The Infidel

Omid Djalili, the Iranian-born Baha’i comedian and actor stars in the new UK comedy “The Infidel”. In the film Djalili plays a Muslim man who discovers suddenly that he was adopted… from Jewish parents.

Here is the trailer:

They have also started a contest for the “funniest” religion. Here is Omid starting things off with a joke about Palestine:

Let’s hear your funniest joke about religion!

Universal House of Justice: Ridvan Message 2010

Below you’ll find the most recent Ridvan message from the Universal House of Justice. This has to be the most Ruhi-laden Ridvan message I’ve ever read from them. It seems that the House is doubling down on Ruhi. It is also a very long message at 11 pages.

Only time will tell if that is a wise decision. I haven’t seen any data that suggests that it is. For example, in the case of Columbia which is ground zero for Ruhi, after more than 40 years there has been no discernible growth in the Baha’i community. But for now, expect to see an even more intensification of Ruhi activities at the expense of anything and everything else.

A few things jumped out at me. One, they attempt to remove the stigma of “door to door” teaching, which obviously bothers many Baha’is for obvious reasons:

To assign to their teaching efforts such labels as “door-to-door”, even though the first contact may involve calling upon the residents of a home without prior notice, would not do justice to a process that seeks to raise capacity within a population to take charge of its own spiritual, social and intellectual development.

This is rather humorous because simply removing a label or attaching a label to something doesn’t change the nature of it. If you are going and knocking on a door to invite the people to an event, then it is what it is. The intention may not be exactly as direct as teaching them the Baha’i Faith but instead inviting them to take part in a process of “spiritual, social and intellectual development” – that doesn’t really make any difference to those who have to answer the door with a stranger standing there or to the poor Baha’is who are being pressured to go door to door.

The other is this rather refreshing caution:

…we feel compelled to raise a warning: It will be important for all to recognize that the value of engaging in social action and public discourse is not to be judged by the ability to bring enrolments. Though endeavours in these two areas of activity may well effect an increase in the size of the Baha’i community, they are not undertaken for this purpose. Sincerity in this respect is imperative. Moreover, care should be exercise to avoid overstating the Baha’i experience or drawing undue attention to fledgling efforts, such as the junior youth spiritual empowerment programme, which are best left to mature at their own pace. The watchword in all cases is humility. While conveying enthusiasm about their beliefs, the friends should guard against projecting an air of triumphalism, hardly appropriate among themselves, much less in other circumstances.

This characteristic has already been pointed out by many – including as early as 30 years ago. For more see Denis MacEoin’s letter to the LA Study Class. Let me know if anything of interest stands out for you. The previous years Ridvan messages are here:

Iranian Baha’is on Trial: Quick Update

It is easy to forget that we are closing in on almost 2 years of incarceration for the 7 members of the national administrative body of the Baha’is of Iran. In Persian, the body is known as the Yaran (or Friends):

yaran bahai group iran

Since their arrest, they have been in legal limbo. The Iranian authorities are pressured on one side to present and argue a case so that they can be found guilty but on the other hand the international community and NGOs like Amnesty International are demanding a fair and open trial.

The result has been a bureaucratic gridlock that has produced and ignored countless trial dates. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the strategy adopted by the Iranian regime. After all, if the IRI can basically detain prisoners indefinitely without really bringing any charges or afford them the opportunity to defend themselves in a transparent court of law, they’ve more or less accomplished their goal.

Now it seems the strategy has shifted after almost two years. On April 12th the IRI finally went ahead with a trial. Here is an official update from the Baha’i International Community:

Two members of the legal team, Mrs. Mahnaz Parakand and Mr. Hadi Ismailzadeh, were able to be present at the session. Their two other colleagues, Mrs. Shirin Ebadi and Mr. Abolfattah Soltani, were unable to attend.

The hearing was scheduled to begin at 9:30 AM, yet notwithstanding that the lawyers were present at precisely the specified time, the session commenced only two and a half hours later. The families of the defendants were not permitted entry to the proceedings, which clearly signaled that the session was to be closed. However, numerous officials and interrogators from the Ministry of Intelligence were present, including a film crew whose cameras were positioned in the courtroom, which understandably gave rise to questions and concerns about the intentions behind the presence of such individuals in a closed hearing.

In view of the foregoing circumstances, the prisoners, with the full agreement of their attorneys, indicated to the judge that they declined to be party to the proceedings. The judge then adjourned the session. No date was announced for the next hearing.

So the gridlock continues. But the IRI can now claim a victory on the grounds that they were ready to move forward but their attempt was rejected by the Baha’is.

I’m not sure why exactly the Baha’is decided to not to proceed. Having government officials (interrogators, intelligence, etc.) included in the proceedings is part and parcel for the IRI’s case so it is natural that they would be included.

As well, what is wrong with having a camera record the proceedings? It is actually a step in the right direction, isn’t it? And how else would you be able to record the proceedings unless you have staff manning the audio/visuals? And why do they believe that this was a closed hearing if there was no actual ruling on this?

I’m not an Iranian or international legal expert but simply excluding family members (who are unrelated to the case) isn’t necessarily out of order nor unheard of. As long as the defendants have proper representation and are able to call witnesses, present evidence, etc. why would having their families there and not being filmed be so crucial that they would “walk out”?

Maybe I’m missing something but the strategy of the Baha’is and their lawyers is baffling and ultimately may end up hurting them.

Roxana Saberi – Between Two Worlds

Roxana Saberi has written a book about her experience last year in Iran: Between Two Worlds. She was recently at the Daily Show with Jon Stewart to explain how she was arrested in Iran on trumped up charges of espionage.

In the short interview she mentions sharing a cell in Evin prison with two Baha’is. If you are in the US, you can watch the video (Canadians can see the clip here):

Saberi was also involved in the recently released film, No One Knows About Persian Cats. In the interview she struggles to try to explain why the Iranian authorities had detained her. This is a common mistake that is often made by outsiders who watch events in Iran.

Many times, if not almost always, things happen in Iran not because of an over-arching plan but because of a chaotic mix of conflicting interests. It is very difficult for those who live in a civilized and orderly society to understand this because we simply can not imagine a place like that.

But Iranian society is nothing more than a mish-mash of various groups and different layers of government, each with its own opaquely defined authority and sphere of influence. Not surprisingly they often are in conflict with each other and many innocent people are victimized amid this greater tumult.

Just to give you an idea of the various factions, you have the Mullahs, the Bazaris (merchant class), the Pasdaran, the Basiji, the police, the military, the Revolutionary Guards, various Intelligence forces, etc. Each one is stepping on various toes. For example, the Mullahs have billion dollar “foundations” or Bonyads. Using this as a facade they have muscled in on the economic activities which were once only the territory of the Bazaris.

So it is futile to seek out a logical rational for anything out of Iran. The whole place is a corrupt, benighted cesspool masquerading as a country.