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Today, on the 9th of July, 2009, the Times of London has printed an article by Cherie Blair, wife of ex British Prime Minister Tony Blair, herself one of the U.K’s top lawyers.

In the article, she outlines the case of the leaders of the Bahá’í Faith in Iran, who are due to stand trial on charges of ‘espionage’ amongst others, where the penalty of death is a likely punishment.

Cherie Blair draws our attention to the fact that Nobel Prize winner Shirin Ebadi has been trying to defend them (whilst receiving death threats) and that we mustn’t lose sight of human rights violations against the largest religious minority in Iran, the Baha’is, who number around 300,000 and stand on the brink of possible religious genocide…

The article is here.

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The persecution of the Baha’is in Iran has reached crisis point with the unfair trial of seven of its members, on ‘espionage charges for Israel,’ which carries the death penalty.

The Baha’is are being defended by Iran’s only Nobel Prize winner (for peace), Human Rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi.
However, Shirin has been threatened and had her office shut down for defending the Baha’is.
An interview with Shirin, regarding her defence of the Baha’is, can be seen on U.K.s Channel 4 News here (at 18:41 into video)

Shirin has been denied access to them and their files.

This persecution has also been condemned up by the European Union. Their statement can be seen here.

However, interestingly enough, members of the entertainment industry have joined in the plight of the Baha’is being held in Iran on these unfair charges.

In today’s Times Newspaper, what could be called an ‘A-List’ of British Comedians have joined forces to sign a statement condemning this persecution. The statement is here and quoted below

Voices from the arts call for the imprisoned Baha’i leaders in Iran to receive a fair trial

Sir, We are deeply concerned at the continuing imprisonment for more than eight months of seven leaders of the Baha’i community in Iran. No formal evidence has been brought against them.

They have not been given access to their legal counsel, the Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi. She has had no access to their files and has suffered threats and intimidation since taking on their case.

Spurious charges now look likely to be filed against these Baha’is in the Revolutionary Court. “Espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities and propaganda against the Islamic republic” are their alleged crimes.

In reality, their only “crime”, which the current regime finds intolerable, is that they hold a religious belief that is different from the majority.

As artists who strive to uplift the human spirit and enrich society through our work, we register our solidarity with all those in Iran who are being persecuted for promoting the best development of society — be it through the arts and media, the promotion of education, social and economic development, or adherence to moral principles.

Further, we join with the governments, human rights organisations and people of goodwill throughout the world who have so far raised their voices calling for a fair trial, if not the complete release of the Baha’i leaders in Iran.

David Baddiel

Bill Bailey

Morwenna Banks

Sanjeev Bhasker

Jo Brand

Russell Brand

Rob Brydon

Jimmy Carr

Jack Dee

Omid Djalili

Sean Lock

Lee Mack

Alexei Sayle

Meera Syal

Mark Thomas

Only last week actor, Rainn Wilson, who recently played the lead role in the film ‘The Rocker’ and plays ‘Dwight,’ in the American version of the Office (Mackenzie Crook’s role in the U.K. version) voiced his concern to CNN as can be seen here

Additionally, Robert Wood representing the U.S. State Department, Bill Rammell representing the British Foreign Office and Amnesty International have all made statements showing concern about the wrongful persecution of the Baha’is in Iran, especially with regard to this trial.

So in a spirit of unity, media and politics mix, to stand ground against oppression and persecution by governments who take away basic human rights, like freedom of religion.

I applaud those defenders of human rights and these comedians for taking a stand for something precious to us all.

That is the right to follow which ever Faith we choose (or choose not to).

Ironically, something Iran voted in favour of; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (specifically Article 18).

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Originally written for Bahá’í Perspectives:

Continued from Part 1

Classical scholar Alexis de Tocqueville differentiated between three types of revolutions.

1) political revolutions

2) sudden and violent revolutions that seek not only to establish a new political system but to transform an entire society

3) slow but sweeping transformations of the entire society that take several generations to bring about (ex. religion).

The revolution I am about to describe is mainly the third, with elements of the second. However, like all revolutions, the spark was lit by an enigmatic figure; the revolutionary.

Che Guevara once said this about revolutionaries:

At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. … We must strive every day so that this love of living humanity will be transformed into actual deeds, into acts that serve as examples, as a moving force.

Whether or not Che himself lived up to this ideal is a question to be answered by historians. During the 19th century, one individual not only fulfilled Che’s statement but exceeded it in ways we will never fully understand. His name was His name was Siyyid `Alí Muḥammad Shírází­, known more commonly by his title ‘The Báb,‘ or the ‘Gate’.

His character was described as “the gentle, the youthful and irresistible person of the Báb, matchless in His meekness, imperturbable in His serenity, magnetic in His utterance, unrivalled in the dramatic episodes of His swift and tragic ministry.”

Born on October 20th, 1819, in Shiraz, Persia (Iran) and belonging to a noble family, the Báb was a descendant from Muhammad through the Imam Husayn through both his parents. The Báb was endowed with innate knowledge, and had little schooling.

During his childhood he dumbfounded his teacher, who sent him home, realising he had nothing to teach this extraordinary child. The Báb later joined his uncle in the trade of being a merchant. Soon after marrying, the beginning of the ‘revolution’ began, on the 23nd May 1844, in Shiraz.

So why did this revolution start in 19th century Persia (Iran)?

The ancient Greeks saw revolution as a possibility only after the decay of the fundamental moral and religious tenets of society.

Persia of that time was a place which was seen to be one of the worst in the world. The country was in ruins spiritually and materially, through neglect and extreme corruption as well as religious hypocrisy and fanaticism:

The people among whom He appeared were the most decadent race in the civilized world, grossly ignorant, savage, cruel, steeped in prejudice, servile in their submission to an almost deified hierarchy, recalling in their abjectness the Israelites of Egypt in the days of Moses, in their fanaticism the Jews in the days of Jesus, and in their perversity the idolators of Arabia in the days of Muhammad.

Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 3

This portrayal of Iran by Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, was not the only one at that time.

In the London Times Newspaper, dated December 26th 1845, Persia correspondent ‘Trebisonde’ wrote an article called ‘The State of Persia.’ He opened the article with the following sentence;

The state of Persia has never been more miserable, more unhappy, or more gloomy, than at present.

Trebisonde also goes onto describe the ‘avaricious’ character of the Vizier (Prime minister) of the Shah, who was so cruel that peasants have abandoned their villages and fled to the mountains and to the deserts, where they “prefer to suffer from hunger and misery rather than to be beaten to death” due to the greed of their governmental masters.

He then goes on to say:

none but an idiot like Mohammed Shah, the reigning King of Persia, would suffer his Grand Vizier to act as he pleases, and close his eyes against the sight of ruin of the kingdom. The feeble Shah regards his former precipitor as a saint, and interferes not in State affairs.

Thus an all too familiar scenario has been painted, a place where injustice, oppression and fear have reared their ugly heads. Persia of 1844 was a place ripe for revolution.

The world was an interesting place at this time. In Iran, people (Shaykhis) were waiting for the ‘Promised Qa’im’ or the ‘Mahdi‘, whilst in the western world, chiefly the U.S.A., thousands of Christians known as ‘Millerites’ (now know known as 7th Day Adventists) were waiting for the Second Coming of Christ, all in 1844.

On the 23nd May, 1844, the Báb declared himself to be that Promised one to both had been waiting for. His ministry lasted only 9 years, during which he composed hundreds of letters and books (often termed tablets) in which he stated his claims and proclaimed his teachings, which constituted a new sharí’ah or religious law. The mission of the Báb was to make way for one even greater than him, Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith in 1863.

The Báb’s ideas were so new and revolutionary, they created other smaller revolutionaries. One such ‘revolutionary’ was the famous poetess known as Tahirih, who at the Conference of Badasht, in 1848, threw off her veil signifying a break with Islam and heralding in the new Faith, a heretical act unheard of in entire the Islamic world. She was seen to be one of the first emancipators of women.

Azar Nafisi, a famous Iranian (and not a Baha’i) author and scholar said in an interview on PBS “The first woman to unveil and to question both political and religious orthodoxy was a woman named Tahireh who lived in early 1800s, you know. And we carry this tradition.”

The Bábi movement eventually acquired tens of thousands of supporters, was virulently opposed by Iran’s Shi’a clergy, and was suppressed by the Iranian government leading to thousands upon thousands of his followers, termed Bábis, being persecuted and killed in the most horrific manner. In 1850 the Báb was executed by a firing squad of 750 men in Tabriz.

Whilst the detailed story of the Báb, and his 9 year Ministry are epic in scope, and on par with the miracles, tragedy and brilliance of the stories of the ministry of other Manifestations like Moses, Christ and Muhammad (albeit concentrated into 9 years), they are likewise beyond the capacity of this blog entry. An extremely brief summary can be read here: http://info.bahai.org/babi-faith.html

This revolution was different to any other revolution previously experienced:

In sheer dramatic power, in the rapidity with which events of momentous importance succeeded each other, in the holocaust which baptized its birth, in the miraculous circumstances attending the martyrdom of the One Who had ushered it in, in the potentialities with which it had been from the outset so thoroughly impregnated, in the forces to which it eventually gave birth, this nine-year period may well rank as unique in the whole range of man’s religious experience.

(Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 3)

The Bábi Faith, however, stands unique, because it was a religion in its own right, lasting 9 years and paving the way for Baha’u’llah to found the Baha’i Faith.

Thus from a small room in Shiraz, to the creation of a Faith spanning the entire planet within 100 years is certainly a revolution. Especially as it has shaped, given vision and hopes to everyone of its members.

The Baha’i Faith was listed in The Britannica Book of the Year (1992-present) as the second most widespread of the world’s independent religions in terms of the number of countries represented. Britannica claims that it is established in 247 countries and territories; represents over 2,100 ethnic, racial, and tribal groups; has scriptures translated into over 800 languages; and has seven million adherents worldwide [2005].

It is not just the spread of this Faith that is truly revolutionary, in such a short period but also the fact that it is one of the fastest growing religions in the world.

In 2007, Foreign Policy magazine said it was the second fastest growing religion in the world. Islam being the first.

So why has this revolution been largely ignored?

The answer is, as Gill Scott Heron sings, because the ‘revolution will not be televised.’

He ends his poem with ‘The revolution is live’.

We miss out on the big picture and lack from the power of hindsight. Some of us are blinded by our own egos, others are not even aware, asleep on our couches.

The Bible says:

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in

which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the

elements shall melt with fervent heat…

II Peter 3:10.

So maybe this revolution came like a thief in the night…

a thief that evaded closed-circuit cameras.

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I would like to take some time out to talk about human rights day, which is ………today.

Unlike many other secular celebrations, this one is of great significance to every man, woman and child on this planet.

In short, if you’re human, then this is a celebration for you.

To explain with relative brevity, here is an explanation from the mouth of the wikipedia dragon:

The date (1oth December) was chosen to honour the United Nations General Assembly‘s adoption and proclamation, on 10 December 1948, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the first global enunciation of human rights. The commemoration was established in 1950, when the General Assembly invited all states and interested organizations to celebrate the day as they saw fit.

This year is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

udhrpage

With so many human rights abuses still continuing in our world, I would be foolish to not  mention one that may go unnoticed.

That is the denial of the right to education of the Baha’is of Iran.

The number of Baha’is in Iran number around 300,000 people making them the largest religious minority in Iran by a large margin.

I myself have had family members who were denied the right to education in Iran, and had I stayed there, I too would have been subjected to the same injustices.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that ‘everyone has the right to education,’ in addition to the having the freedom to practice a religion of one’s choosing.

Whilst both of these are being flagrantly disregarded in Iran, it has not gone unnoticed by the west, and in yesterday’s London Times Newspaper, an open letter for Human Rights Day was published about the access to education in Iran signed by 17 prominent academics, lawyers, church leaders, journalists and other activists.

It can be read here

It is really impressive that prominent academics, lawyers, church leaders, journalists all have united on this issue.

Lets not let Human Rights abuses continue to go unnoticed.

Education is the right of all.

I’ll leave you with two quotes on education from the founder of the Baha’i Faith, Baha’u’llah:

Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom.
— Bahá’u’lláh

Arts, crafts and sciences uplift the world of being, and are conducive to its exaltation. Knowledge is as wings to man’s life, and a ladder for his ascent. Its acquisition is incumbent upon everyone.
— Bahá’u’lláh

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I have been pretty busy the last few days.

I will be writing a more meaningful entry very shortly but thought I’d give a little insight into what i’m up to  this week, aside from dental school in the day:

Monday evening: Studying the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh in a study group facilitated by American film director, Mark Bamford.

The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh is a collection of letters and messages from Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith, first published in 1938.

Here is an excerpt:

Leaders of religion, exponents of political theories, governors of human institutions, who at present are witnessing with perplexity and dismay the bankruptcy of their ideas, and the disintegration of their handiwork, would do well to turn their gaze to the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, and to meditate upon the World Order which, lying enshrined in His teachings, is slowly and imperceptibly rising amid the welter and chaos of present-day civilization. They need have no doubt or anxiety regarding the nature, the origin or validity of the institutions which the adherents of the Faith are building up throughout the world. For these lie embedded in the teachings themselves, unadulterated and unobscured by unwarrantable inferences, or unauthorized interpretations of His Word.

Tuesday evening: Taking photographs for a launch at the Foreign Policy Centre at the British Government’s Houses of Parliament . This is for the launch of a pamphlet entitled ‘A revolution without rights? Women, Kurds and Baha’is searching for equality in Iran’

Wednesday evening: Watching Waltz with Bashir with some friends in central London.

Waltz with Bashir is an award winning animated documentary of the Israeli-Lebannon war. The trailer can be seen here

Dental School has recently upped the ante in terms of stress, exams and requirements to graduate….

Apart from prayers, I like play my guitar/bass and read poetry to unwind.

Here is a quatrain (Rubaiyat) of poetry by Rumi that I found inspiring and peaceful:

It’s good to leave each day behind,

like flowing water, free of sadness.

Yesterday is gone and its tale told.

Today new seeds are growing.

Rumi

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