Friday, April 22, 2016

Baha'i, Religion of Peace, Tranquility, Equality

"The [Iranian] regime has done more to kill religion in the hearts of people in the Iranian diaspora than anything else."
"There is a sense of shame and honour in Iranian culture, so that's helpful. The government doesn't like attracting attention to their treatment of the Baha'i, and the Iranian government's mission to the UN does a lot of lobbying against any human rights focus."
"They put up a big fight at the UN Human Rights council in Geneva [not to focus on the Islamic Republic of Iran's human rights abuses] too."
Gerald Filson, public affairs director, Baha'i Community of Canada
The Shrine of the Bab on Mount Carmel, Haifa, Israel, newly unveiled after more than two years of extensive restoration and conservation work.
Photo credit: Baha’i World Centre
The 'moderate' Hassan Rouhani, president of the Republic of Iran has overseen an acceleration in the persecution of minorities living in Iran. The Baha'i continue to suffer state oppression and violent discrimination in particular. Members of the Iranian Baha'i leadership council were imprisoned and charged with heresy and conspiracy. The Baha'i faith emerged in Iran in the early 1800s, a product of a schism in the Shiite faction of Islam. Although emanating from Islam, Baha'i faith diverges substantially from Islam.

The newly-restored dome of the Shrine of the Bab is unveiled in the early morning of Tuesday 12 April, 2011. Almost 12,000 gilded tiles in 120 different shapes and sizes were created for the dome.
Photo credit: Baha’i World Centre
Its major tenet is the oneness of humankind and that peace prevail throughout the world. Baha'i emphasizes equality and the unity of humanity. The faithful are led to respect all religious traditions. Religious duties of the Baha'i revolve around quiet prayer, meditation, education and service to humanity. And they are  under grave duress in Iran, threatened, held in contempt, imprisoned and subjected to torture.

The Khomeinist regime excludes the Baha'i from specific employment categories, and they are spoken of as "unclean", not legally "persons". Denied pensions and government services, their marriages are considered illegal, their children held to be "illegitimate". They are banned from attending universities and colleges, and have no recourse to the courts of law, since they are non-persons.

Several dozen Baha'i were sentenced in January to 193 years in prison collectively for criminally practising their faith. Over 200 Baha'i businesses have been put out of business by the Iranian regime. Iran continues to refuse to renew business licenses for them. Some 350,000 Baha'i remain in Iran. Globally five million Baha'i followers practise their faith of peace and equality.

India is  host to about two million Baha'i, while an equal number is distributed in Africa, South America, Europe and North America. In Iran the Baha'i are considered blasphemers for departing from the faith concept that Muhammad represented the final ultimate prophet for the only true faith. And while the Baha'i continue to be oppressed and threatened in Iran, their headquarters is in Israel, a country that Iran threatens to destroy.

Their founder, Baha'u'llah (the Bab), had been imprisoned by the Ottoman Empire in the late 19th century, in Haifa, when the Ottomans ruled the Middle East. The Bab was executed in 1850 in Iran. The Baha'i World Centre, a pilgrimage site in his memory, was historically built in Haifa and the Baha'i Universal House of Justice, the governing body of the religion, was located on Mount Carmel.

This is, of course, 'apartheid' Israel, where Christians, Palestinian Arabs, Kurds and Druze, Baha'i and Jews live together in peace, and where under democratic rule, citizenship benefits everyone under the law and equality of status is enforced under the law, admittedly under trying circumstances. Baha'i, needless to say, have no argument with any culture, ethnic group or religion.

The Shrine of the Bab (built in 1850) as seen from its western gardens, early in the morning of Tuesday 12 April 2011, shortly after its unveiling after restoration.
Photo credit: Baha’i World Centre

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