The recent arrest of Baha’ leaders in Iran has been widely reported and has once again brought the world’s attention to Iran’s continuing transgressions on the life of its largest religious minority.
While the knowledge of many Iranians about the Baha’is is limited to what they have read about their persecution and its rationalization in the context of what they have heard through word of mouth, few if any have reached the mark of speaking out for their rights.
To speak out with conviction one needs to reach a state of certitude and to have certitude one needs to investigate independently. This ability, to a great extent, is absent in us Iranians and when it pertains to matters of faith, we are either fanatically faithful or faithfully indifferent. In both instances the result, however unfortunate, is that we don’t ask the right questions. The questions that matter are those that makes us uncomfortable when asked.
We all agree, or at least we like to publically say, that the youth are our future and that they are the primary motive force for change in society. This indeed is true for all nations and cultures anywhere in the world. However, the pace of change and its direction is no doubt determined by the cultural mileu that the youth are raised in. This is more a case for nurture and not nature.
If we choose to, we can ask an uncomfortable question like: Why has there not been a single instance where a group of Iranians, youth or not, ever collectively and publically spoken out in support of the rights of the Baha’is in Iran and other Muslim countries? Recognized personalities within our community have addressed the plight of this community only in responses to questions or in passing when it has been somewhat related to another topic. For that matter, and sadly, I must recognize that the topic is viewed by many with great suspicion reminescent of the era of the great power politics. When we don’t understand something, it is best to ascribe it to the British first, the Americans second and the Zionists third.
Now, a group of Muslim Arab youth, have reached certitude that what is happening to Baha’is in the Muslim world is against their principles. We can only conclude that they must have investigated the Baha’i principles and teachings and most importantly resolved amongst themselves that there is no conflict between their faith and support for the Baha’is. Their support has taken the form of a website that documents the violation of the rights that the Baha’is have had to endure in not just Iran but other Muslim countries like Egypt.
Their website www.bahairights.org is filled with detailed accounts of persecutions in Egypt and Iran where the lives of individuals and the entire community has been compromised. The photos and informative articles captures the dignity and humility they have shown in the face of adversity. If only we could ask ourselved how we would fare, if tested, against such discrimination and injustice.
Let’s then ask the same uncomfortable question again: Why has there not been a single instance where a group of Iranians, youth or not, ever collectively and publically spoken out in support of the rights of the Baha’is in Iran and other Muslim countries?
The answer to this question is found within each one of us. As with any pebble in your shoe, you know that it is there all of the time, but it is painful some of the time. In the hope that we all take the time to examine the mocasins that we walk in and if uncomfortable ask why. If it has a pebble (prejudice) remove it. If it is worn out or too tight, then replace it. Who knows, we may even wonder why we did not do this sooner.
By faith is meant, first, conscious knowledge, and second, the practice of good deeds – Baha’i Writings