Another Victory for Incumbency

During the festival of Ridvan, Baha’is all over the world hold their national conventions. Inside, pretty much the same delegates gather as they have in previous years, they eat the same sort of snacks and give the same sort of empty speeches and finally, they hold elections for the new National Spiritual Assembly members.

Through a very similar process, the new NSA of Canada was elected yesterday morning. And I use the word ‘new’ rather loosely. Of the 9 members from the previous NSA, 8 were re-elected. The one member that wasn’t re-elected was long time NSA member and treasurer, Husayn Banani.

Mr. Banani (below) was afforded an unofficial retirement (there is an understanding that he will not be reelected) and given two standing ovations as thanks for his multi-decades of hard work and dedication to the Baha’i AO.

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In his place, Dr. David Smith was elected as the ninth member. If that name is familiar, it is because it is the same Dr. David Smith that just retired a few weeks ago as a Continental Board of Counsellor for propagation – a position he had held for a dozen or so years.

Having hardly stepped out of the appointed arm of the AO, Dr. Smith has now entered the elected arm in a big way. He will have to juggle his duties as a member of the NSA with those of being on the LSA of Toronto.

drsmith.pngDr. Smith (right) is a pediatric ophthalmic surgeon at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and an assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s School of Medicine. He is a member of the Breakwell Education Association, which intends to establish the Stratford College of Liberal Arts. Before becoming a Baha’i Dr. Smith was a Christian and an elder in his Church.

Baha’i Rants wishes them all the best of luck and hopes that their dry-cleaners are up for the Herculean task of removing the stench of incumbency from their hallowed robes.

UPDATE: Dr. David Smith resigned from his position as a member of the LSA of Toronto, to serve on the NSA of Canada.

Persecution of Iranian Baha’is Linked to Hojatieh

More and more, the traditional media is awakening to the role of the Hojjatieh Society in the persecution of Baha’is. Maybe the reporters should be reading blogs to get the news a few months ahead of time.

The crack research team at Baha’i Rants was able to track down a picture of the founder of the Hojatieh Society: Shaykh Mahmoud Zaker-zadeh Toolabi, also known as Shaykh Mahmoud Halabi (prominent left):

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And below is an article that appeared in The Toronto Star today:

Baha’is fear new persecution by Iranians
Apr. 29, 2006. 01:00 AM
STUART LAIDLAW
FAITH & ETHICS REPORTER

For a Markham woman, the afternoon of Aug. 23, 1980, is seared into her mind. That was the last day anyone saw or heard from her father, a leading member of the Baha’i faith in her native Iran, and 10 others.

“They were meeting in different places because they knew the government was after them,” the woman remembers, 26 years later.

A Jeep arrived at 4 p.m. at the home where they were meeting to drag off 11 members of the Baha’i National Spiritual Assembly of Iran and the owner of the home. The homeowner was later released, but not the others.

“From that time, no one has seen or heard anything about those people,” says the woman, who does not want her name used.

Her husband, also a senior official in Iran’s Baha’i community before the 1979 Islamic revolution, remains a marked man, she says. The couple, who fear for their safety even in Canada, left Iran within months of the revolution; her mother was smuggled out shortly after her father’s disappearance.

Now, she fears a return to the violence of a quarter-century ago, when more than 200 Baha’is were killed in the government campaign. “Among them were many of our friends and relatives. Their purpose was to eradicate the Baha’i faith.

“Yesterday, she took part in a prayer ceremony at the Baha’i Centre in downtown Toronto for the people of Iran, marking the opening of the group’s annual meeting.

The prayer was held to recognize a recent upsurge in persecution of Baha’is in Iran, where the faith was founded 162 years ago, says Gerald Filson, spokesperson for the group. Asma Jahangir, the United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of religion, has said she is “highly concerned” about treatment of Baha’is in Iran after seeing a letter from a military official calling for members of the faith to be monitored.

“What’s happening now is quite scary,” the Markham woman told the Star. “They say they are monitoring the Baha’i, and that’s exactly what they said the last time.

“Anti-Baha’i rhetoric has soared since the election last year of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a hardliner alleged to belong to Hojjatieh, an anti-Baha’i organization.

Baha’i teaches “progressive revelation,” that Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad and Baha’i founder Baha’u’llah were messengers from God and that more will come. Followers believe people must find faith through their own investigation. Islam, the religion of 98 per cent of Iranians, teaches that Muhammad is the final prophet.

About 300,000 Baha’is remain in Iran, a country of 68 million people; some five million Baha’is live abroad, including 30,000 in Canada, which accepted Iranian Baha’is as refugees in the 1980s. Persecution of Baha’is predates Iran’s revolution but was stepped up in the early ’80s, until international pressure forced the country to back off.

Related Links:

Canadian Baha’i News Service article: English and French

State of the Baha’i Blogosphere

It seems every day brings with it more and more blogs written by Baha’is. This is a good development. Surprisingly, the mention of the words Baha’i or Bahai are not showing a concomitant rise in the wider blogosphere:

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But quantity isn’t everything. Admittedly, most Baha’i blogs are rather very boring because they don’t really say anything. Or atleast, say anything new. Most of them fall under two main categories:

  • personal blogs
  • aggregators

The first are blogs – mostly by Baha’i youth – written about their lives. They are usually uneventful. Perhaps their immediate social group would read them to keep up with a friend. I don’t know about you but I really don’t care to read about the minutia of someone’s daily life; what music they are listening to right now, where they went to eat lunch, etc.

The second category are blogs which aggregate news about the Baha’i faith. Some of the more popular ones are bahaiblog.net and bahaiviews.blogspot.com. They regurgitate news or mentions of the word ‘Bahai’ from news sources or other websites, blogs, etc. My criticism of these types of blogs is that they are just cut and paste jobs with no thinking involved. Call me a traditionalist but I believe it is wrong to basically steal someone else’s content for your blog. If you’ve got nothing to say then the best thing is to shut up.

But there are a few blogs out there trying to go beyond the confines of these two main categories. Among these new blogs, Baha’i Twenties (defunct) shows some promise. The idea of a collaborative blog is interesting. But it hasn’t managed to get off the ground yet. Let’s give it a bit more time and see. It reminds me a bit of Spiritual Degrees. But I hope Baha’i Twenties doesn’t follow their fate.

For a list of quality blogs (containing new ideas, fresh thinking and actual convictions) check out the right hand side category under “Blogs I Read“.

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I’m always fascinated how people find my blog. Sometimes it’s through links, other times they hear about it from friends. But by far the most traffic I get is through the search engines: Google, Yahoo and MSN. Here is a snapshot of the top keywords that brought people to Baha’i Rants recently:

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Baha’i Rants is dead. Long live Baha’i Rants!

If you’ve arrived courtesy of the redirect message at bahairants.blogspot.com, welcome!

You made it.

And if you stumbled upon this humble cyber abode by other means, then a warm welcome to you too.

My only request is that you forgive the mess.

We’re not quite finished the move so I beg your indulgence. Please watch out for dangling CSS files, sharp pointy scripts and slippery html code scattered about. And if you happen to bump into the interior decorator please inquire, on my behalf, as to the success of his search for a header jpg and a theme.

In my defense I remind you, as any Counsellor/ABM worth their salt would, that moving to a new URL is a process, not an event.

Lectures in Baha’i Studies

Did you know that the University of Haifa has been running a series of lectures in Baha’i studies since 2000?

Most of the presenters are the usual suspects: Bushrui, Momen, Kazemzadeh, etc. But there are also a few non-Baha’i and lesser-known theologians.

The range of topics is quite varied, from the tried and true, to the novel and curious. If you have an interest in Baha’is studies check it out. What makes the site worthy of mention is that recently they have archived online not only the skeletal details of the lecture (who, what, when, etc.) but they have an abstract, the presenter’s CV and an audio recording of the lecture.

Unfortunately, the audio quality isn’t that great so you will probably have to turn up your volume and eliminate background noise on your end. And get some snacks, because most of them are quite long (in the vicinity of an hour). The other downside is that some lectures are delivered in Hebrew, so unless you’re fluent in it, it’ll sound like someone with a bad case of phlem is speaking gibberish for an hour.

Anyway, to give you an idea, here’s an example (in English):

“The Attempted Assassination of Nasir al Din Shah in 1852: Millennialism and Violence” by Dr. Moojan Momen

You can find the complete list of previous lectures here.

The next one is scheduled for May 16th, 2006. It is titled “Globalization: A Baha’i Perspective”, by Prof. Bushrui:

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