A "challenge" to Dr. Soroush

From: Faryar Mansuri faryar@interport.net

The current interest in Dr Soroush and his ideas is a welcome sign of hopefully a new generation of Iranians' examination of religion as an age-old moral and spiritual force and an essential element of Iranian life, despite the image created of religion by the current rulers of Iran.

Your review of Dr Soroush's lectures spoke of apparent contradictions, and yet fortunately people seemed to have accepted him for his attempt at reconciling certain islamic values with secular thinking. I think he can be a positive force in today's Iran; in highlighting some of the shortcomings of current Islamic belief in relation to life in 21st century Iran; by impressing in his talks that the failure of today's brand of Islam in keeping up with social,economic and technological progress is not necessarily a failure of Islam as a divine religion, Islam having fulfilled its purpose for its designated period, having first been a source of inspiration, civilisation and spiritual conviction to the savage and warring tribes of Arabia, uniting them as a nation, giving them what ever it took to overrun and finally defeat the morally bankrupt Persian empire.In time the synthesis of Persian culuture and Islam created one of the greatest civilisations, with contributions to art, architecture, mathematics, chemistry and so on.

In fact, The failure has been but a tragic failure of a fanatical and antiquated Shia clergy who through the centuries have paralysed the spiritual and economic progress of its followers, by their self serving actions as interpreters of Quranic law, as judges and teachers, and today as rulers.

Dr Soroush is but a perceptive soul recognising the need of divine element of guidance in the daily life of people, yet he is having difficulty justifying obsolete Islamic laws and practices as it relates to current Iranian life, hence the difficult questions from his audience and the apparent contradictions in his answers.

The solution it seems is in the belief that, just as physical,material and scientific progress; religion too has to progress with time; hence the progress from Judaism to Christianity to Islam and so on. What Mr Soroush has to impress upon people is that the essence of religion as a divine force does not change with time and does not diminish; all religions speak of the same fundemental principles; truth, justice, etc; but the creator in His wisdom has from time to time revealed new spiritual laws to suit the physical and social conditions of the time; at the time of Moses, this meant laws suiting life in the desert; (eye for an eye) in Christ's time, He did not reject the religion of Moses but abrogated Judaic laws for new ones suiting the conditions of the time; Muhammad in the Quran in turn acknowledged what came before, but revealed new laws well suited to the lives of the people and that time. There is plenty of references in the Quran about the never ending words and divine guidance from the God.

Those who are familiar with the principles like Oneness of God; unity of human race; common foundation of all religions; an independant search for the truth; Universal compulsory education; equal opportunity for men and women; spiritual solution to the economic problem, adoptation of a universal auxiliary language, essential harmony between science and religion, eradication of all forms of prejudice, the strenghthening of human family, the elimination of extremes of of wealth and poverty, the protection of the environment, and the establishment of a just and and peaceful world social order in which the rights of all peoples are fully recognised and protected, know full well that these were the revolutionary teachings of Baha'u'llah, who over 150 years ago in a backward country under the Qajars, proclaimed to have brought a new revelation from God and tried to wake Iran from its deep sleep.

Today in 1997, especially in the west, some of these principles are considered common sense by most ; but in Iran of the late 19th century, belief in these principles and one's identity as a Babi or Bahai meant and still can mean death.

If present at these talks, I would like to have asked Mr Soroush, (especailly as one, by some accounts, who bravely chose to take the moral way and opt not to take part in clandestine activities against the Bahais in the seventies in the disruption of their meetings, as a then member of "Tablighat Eslami")....his opinion about the principles of mentioned above; the spiritual teachings of Baha'u'llah with regard to personal transformtion, as a prerequisite to a peaceful social order; and why as apparently someone who can be outspoken, he has not subjected these teachings which were obviously before their time, to a wider examination by himself and the public, when they seem to be the very answer to the difficult questions asked by his public, especially with regard to reconciling religion and science, religion and government, rights of women, education, family,marriage(sigheh), human rights, the list goes on, all issues clearly discussed and addressed in the Bahai writings.

As a Bahai, I am well familiar with the reluctance, and up to now the inability of some Iranian individuals and media to fairly and intelligently place under scrutiny the merits of Bahai idealogy as a possible answer to the all of the socially relevant questions left unanswered or softly brushed aside by Clerics or scholars such as Dr Soroush.

I therefore like to humbly challenge Dr Soroush to examine (as no one has dared to for fear of criticism by powers that be), scrutinise and challenge the teachings of Bah'u'llah as a divine answer to what as what Bahais believe to have be a new charter for a world civilisation; first given to Iran and Iranians over a hundred and fifty years ago, and for which many Bahais have given their lives and continue to, to this day.

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