Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Speaking the Truth Provokes "Ire"?

A friend of mine forwarded me this story in a Northern New Jersey electronic newspaper about a negative reaction to a Baha'i describing the persecution of Baha'is in Iran at an interfaith gathering. A few excerpts from this article are below, with my comments at the end:

...there was(disagreement), when a keynote speaker's address about the persecution of Baha'is in Iran touched off anger among some Muslim attendees. Adherents of the Baha'i religion, who number 5 million worldwide, claim that hundreds in Iran have been killed or imprisoned or prevented from practicing basic tenets since the 1970s. The monotheistic religion originated in Persia in 1844 and is now Iran's biggest minority group.

William L. H. Roberts, a national Baha'i leader, spoke about "Freedom to Believe." He condemned the Iranian government's "policy of slow, constant strangulation, discrimination and persecution." Roberts called for those gathered to speak out against all religious persecution, and used as another example an Afghan man who had been facing possible execution for converting from Islam to Christianity.

Several Muslims said after the speech that they were offended by what they saw as Roberts' singling out of Islam as a persecuting religion.

"I felt that he's bashing Islam indirectly," said Mehdi Eliefifi, president of the New Jersey Outreach Group, which works to bring different faiths together.

"It feeds into the stereotype, putting examples of bad behavior of individuals and governments as being the main theme of Islam," he said.

Comment: First of all the title of this article should have been: "Religious Leaders Get Defensive about Someone Telling the Truth." I am in complete agreement that all Muslims should not be stereotyped or face bigotry because of the behavior of those who only claim to be following the teaching of the Holy Quran and the example of the Prophet. In fact Baha'is have been and will continue to be some of the first to defend Islam and Muslims from unjust prejudice or discrimination. However I have to say that destruction of Baha'i Holy places and other places of historical and spiritual significance, destruction of Baha'i burial places, denial of education and employment opportunity, harassment, intimidation, imprisonment, and even murder for the "crime" of recognizing the oneness of God, religion, and humanity provokes MY "ire".

I suggest that the offended guests at that interfaith event read a little of this and this and then explain to me who has more reason to be "angry".