On June 18, 1983, Mona Mahmudnizhad was executed in Iran

First from left is Taraneh Mahmudnizhad. She was seven years old at the time of Mahmudnizhad’s birth. She is pictured in her home in Shiraz, Iran.

Born in 1965 to Bahá’í pioneer parents in Sana’a, Yemen, the Mahmudnizhad family returned to Iran when the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen expelled all foreigners in 1969. Mona’s father, Yad’u’llah, was a Secretary of the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Shiraz and in 1981 had been appointed an Auxiliary Board Member for the Province of Pars. Mona, being a member of the Bahá’í Education Committee, was arrested along with her father and other leading Bahá’ís of Shiraz on October 23, 1982. Mona’s father was executed on March 12, 1983, and Mona was executed on June 18, 1983.

The collective arrest and subsequent execution of the Shiraz Bahá’í leadership became a cause célèbre­. Mona Mahmudnizhad herself has become the subject of several hagiographic works, including a book, The Story of Mona:1965–1983; a music video, Mona With the Children; a play, A Dress for Mona; and a movie, Mona’s Dream.

Punitive sanction for thoughtcrimes, whether by civil authorities or religious hierarchies, is reprehensible. While I abhor persecution and condemn it, I am skeptical of the hagiographic perspective of the Bahá’í martyrs. There are a number of reasons for my skepticism…

(1) In the community I was a member of, even in the lifetime of Khomeini, there were Iranian Bahá’ís who would regularly travel to Iran during their summer holidays to visit family. When I would ask them how that was possible, their response was always along the lines that the arrested Bahá’ís were those who were administratively and politically active, almost to the point of referring to them as “troublemakers.”

I question the degree to which simply “being Bahá’í” was and is criminalized in Iran if individual Bahá’ís could so readily travel for leisure purposes.

(2) The reasons the Bahá’í Administrative Order gives for Bahá’í persecutions lend themselves to doubt. For example, The Story of Mona:1965–1983 recounts an interrogation…

The Assistant to the Public Prosecutor said, ‘You are accused of being a member of the Zionist movement, who are spies.’ In reply, I told him that Baha’is have nothing to do with politics. On the other hand, the state of Israel was founded only 32 years ago, while the Baha’i Faith was founded 139 years ago. We only have spiritual organizations which have nothing to do with politics. He said, ‘There remains only one way for you, you should either recant the Faith or you will be executed.’ I said I would rather be executed.”

Later, in a court appearance, the book quotes a judge telling Mona, “You are accused of misleading youth with your beautiful voice and chanting.”

These reasons appear absurd, but they are not dissimilar to reasons given, for example, for the arrest of Bahá’ís in Yemen in a Bahá’í World News Service article from April 21, 2017

The baseless and nonsensical accusations levelled against the Baha’is include showing kindness and displaying rectitude of conduct in order to attract people to their Faith.

I question the reasons recounted for Bahá’í arrests in official publications of the Bahá’í Administrative Order.

(3) As dismissive as many Bahá’ís are regarding accusations of their coreligionists’ being tied to national intelligence agencies, the examples are plenty. Perhaps the most famous example that comes to mind is that of David Kelly, a Bahá’í employed by the British Ministry of Defence who served as a weapons inspector with the United Nations Special Commission in Iraq, providing intelligence of Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction in the lead up to the Iraq War. David Kelly’s suspicious death by suicide subsequent to his appearance before the British House of Commons’ Foreign Intelligence Committee in 2003 was famously investigated by the Hutton Inquiry.

Bahá’ís often lament their being associated with Zionism for no other reason than the presence of the Bahá’í World Centre in Israel, which is a coincidence resulting from Bahá’u’lláh’s ultimate exile to Acre, then a prison city in Ottoman Palestine, subsequent to internecine fighting between Bahá’ís and Azalis in Adrianople.

However, the Bahá’í connection to Zionism is not merely conspiratorial.

On February 23, 1914, at the eve of World War I, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá hosted Baron Edmond James de Rothschild, a member of the Rothschild banking family who was a leading advocate and financier of the Zionist movement, during one of his early trips to Palestine. This event was reported in “Star of the West” magazine.

On September 8, 1919, subsequent to the British occupation of Palestine, at a time when tens of thousands of Jewish settlers were arriving under the auspices of the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association, an article in the “Star of the West” quoted ‘Abdu’l-Bahá praising the Zionist movement, proclaiming that “There is too much talk today of what the Zionists are going to do here. There is no need of it. Let them come and do more and say less” and that “A Jewish government might come later.”

Shoghi Effendi had a close relationship with Herbert Samuel, the British High Commissioner for Palestine. This relationship is alluded to in Amatu’l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum’s The Priceless Pearl, in the chapters titled The Passing of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Its Immediate Consequences and The Heart and Nerve Centre. As High Commissioner, Herbert Samuel was the first Jew to govern the historic land of Israel in 2,000 years, and his appointment was regarded by the Muslim-Christian Associations as the “first step in formation of Zionist national home in the midst of Arab people.” Herbert Samuel welcomed the arrival of Jewish settlers under the auspices of the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association and recognised Hebrew as one of the three official languages of the Mandate territory.

After the establishment of the State of Israel, the Bahá’í Administrative Order had close relations with the new government, facilitating the acquisition of numerous properties. For example, on November 12, 1952, a cablegram sent by Shoghi Effendi announced the “acquisition of vitally-needed property” of the Mansion of Bahji and the area around it from “the Development Authority of the State of Israel…The exchange of said property, including land and houses, was made possible by the precipitate flight of the former Arab owners.”

The Universal House of Justice has continued to have close connections with some of the most right-wing elements of the Israeli political establishment, such as Moshe Sharon, who is Professor Emeritus of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem where he serves as Chair in Bahá’í Studies. Moshe Sharon holds some very extreme views.

I question the degree to which Bahá’ís are dismissive of their co-religionists’ and Administrative Order’s association with state actors.

I question the degree to which individual Bahá’ís may, in fact, be in the service of various national intelligence agencies.

(4) Bahá’i writings clearly forbid disobedience to one’s government unless it involves the renunciation of faith. For example, Soviet policies targeted Bahá’í institutions and administrative structures. On January 1, 1929, Shoghi Effendi wrote a letter, later included in his seminal book Bahá’í Administration with sections titled “Persecutions in Russia” and “Guiding Principle of Conduct”. Shoghi Effendi stated…

the varied and numerous Bahá’í institutions established in the past by heroic pioneers of the Faith have been brought into direct and sudden contact with the internal convulsions necessitated by the establishment and maintenance of an order so fundamentally at variance with Russia’s previous regime. The avowed purpose and action of the responsible heads of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics who, within their recognized and legitimate rights, have emphatically proclaimed and vigorously pursued their policy of uncompromising opposition to all forms of organized religious propaganda, have by their very nature created for those whose primary obligation is to labor unremittingly for the spread of the Bahá’í Faith a state of affairs that is highly unfortunate and perplexing…
our Bahá’í brethren in those provinces have had to endure the rigid application of the principles already enunciated by the state authorities and universally enforced with regard to all other religious communities under their sway. Faithful to their policy of expropriating in the interests of the State all edifices and monuments of a religious character, they have a few months ago approached the Bahá’í representatives in Turkistan, and after protracted negotiations with them, decided to claim and enforce their right of ownership and control of that most cherished and universally prized Bahá’í possession, the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár of Ishqábád…
To these measures which the State, in the free exercise of its legitimate rights, has chosen to enforce, and with which the Bahá’ís, as befits their position as loyal and law-abiding citizens, have complied, others have followed which though of a different character are none the less grievously affecting our beloved Cause. In Baku, the seat of the Soviet Republic of Caucasus, as well as in Ganjih and other neighboring towns, state orders, orally and in writing, have been officially communicated to the Bahá’í Assemblies and individual believers, suspending all meetings, commemoration gatherings and festivals, suppressing the committees of all Bahá’í local and national Spiritual Assemblies, prohibiting the raising of funds and the transmission of financial contributions to any center within or without Soviet jurisdiction, requiring the right of full and frequent inspection of the deliberations, decisions, plans and action of the Bahá’í Assemblies, dissolving young men’s clubs and children’s organizations, imposing a strict censorship on all correspondence to and from Bahá’í Assemblies, directing a minute investigation of Assemblies’ papers and documents, suspending all Bahá’í periodicals, bulletins and magazines, and requiring the deportation of leading personalities in the Cause whether as public teachers and speakers or officers of Bahá’í Assemblies…
To all these the followers of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh have with feelings of burning agony and heroic fortitude unanimously and unreservedly submitted, ever mindful of the guiding principles of Bahá’í conduct that in connection with their administrative activities, no matter how grievously interference with them might affect the course of the extension of the Movement, and the suspension of which does not constitute in itself a departure from the principle of loyalty to their Faith, the considered judgment and authoritative decrees issued by their responsible rulers must, if they be faithful to Bahá’u’lláh’s and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s express injunctions, be thoroughly respected and loyally obeyed…
Clinging with immovable resolution to the inviolable verities of their cherished Faith, our sorely-tried brethren in Caucasus and Turkistan have none the less, as befits law-abiding Bahá’í citizens resolved, after having exhausted every legitimate means for the alleviation of the restrictions imposed upon them, to definitely uphold and conscientiously carry out the considered judgment of their recognized government.

I question why obedience to one’s government, particularly in terms of disestablishing the Bahá’í administrative hierarchy and halting teaching activities, was readily acquiesced to in the past in the Soviet Union but resisted in more modern times in Iran and Yemen.

(5) The Bahá’í Administrative Order uses news stories of persecution very astutely to generate media attention. A Google News search for the term “Bahá’í” shows a predominance of news stories regarding Bahá’í temples and discrimination. Otherwise, the Bahá’í Faith generates little to no interest.

Shoghi Effendi himself realized the degree of media attention generated by the construction of the Chicago Temple. In a letter dated June 13, 1956 to the National Spiritual Assembly of Australia and New Zealand, he stated…

Repercussions of the Chicago Temple are felt everywhere, and the same is becoming increasingly true of the Shrine. One single edifice, raised to the glory of Bahá’u’lláh, shines like a beacon and attracts the hearts of the people; no doubt many seeds are sown just through the act of people visiting these edifices — seeds which in the future will germinate. It is because of this that he is very eager to have the Australian one commenced as soon as circumstances permit.

I question the degree to which stories of Bahá’í persecution are used to generate media attention.

(6) Despite their rightly condemning persecution for belief, what is further interesting to me, given my past, is the degree to which the Bahá’í Administrative Order itself roots out dissent within its own ranks. Without going into further detail, I will refer you to two articles by Juan Cole, one entitled The Baha’i Faith in America as Panopticon, 1963–1997 and the other titled Fundamentalism in the Contemporary U.S. Baha’i Community.

I question what form and magnitude this behavior would take if the Bahá’í Faith ever became, as Shoghi Effendi described

the State Religion of an independent and Sovereign Power…will the Universal House of Justice attain the plenitude of its power, and exercise, as the supreme organ of the Bahá’í Commonwealth, all the rights, the duties, and responsibilities incumbent upon the world’s future super-state.

Thoughts of A35821361

Source : Reddit/onThisDateinBahai