    “The Hand of Omnipotence hath established His Revelation upon an unassailable, an enduring foundation. Storms of human strife are powerless to undermine its basis, nor will men’s fanciful theories succeed in damaging its structure.”

    And when I remind myself that it is:

    “God is sufficient unto me. He verily is the All Sufficing. In Him let the trusting trust.”

    Not, ‘The institutions are sufficient unto me….’

    I hope that explains why I continue to hold such views. Nevertheless, I do acknowledge everyone else’s responsability and right to make such decisions for themselves and in no way do I expect or wish for others to emulate my position in this matter.

    I do wish you the best if you do decide to resign officially from the community. Now, I’m off to say the Tablet of Ahmad for the Nth time…

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  • Maynhard J. Johnson

    Hey why don’t you just cool it a little and let the UHJ/ITC/NSA do their job?

    Yeah, maybe this decision about Kalimat appears odd but who are we to question that, really?

    Shouldn’t we rather — in the spirit of unity — accept, respect and be content with all decisions made by our duly elected (divinely appointed) body?

    Perhaps the real resason behind this particular incident will become clear in future.

    So, my take is: let’s take it easy — it’s not our job to shoulder the responsibility of questioning (seeking to participate in) decision of the NSA or other institutions for that matter. We should rather be strong in our faith in the Covenant and show solidarity with all their decisions!

  • Maynhard J. Johnson

    Hey why don’t you just cool it a little and let the UHJ/ITC/NSA do their job?

    Yeah, maybe this decision about Kalimat appears odd but who are we to question that, really?

    Shouldn’t we rather — in the spirit of unity — accept, respect and be content with all decisions made by our duly elected (divinely appointed) body?

    Perhaps the real resason behind this particular incident will become clear in future.

    So, my take is: let’s take it easy — it’s not our job to shoulder the responsibility of questioning (seeking to participate in) decision of the NSA or other institutions for that matter. We should rather be strong in our faith in the Covenant and show solidarity with all their decisions!

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  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/AM2Y3K2VY6XB73OYPM6UJXGFME Dale Husband

    What a nice expression of authoritarian stupidity! I hope you are not an American, Mr Johnson, because if you were you’d be an embarrassment to the rest of us that love freedom.

  • fubar

    re: mommy/daddy/potty issues?

    The world ceased being run according to medieval ideas several hundred years ago, so no, people should not follow blind faith and become mindlessly conformist/subservient to a dysfunctional religious bureaucracy (self-censoring).

    The only way that this could “work” in the way you state would be if there was openness and transparency in bahai administration. However, such openness is largely absent, particularly when there is a controversy about the exercise of power by bahai administration.

    (freedom and liberty are of most importance in cases of abuse of authority and coercion of belief.)

    There have been many abuses of authority in bahai administration, and they continue to get away with it because people believe in absurdly backward ideas such as “infallibility”.

  • Desir0101

    Hi Maynhard,
    I believe that infaillibility of Bahai institution reside only in the belief
    Of the believers.
    whenever a decision is wrong AND Bahai say that’s the best one will prove that the authority will always be right.
    That’s I believe is infaillibility concept in the Bahai faith.

  • Pv9

    This comment is indeed a rant.  As a Baha’i, I ask, where does our Examplar, Abdu’l-Bah?? teach us to rant? 
    Second point:  We are directed to support and obey the Assemblies.
    Third point:  I have written the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bah??’?s of the United States regards this matter and have received a very clear and direct clarification, something the writer above apparently did not do.  Kalimat Press was not “boycotted”.  Because they began to DISTRIBUTE non-Bah??’? verified literature, they could not longer use Baha’i resources for their distribution.

  • Pv9

    Then you never really believed in or TRUSTED Bah??’u’ll??h.  I have been a Baha’i all my life.  I have seen a multitude of actions taken by Baha’is, high and lowly placed, with which I disagreed, to say the least.  But this is His Faith, not mine, and He is the protector thereof.  What I can do is to strive to follow the Examplar.  May we all.

  • Anonymous

    Pv9, what you claim is simply and categorically false.

  • Fubar

    Mindless drivel. Corrupt and abusive bahai administrators, and their groveling obsequious “followers”, constantly violate the laws, rules and principles of their own religion. Nothing is being protected, other than human stupidity and superstition.

    Your version of religion is superstition, ignorance, oppression and exploitation.

    Bahai administration is full of psychopathy and predatory behavior.

    Freedom and liberty in the modern world provide enlightened people to break free from premodern/medieval religious corruption and superstition, and directly access spirituality and transcendence.

    No corrupt “revelation” or “prophet” or “manifestation” is needed.

  • Barbruthw

    Heil.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know. Do you consider Abdul-Baha’s criticism of the excesses of kings and popes and their atrocious acts as a “rant” as well?