Thursday, September 18, 2008

When They Came For the Baha'is

"When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out."

You've probably heard of this powerful poem that illustrates the danger of remaining silent in the face of the oppression of groups one does not belong to. The Muslim Network for Baha'i Rights has a powerful essay in the spirit of this poem called "We Are All Baha'is". It is a must read for anyone who recognizes that denial of religious freedom anywhere is a threat to such freedom everywhere:

by Khosro Shemirani

[Shemirani was born in Iran and holds a Bachelor of Sciences from Johannes Guttenberg University. He is a freelance writer specializing in analytical articles on the socio-political issues of Iran and violations of children’s rights. The following is a translation of his recent article titled "I Am a Bahai Too!", published in Shahrgon online journal, 12 September 2008. Mr. Shemirani is not associated with the Bahai community and lives in Canada. -- Ahang Rabbani, translator.]

"I want to cry out: “I am a Bahai! For as long as belief in the Bahai Faith is viewed as a crime, consider me a Bahai too! For that, you can end my meager pension, you can stop me from going to university, and you can abuse me in grade school and high school! You can seize me, bind me, imprison me, torture me, separate me from my family, burn my house, confiscate my tools through your religious laws , prevent me from earning bread for my children, execute me and at the end, expel me from Iran – my sacred land!”

It is more than 150 years that, leaning on the Shiite clerical establishment, the governmental apparatus of Iran has been determined to suppress the Bahais of that land. At times these suppressions have been so extremely intense that border on criminal insanity and at other times they have been more subtle and insidious – but always, always they have been present.

The fact that rulers, desiring to maintain their power, and religious priests, fearing the loss of their demagogical influence, have ordered and issued verdicts to suppress [the religious minorities] perhaps is not surprising. Most of the prominent men of history have sacrificed humanity for the sake of more power. And to protect their materialistic domain and riches, with utmost deviousness, the ecclesiastics bereft of spirituality have always and in all parts of the world, turned to corruption and the killings of the innocents. Unfortunately this historical trend is not surprising either.

What causes astonishment is the silence of the society – a society which at times actively collaborates with these barbaric deeds.

It is no secret that what has befallen the followers of the Bahai Faith in Iran has often come about through our own hands. In response to every authority that issued an order or every akhund that produced a religious verdict, tens, hundreds, nay, thousands, of us proceeded to perpetrate harm upon the Bahais and on occasions reddened our hands with their blood. But, why?" (Read the whole thing here)

"If ye stay not the hand of the oppressor, if ye fail to safeguard the rights of the down-trodden, what right have ye then to vaunt yourselves among men? What is it of which ye can rightly boast?" (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 252)