Power of Love or Love of Power?

Hope you like this little noetic eye candy I cooked up for you:

power-of-love

When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.
Jimmi Hendrix

The way I see it, power is all about control. Love is all about losing control.

God’s love for us is the primary force behind Creation and the fountain of mankind’s nobility is free will. Which in a funny sort of way means that God gave up “control” and in a sense, put it in our own hands. We are not brute animals, controlled, lashed or beaten by God throughout our lives but instead are guided lovingly by His manifestations, through intermittent divine revelations. And yet, whether we realize it or not, we always have the freedom to choose our reactions, behavior, speech… our very lives.

You and I may not be covetous of power in the meaning that we want to rule a country or take over the world. But in our own way we each choose, moment to moment, to either let go and love; or grab on to gain and maintain control and therefore, power. Lord knows I could sure use less of the latter and a heaping spoonful of the former.

Here’s the curious thing, when your power to love overcomes your love of power, something magical happens. People are drawn to you. You become a beacon, attracting others as if magnetized. They may not even know why but they sense something in you that others lack. Look at the example in the life and person of Abdu’l-Baha. Even as desiring no rank nor station beyond that of servitude, Abdu’l-Baha was so loved, revered and respected by all people.

Sounds good. Now how do we do that?

The Baha’i Faith certainly has answers – which take a lifetime to glean. These two ladies also have some ideas: Karen Armstrong + Jill Bolte Taylor

Just a little something to ponder over the weekend. Hope you all have a wonderful and restful time. It wouldn’t hurt to crank up some of Jimi’s music and dance like no one’s watching.

We Have Annulled the Rule of the Sword

As my fellow Baha’is in Iran face a renewed wave of persecutions, there are some who charge the Baha’i community to be perpetrators of violence.

Of course these charges have no credibility but still I thought it would be fruitful to go to the source and see what Baha’u’llah commands:

Beware lest ye shed the blood of any one. Unsheathe the sword of your tongue from the scabbard of utterance, for therewith ye can conquer the citadels of men’s hearts. We have abolished the law to wage holy war against each other. God’s mercy hath, verily, encompassed all created things, if ye do but understand.
Epistle to the Son of the Wolf

And again, speaking to the Babi and Baha’i community of the time, Baha’u’llah explains not only the injunction to eschew violence but He explains in no uncertain terms that His Cause has no desire to gain or hold power in the form of civil authority:

Know thou that We have annulled the rule of the sword, as an aid to Our Cause, and substituted for it the power born of the utterance of men. Thus have We irrevocably decreed, by virtue of Our grace. Say: O people! Sow not the seeds of discord among men, and refrain from contending with your neighbor, for your Lord hath committed the world and the cities thereof to the care of the kings of the earth, and made them the emblems of His own power, by virtue of the sovereignty He hath chosen to bestow upon them. He hath refused to reserve for Himself any share whatever of this world’s dominion. To this He Who is Himself the Eternal Truth will testify. The things He hath reserved for Himself are the cities of men’s hearts, that He may cleanse them from all earthly defilements, and enable them to draw nigh unto the hallowed Spot which the hands of the infidel can never profane. Open, O people, the city of the human heart with the key of your utterance.
Tablet to Nab?l-i-?Azam

annulled-rule-of-the-sword

I was going to write this in the comment section of a previous post but Baha’u’llah’s clear words deserve a more prominent exposition. I’m going to delve further into the question of church and state within the Baha’i Faith a bit later. But can’t resist for now to touch on it since it is so important an issue.

It has been not only an important issue but a contentious one for almost the whole duration of the Faith. Originally those who sought to cast the Baha’i Faith as supportive of theocracy were mischief makers who wished it ill. For example, they spread lies and rumors that Abdu’l-Baha was not building simply a shrine (of the Bab) but a citadel from which He would attempt to overthrow the government.

More recently the perpetrators are well meaning but ignorant Baha’is who have not bothered to read the consistent, clear and repeated Writings of their own Faith about this matter. Such error is dangerous whether the intention behind it is evil or not because it misrepresents the Baha’i Faith and it opens it to attacks from those who mistake it as having temporal motivations.

All I can say to fellow Baha’is who are under the wrong impression that their Faith promotes or condones in any way a theocratic model is, please, inform yourself. There are clear texts. You have but to read and study them.

Theirs is not the purpose, while endeavoring to conduct and perfect the administrative affairs of their Faith, to violate, under any circumstances, the provisions of their country’s constitution, much less to allow the machinery of their administration to supersede the government of their respective countries.
Shoghi Effendi

If you don’t know where to begin, a good place to start would be Church & State , a book that has passed Baha’i pre-publication review (as have all books published by Kalimat) [Ed. please see comments for clarification]. It contains a methodically and exhaustively collection of Baha’i texts on the relationship of church and state. Here is a recent and relevant entry from the author’s blog.

There is no shame in not knowing but there is shame in wallowing in ignorance. As a Baha’i the standard is extremely high and our duty is to fulfill individual investigation of truth.

God bless.

Recent Baha’i Arrests Tied To Shiraz Bomb Blast

According to an article on May 17th, 2008 in the Iranian newspaper the Quds Daily, the reason for the recent arrest of seven Baha’is is suspicion of involvement in last month’s bomb explosion.

You’ll recall that there was an explosion in a Shiraz mosque on April 12th – at the time a part of me hoped that the Islamic Regime in Iranian would not use it as a pretense to crack down on Baha’is there.

Although initial news reports mentioned the blast as a bomb attack, the official response following the event blamed improperly stored ordinance inside the mosque and classify it as an accident.

bomb-blast-shiraz-iran-april-2008However, less than 3 weeks later official sources in Iran changed their tune saying that it was a terrorist act. Interior Minister Mostafa Pour Mohammadi blamed the blast on “monarchists” and “enemies of the Iranian people”.

Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie also mentioned that people had already been arrested in connection with the explosion.

The only group to have claimed responsibility is the UK based “Kingdom Assembly of Iran” who issued this press release.

It is very difficult to get a clear sense of anything from the Iran regime and this is mostly by design. The Islamic regime revels in confusing and befuddling everyone, including themselves on occasion. There is such varying and competing agendas within the government that it really depends who you listen to and on which day.

My personal conviction was from the very start that the blast in Shiraz was a terrorist act and that calling it an “accident” was a convenient way for the Iranian regime to appear impregnable until they could calculate a means to extract further means to use it to their advantage.

Similarly the attempt to tie this tragic event with the Baha’i community in Iran is yet another tactic which affords them the convenience of deflecting international pressure regarding the arrest of the national Baha’i administrative group. They no longer have to answer to the world community on charges of religious persecution.

They can now use the smoke screen of national security to hold the 7 Baha’is and who knows, perhaps make further arrests and ratchet up the already alarming level of persecution of Baha’is in Iran.

Of course, the Baha’i Faith does accept and prefer monarchy (as a symbolic station devoid of civil authority) but no one except the most fanatic and ignorant Muslims would believe that the Baha’i Faith would in any way shape or form condone violence. On the contrary, we have clear and repeated guidance to uphold the laws of the country in which we live and to respect civil authority. This is something that the Baha’i community of Iran has been doing since its founding, even when under severe oppression.

I continue to beg my fellow Baha’is inside Iran to leave and start productive lives in the many alternative civilized countries around the world – for themselves and their children.

UPDATE:
Thanks to Bahaisonline.net for pointing out that the Baha’i International Community has now responded to the IRI’s allegations and rejected them completely.

I don’t think they will persuade anyone but fellow fundamentalist Islamic regimes (who would support them in the UN in any case) in arguing that the Baha’is had something to do with the Shiraz explosion last month. In any case, a civilized country that respects basic human rights would swiftly bring on charges and commence a fair and transparent trial. The charges of “Zionism” ring hollow and underscore the Iranian government’s moral as well as creative bankruptcy.

Baha’i Administrative Body of Iran Arrested

Breaking News
Morning Wednesday May 14th, 2008 – Tehran, Iran

Report from the Universal House of Justice

… the members of the Friends in Iran – the group that coordinates the activities of the Baha’i community in the absence of a National Spiritual Assembly in the Cradle of the Faith – have been summarily and unjustly arrested by the Iranian authorities in raids conducted in the early hours of this morning, 14 May 2008. Details are as follows.

Officers of the Intelligence Ministry in Tehran entered the homes of six of the seven members of the Friends in Iran, whereupon they conducted extensive searches, following which all six were arrested and brought to the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran. These individuals – Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi [Fariba Kamalabadi], Mr. Jamalu’d-Din Khanjani [Jamaloddin Khanjani], Mr. ‘Afif Na’imi [Afif Naeimi], Mr. Sa’id Rida’i [Saeid Rezaie], Mr. Bihruz Tavakkuli [Behrouz Tavakkoli], and Mr. Vahid Tizfahm [Vahid Tizfahm] – now join the seventh member of the group, Mrs. Mahvash Thabit [Mahvash Sabet], resident of Tehran and Secretary of the Friends in Iran, who has been held in custody since 5 March 2008 when she was summoned to Mashhad by the Ministry of Intelligence, ostensibly on the grounds that she was required to answer questions related to the burial of an individual in the Baha’i cemetery in that city. Contrary to recent indications that Mrs. Thabit would be released some time soon, the events that have transpired today are yet another indication of the government’s determination to extinguish the Baha’i community in the land of its birth.

… such dire action on the part of the government has not been witnessed since the heartrending events in 1980 and 1981, when all nine members of the National Spiritual Assembly of Iran were abducted on 21 August 1980 and disappeared without a trace, following which the reconstituted National Assembly was again ravaged by the execution of eight of its members on 27 December 1981.

yaran bahai group iran

Related from Baha’i Rants:

Three Baha’is jailed in Iran
Intensifying persecutions in Iran
Return of the Hojjatieh Society
Those “devious” Baha’is
Iran steps up monitoring of Baha’is
Persecution of Baha’is linked to Hojjatieh Society

* * * * * * * * *

I wrote this more than 2 years ago:

With the arrival of the new president, everyone has noted that Iran’s political situation has taken a very bad turn. Unfortunately most people don’t have even a clue as to the extent nor the underlying reasons. I hope to shed some light in the next paragraphs and once again, show why I believe the UHJ’s policy of encouraging Baha’is to remain in Iran is completely wrong and extremely dangerous.

The recent arrests and persecution of Baha’is in Iran are, I’m afraid, only the beginning of a renewed campaign of persecution. Unlike previous administrations in Iran which were reluctantly influenced by international pressure, the perverse ideology to which this one subscribes to allows them to be immune to such forces. Any and all actions taken by the civilized world against the Iranian regime as a consequence of the persecution of Baha’is, will only reinforce the belief system of the Hojatieh and result in their redoubled efforts to sow the seeds of chaos.

I pray that I am completely wrong in my understanding of the situation and wholly ignorant of the real political cross currents in Iran. I pray so because if I am right, many Baha’is are in extreme and imminent danger.

I beg them to get out, for if I am wrong, the consequence is acceptable. They and their families can build a life in one of many civilized countries in the world and simply go back when Iran’s future changes for the better. But if I’m correct, then the consequences of staying in Iran will be tragic.

If a lowly blogger with limited resources can put the pieces together a few years in advance, it is safe to require the UHJ/ITC to have done so years ahead and with a much deeper understanding. Which is why I’m utterly puzzled why this time around the highest administrative bodies are choosing to do nothing when in the aftermath of the 1979 revolution they were not only encouraging Baha’is to leave Iran but actively involved with helping them re-establish a life outside of Iran.

As Baha’is we have faced many waves of persecution and violence. But it is not within the precepts of our Faith to seek out martyrdom when there is a clear alternative.

Related External Links:

Iranian Human Rights Documentation Center – Press Release
LA TIMES: Blog Post – Babylon & Beyond
US State Department – Press Release
United States on International Religious Freedom – Press Release
United Nations Special Rapporteur: Report on Baha’is in Iran – March 2006

Reports Show Communities Ignoring Ruhi

During the last Baha’i National Convention, Bill Davis addressed the convention attempting to re-direct their attention away from the NSA’s own annual report, which presented an honest assessment of the situation on the ground in Baha’i communities in the US, to the letter from the UHJ directing Baha’is to “stay the course”.

Towards the end of the remarks Bill Davis says (4:37):

“We do not want to find ourselves pushing a rewind button and arguing over core curriculum and Ruhi.”

If you have no idea what this is about, then this short summary should be illuminating.

The reason that excerpt stands out for me is that it means there were disagreements over Ruhi and core curriculum with some obviously feeling very strongly against it. And so much so that the NSA as a body wrote that letter basically calling both Ruhi and core curriculum, bunk. But the UHJ came down on them like a tonne of bricks. Sending an enforcer to oversee the National Convention from the ITC as well as erasing the NSA’s own annual report and replacing it with their own.

I’ve uploaded the annual report for the largest Baha’i community in Canada. The most interesting part is Appendix 5 on page 3 which outlines the results of the implementation of the core activities for the past 5 Baha’i years, from 2004 to 2008.

I thought it may be fruitful in our discussions of Ruhi, the core curriculum and their acceptance by the community. According to the data in this report, there are

It is fascinating that after so many years and after such an intense focus and increasing insistence upon these rote activities, it has only resulted in about a third of the community to complete Book 1 of Ruhi and less than a tenth to complete Book 7.

Book 5 is also especially rejected/ignored by the community since only a handful have completed it. Book 5 is Raising up Animators of Junior Youth Groups. It may be because it was once a part of Book 3 and in 2005 inserted as its own ‘Book’.

“We welcome the decision of the Institute…to move the book currently occupying the fifth position in the sequence to a set of courses branching out from Book 3 for preparing Baha’i Children’s class teachers and to insert in the fifth place a new book for raising up animators of junior youth groups.”
– Letter from the Universal House of Justice to all National Spiritual Assemblies, 28 December 2005

Or perhaps because it is a specialized ‘course’ only a few people are interested to take it or need to take it to become ‘junior youth animators’.

In most communities, Ruhi is presented as a cumulative course and an individual can only take a subsequent book or course if they have done a previous one. So the fact that only about a hundred or so out of more than 1500 Baha’is (adults and youth) is very telling.

It is well known and accepted that for almost all Baha’i communities, there is a range of accuracy when it comes to membership data. The larger the community, the more difficult to get a truly accurate measure of membership. So instead of the 1560 number which includes all adults and youth, a more accurate number would be those with “good” addresses who still consider themselves Baha’is.

So lets be kind and estimate a more accurate measure of the population of Baha’is in this community by going with the number of people who have contributed to the Fund at least once during the year. This isn’t a perfect qualifier but it does mean that we are counting those who are, at minimum, involved with the community emotionally and physically. That number is roughly 40% or roughly 620 people. That gives us about 21% of these ‘active’ members having done the full Ruhi courses.

Is that a “success” or “failure”? Ultimately that will depend on your views about Ruhi and your built in biases. Some will say that is a resounding success while others will see it as utter failure. Since the conclusion relies on what or how we define success or failure, it is open to debate.

Personal I think that it would be a stretch to call this a success. After all, the active membership of the community would as easily and exuberantly take up tether ball or bird-watching if they were directed to do so in the same fervor and intensity that the ITC and UHJ has pushed Baha’is to take up Ruhi.

For me, among other measures, success should be demonstrated by how many regularly inactive Baha’is are drawn to Ruhi and finish it. After all, they are 60% of the community. As well, I have to wonder, if Ruhi is the bees knees, why haven’t 100% of ‘active’ Baha’is completed it. It has been ongoing for, what? 8 years now. How many years will it take to convince the most loyal and active membership? And if Ruhi can not hold their attention or inspire these most loyal and devoted Baha’is, what hope does it have for the less active? the less devoted?

While the above example comes from one of the wealthiest and most developed countries in the world, we have another from a very different part of the world which shows remarkably similar levels of rejection for Ruhi. I say this because many believe that while Ruhi may be ineffective for western cultures, it is useful for less developed ones.

From the international convention held recently to elect the membership of the Universal House of Justice, we have official reports that in India, more than 80,000 people have completed a Ruhi course, and some 6,000 people have completed all seven books in the series.

That number may seem amazingly large… until you consider that there are by some accounts 1.8 million Baha’is in India. So let’s see, that would mean that less than 4.5% have done one single Ruhi course and about 0.0033% have done all 7.

Another idea is that while there may have been growth in devotional meetings and other worship related social events, how do we know if this was brought about as a consequence of Ruhi or core curriculum? how do we separate causation with just correlation?

Finally, what no one can answer is what benefits and successes the community has given up by diverting attention to this end. How many individual initiatives were ignore? how many unrelated projects were sidelined in the single-minded quest to press everyone to walk in lock-step? Take a look at this 1987 document full of recommendations for the revitalization of the American Baha’i community.

I wonder how many more years of this we will have to endure until this latest fad is finally dropped for its obvious ineffectiveness and rejection by the Baha’i community?

The problem is that there is group think gripping the highest levels of Baha’i administration. This is not the same as unity. For unity allows diversity of thought, action and methods. Instead, through the trend of ITC members being elected to the UHJ, and then turning around and appointing ITC members… we have now a situation where there are many individuals at the highest levels of office who have a very personal vested interest in the success of Ruhi.

It is not an impartial question or concept. It is deeply embedded and deeply part of their contribution to the Baha’i world community. For it to be seen to have failed, or for them to admit that it has failed or been rejected by the membership, is not just a simple realization. It means accepting that their contribution has fallen short. Most people simply can not take that. Compound that by several like minded individuals and you have: group think.

No where is the death grip of group-think more apparent than the categorical denial by the UHJ/ITC of the report prepared by the NSA. Who is more adept at gathering, analyzing and reporting what is going on within a community? the community itself? or a body that is half-way around the world?

Oh, right. Silly me. I’m trying to see with my own eyes and hear with mine own ears.

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