Saturday, April 26, 2008

Explosion of Hatred in Shiraz

The blast at Masjed ol-Shohada in Shiraz, which was a center of anti-Wahhabi and anti-Baha'i sermons, has become a major topic in the newspapers and blogs these days (ranking next to Alami’s speech in the Majlis.) Twelve people were killed and two hundred were injured. The official news gradually announced the casualties, starting with two deaths and a few injured. Within two days, the government announced, prematurely, that the investigation determined that it was due to an “unspecified accident” due to the remnant of explosives left from an exhibit years ago!

Various newspapers and blogs expressed their concern over the issue, voicing their doubts that the government’s controversial reports were true, or just a means of closing the subject. Some tried to challenge the government’s dismissal of alternate explanations of the explosion. Most indicated that there were dissatisfied minorities or elements that might be suspect, while others tried to put the government in a corner by reminding it that their handling of the incident of the Sufis mosque in Khorramabad [.pdf] effectively encouraged “others” to commit similar acts of violence.

Jamileh Kadivar’s article in her blog Maktoub prominently took this line and was republished in various sites. She argued in favor of the explosion theory based on the existence of sufficiently motivated groups such as Wahhabis (I assume she meant al-Qaeda), the People’s Mojahedin, various individuals connected to certain illegal groups (monarchists?), and Baha’is. Were she not a faithful reformist, a devoutly religious person, a mother, a one-time Majlis deputy, a university professor, and a writer, I could have dismissed her writing as just another piece with which I disagreed. But any of the above would lead me to expect a kind of responsibility which was regrettably lacking in her article.

With good intentions and as a politically concerned citizen, she was one of the first to come forth and challenge the government’s hasty verdict. I admired her for that, though mentioning Baha’is as possible suspects was so cruelly irresponsible that it could not be dismissed lightly. It should be noted that Kadivar is from Shiraz, the cradle of Babism and then Baha’ism, where the Baha’i community had a great temple (destroyed after revolution), where Mohammad Ali Bab, rest in peace, was buried, where the Faith suffered its harshestblow after the Islamic Revolution, where innocent men and women were executed simply for their beliefs, a group of them even hung in public. As a deputy to the parliament, she ought to be aware of the situation of the Baha’i community, that they cannot have government jobs, cannot have any trade without having a Muslim as a front, and in many places they cannot even have a cemetery and must bury their dead in someone’s property or carry them to a distant city where they could have access to such property. As a religious person, she should be aware that the business of the truth of a faith is not her job to judge but only God’s. As a mother who is so proud of her seven years old child for having translated a book, her heart should ache for all those otherwise qualified young people who were not permitted to attend universities this year because of their faith. As a teacher and writer whose job it is to touch the people’s hearts and minds, to nurture and to cultivate them, she should know that diversity in society is the cornerstone of anything we might call a rich and healthy culture. But, as a reformist, she is a total failure if this single article were any indication of the kind of reform she wants to bring to our society. Did she ever noticed that since the dawn of the Faith there has never been even one incident of murder, robbery, child abuse, or even domestic violence with Baha’is involved? Did she ever have any experience otherwise?

The Baha’i faith has gone through a massive hardship, particularly after the revolution. In spite of all the abuses and persecution, executions and imprisonments, they never appealed to violence. The teaching of the Faith bars the Baha’i not only from violence but from politics to keep them away from any possible confrontation, and the Baha’is have full-heartedly followed the teachings of their Faith.

The verbal abuse in the meetings of the Rahpuyan-e Vesal Mosque was not an isolated or unprecedented event. The community is used to it by now. Indeed, being fully aware of how unprotected they are, along with their religious teaching, they even refrain from complaining about it. They are fully aware that even if they are murdered, their blood is void of any value according to the Islamic Republic’s laws. Were not tolerance imbedded in Iranian culture and the extreme sense of humanity and peacefulness which has always been a value of the majority of the population, life would have been practically impossible for this community. Indeed, in spite of all maltreatment by the authorities and the religious establishment, the Baha’i community thrives with dignity. Young Bah’is, strengthened in their belief, continue their healthy and peaceful way of life.

Ms. Kadivar is deluding herself if she thinks she can detach herself from segments of our society, from those who do injustice and those who suffer as well. What happens to any minority, lawful or otherwise, happens to all of us Iranians. We all have to live with that shame, and our children will inherit it as well. It is about time we face the fact that we are going to be the second or third in rank in genocide to German and Turkey. As the Holocaust left a black spot on German history and the Armenian genocide for ever will remain as a blemish on Turkey’s face, the Baha’i genocide will be our darkness.

In answer to a reader, she recommended that he or she should read that paragraph again and pay attention to the words “guessing” and “possible.” As a matter of fact, I read the entire article several times; indeed, both words are the source of the problem. As neither of us are criminal investigators, our guess is just based on our common sense, our reason as well as our biases. I have no idea what possessed her in her guesswork to include the Baha’is and exclude us, the reformists. Yes, we, the reformists, who have been badly beaten, abused, and humiliated by the ruling fundamentalists; we the reformists who are angry, bitter, and well-motivated for revenge, and not only few thousands of us, like Baha’is, but millions of us. What makes us immune from being suspect, from any possibilities, and not the Baha’is? Is it our peacefulness? Our not having a criminal record? Our being victimized? Don’t we share all these with Baha’is?

Also troubling was her further remark that, “I respect the rights of all citizens, regardless of their beliefs and ideas. Indeed, all my life and my writings testifies to this claim.” I’m afraid a little manipulation is involved here, and as teacher she should be aware of it as well. To believe that all the citizens’ rights are respected, regardless of their beliefs, does not automatically imply that the Baha’i’s citizenry rights are respected. I’m afraid that Ms. Kadivar’s record, as well as that of everyone else who had held any position in the Islamic Republic these last thirty years, does not indicate a regard for the Baha’is as equal to others. As a matter of fact, she is not permitted, indeed does not dare to, refer to Baha’is directly in her writings except in a derogatory fashion. No one can do otherwise!

Unfortunately, the situation is as such that no one can acknowledge the existence of this minority in our country. This of course does not mean that everyone agrees with this situation, rather it is the circumstances that require them to behave this way. Unfortunately, this is exactly the problem, the circumstances! What are those circumstances, and when should we overcome them? Is not the twenty first century about the right time to put an end to this close-mindedness and fanaticism? And who should take the first step? And where does the first step begin? It is fortunate that we Iranians have the most magnificent blueprint for our conduct. Good words comes first which leads to good deeds. We should talk. As a matter of fact, there is a general consensus in this regard as the Torah declares that creation begins with God’s word, the Gospels declare the same, and the Koran appears as a spoken revelation to the Prophet, and God’s command for him to recite.

Why after all should I pick on Ms. Kadivar? Should we expect more from her? Well, it is the last statement in Ms. Kadivar’s response to her reader that settles it somehow. “My robe is so clean, I would not be worried about it if people like you would not smear it.” That is why. It is that clean robe that one needs to endeavor to keep pure in words and in deed. As a matter of fact, those with the cleanest robes are the ones that should take the first step because no one would accuse them of anything. (Or I’m wrong on this too?) Is she willing to place “Baha’i” in a positive context such as, “Baha’is are the citizens of this country and all their rights should be preserved?If not, she need not worry; she is in a good and copious company—Khatami, Abtahi, her brother Mohsen Kadivar, her beloved husband Ata'ollah Mohajerani, and all the rest of the religious reformists. I am sure that they are all wonderful people and between them and those in power I do not hesitate even a minute to go along with them. But this is not the point. The point is that sometime in the future when she is gone and I am gone and many Baha’is are gone, someone will go to our records and see that she and I and Khatami and Abtahi and Mohsen Kadivar and thousands more just kept quiet while crimes were committed right under our nose. Even if our offspring gave us the benefit of the doubt and read our records in the most generous way, we still would be convicted of the crime silence. Indeed our children would be dumb with shame even if they speak twenty languages fluently.

There is no hope if our reformist friends, if our intellectuals, if those who want to bring about a better future, those who once had a voice in politics and want to recover it, God’s willing, do not see us all as equals. And worse, it would be a horrifying world if we think that one day we would not be ashamed when we look back to find out that we had kept quiet when injustice, hate, and discrimination had crept into our lives and that we did not even notice.

I do not want to believe those who recited this poem of the immortal Saadi many times in private and public

بنی آدم اعضای یک پیکرند که در آفرینش ز یک گوهرند

Human beings are the members of one body since they are born of a single essence.

did not feel the pain already inflicted on Baha’is, and indeed themselves added to their suffering.


Mohammad Memarian said...

first of all, thanks for your visit/comment. and, your post about Kadivar was informative. I wish if she could read... good luck.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your comments. It is indeed the silence of the liberals and reformers as well as the attacks of the fanatics that is hurtful to the Baha'is of Iran. The attitude of these "reformers" to the Baha'is is the litmus test for whether they are really interested in a reform of our country or whether they are merely political opportunists and pseudo-liberals.

The Baha'is in Iran are facing a potential genocide and, as you say, future generations will not be kind to those who remain silent in the face of this.

Dr. Darius Afnan said...

Dear Yazdi Hamshahri,

I would suggest to replace the link to His Holiness The Bab, from the Lahore Ahmadiyya movement in Islam to or maybe or perhaps I do highly appreciate. Much obliged.

Mina said...

It is always good to hear from a fellow-Yazdi!
You are right, the Ahmadi source is not appropriate. So I took the easy way out and linked to Wikipedia.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your heart warming support. Too few people in Iran have looked for the truth about Baha'is.

Dr. Darius Afnan said...

Deeply sorry to disturb you again, I’m as stubborn and persistent as anyone could be.
In your forth paragraph I quote: It should be noted that Kadivar is from Shiraz, the cradle of Babism and then Baha’ism, where the Baha’i community had a great temple (destroyed after revolution), where Mohammad Ali Bab, rest in peace …….

Would you please change the link of “Mohammad Ali Bab” as I have mentioned it in my previous comment.

True appreciation for your article, it was simply adequate and gorgeous.

"May your troubles be less, may your blessings be more, and may nothing but happiness come through your door"