It’s with great sadness that the Baha’i world learned today of the passing of Dr. ‘Ali-Muhammad Varqá, the last living member of the Hands of the Cause of God, those selfless, sanctified souls appointed as servants and guides to the worldwide Baha’i Community, whose work, whose only passion was to protect and proclaim the Baha’i Faith in every corner of the globe. According to the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Hands of the Cause were appointed by the Guardian (Shoghi Effendi) and served under His direction. As the Guardian is no longer with us, however, the Hands of the Cause are no longer appointed, and their work is now taken up by the Continental Board of Counsellors, appointed by the Universal House of Justice.
In a message sent today to the Baha’is of the world announcing the passing of Dr. Varqá, the Universal House of Justice pays him tribute and requests the prayers of the Friends everywhere for the progress of his soul through all the worlds of God. We have truly witnessed today, as Barney Leith puts it, the passing of a link with Baha’i history.
Baha’i blog Baha’i Faith in Egypt reminds us that time is swiftly running out for the Baha’is of Egypt: the new computerized Egyptian identification cards—which allow access to all forms of official government transactions, and which, coincidentally, are impossible for Baha’is to obtain—will soon be mandatory for all Egyptian citizens; inability to produce such an identification card entails a five-year prison sentence. That’s right—soon, every Baha’i in Egypt, whether their families have lived there for five, ten, fifty or a hundred years, will become non-citizens, illegal aliens in their own land. Never mind the property they own, or even the fact that they will still be expected to continue paying taxes to a state that will refuse to grant them the rights of citizenship!
So far, official rationales for this illogical policy have been based not on facts and arguments, but on prejudice, intolerance and slander. An article published in Al-Ahram Weekly, noted that the 16 December 2006 ruling of Egypt’s Supreme Court (blogged here) was “prejudiced by religious scholars and [institutions]”, and that the court “didn’t respond to a single legal argument by the defence”, instead basing its ruling “solely on a public rejection of the Baha’i faith”. The Egyptian government, backed by the Supreme Court ruling, has actively pursued a policy of religious discrimination akin to the campaign of “cultural cleansing” applied against the Baha’is of Iran. Without intervention, Egyptian Baha’is will soon be regarded as non-persons, ineligible for basic rights such as health care, education, financial security (including pensions and bank accounts), and recognition of marriages, births and deaths.
Once again, Iran’s campaign of persecution towards its Baha’i minority finds its way into the halls of academe; one more year in a row, prospective Baha’i students have been barred from applying for higher education. No, there are no armed guards keeping them from the examination halls; just a row of boxes on paper. Here’s the story from the Baha’i World News Service:
NEW YORK, 31 July 2007 (BWNS) — Iranian Baha’is seeking to enter Iran’s technical and vocational institutes have been effectively barred from admission for the coming academic year, since the application to sit for the entrance examinations leaves them with no option but to deny their faith, which Baha’is refuse to be coerced into doing.
The Baha’i International Community learned recently that the 2007 form for the entrance examination for undergraduate courses under the technical and vocational education system indicates that only one box may be marked for religion.
The applicant is given three choices – Zoroastrian, Jewish, or Christian – and if none of the boxes is marked, the form explains, the applicant will be considered Muslim. This is unacceptable to Baha’is.
“Under this system, Baha’is cannot fill out the application without a de facto denial of their faith, which is against their religious principles,” said Bani Dugal, the Baha’i International Community’s principal representative to the United Nations.
“Accordingly, Iranian Baha’is will not be able to take this entrance examination, and so they are effectively blocked this year from obtaining technical and vocational education in Iran.
It wasn’t until I read about them on the one and only Baha’i Blog and actually had a chance to hear some of their music that I started to light up: Common Market is serious business. Seriously challenging and seriously honest vocals—many inspired by the teachings of the Baha’i Faith—delivered by Ra Scion, along with seriously refreshing and uplifting beats from Blue Scholars‘ DJ Sabzi, make this combo into a mix between revolution and revelation. I bought two copies of Common Market’s album, and the songs on it still enjoy frequent rotation onto my iTunes playlist. Recent news from LiveJournal user sciontific—Ra Scion’s wife—shares an Associated Press article about the growing Seattle hip-hop scene that extensively features both Common Market and Blue Scholars and their independent record label, Massline Media. Check it out and don’t be left behind—and do check out the new Blue Scholars album, Bayani, for a share of lyrical bliss.
As noted on Barney Leith’s blog Barnabas Quotidianus—and passed along by countless email groups so far—the fledgling Muslim Network for Baha’i Rights has been featured on BBC Persian (Farsi; check out the English translation). This is well-deserved good news for this collection of brave souls who are selflessly striving to defend the interests of the members of a beleaguered and long-suffering religious community.
For the first time on the internet, a group of Muslim youth has established a site called “the Muslim Network for Baha’i Rights.” This site closely monitors the conditions of Baha’is in Egypt and Iran.
That a group of Muslims—made up social activists and liberal students from Arab countries—has exposed the plight of Baha’is is seen as a significant development by human rights advocates. […]
The founder of “the Muslim Network for Baha’i Rights” believes that most people in the Arab world know very little about the Baha’is: “When I talk to my friends about the Baha’i faith, they tell me that it is a satanic religion. I ask them to provide me with one of the principles of this religion, but they have no answer. Some think that the Baha’is are a sect of Shi’i Islam which is also a mistake. They don’t know anything about it, but they are nonetheless suspicious of its followers.”
Several people have pointed this out to me so far, so it’s probably worth a few words: Al Gore, ex-Vice-President of the United States of America turned environmentalist guru, gave a short mention of the Baha’i Faith—and the name of its Founder, Baha’u’llah—in his 1992 book Earth in the Balance, pp. 261-262.
One of the newest of the great universalist religions, Baha’i, founded in 1863 in Persia by Mirza Husayn Ali (Baha’u’llah), warns us not only to properly regard the relationship between humankind and nature but also the one between civilization and the environment. Perhaps because its guiding visions were formed during the period of accelerating industrialism, Baha’i [sic] seems to dwell on the spiritual implications of the great transformation to which it bore fresh witness:
“We cannot segregate the human heart from the environment outside us and say that once one of these is reformed everything will be improved. Man is organic with the world. His inner life molds the environment and is itself deeply affected by it. The one acts upon the other and every abiding change in the life of man is the result of these mutual reactions.”
Several sources claimed that the book is a “new” book, but publishing information indicates it was published in 1992—of course, it may have been reprinted recently owing to the popularity of Gore’s recent movie, An Inconvenient Truth. Can anyone confirm this?