Got news? A beet farmer gets serious

dwight_schruteOkay, not a real beat farmer — but Rainn Wilson, the actor who plays the wonderful Dwight Schrute on “The Office,” had an interesting op-ed on It begins with Wilson explaining that he’s not joking, and then he provides an introduction to Baha’i. He says that Baha’i began in Iran in the mid-19th century and that Baha’is believe there is only one God and one religion. All the world’s divine teachers bring the same message and Baha’u’llah refreshed it for the current day and age, he says. He talks about the historic persecution of Baha’is by Muslim authorities in Iran. And then he gets to the newsier part:

Why write about all this now? Well, I’m glad you asked. You see there’s a ‘trial’ going on very soon for seven Baha’i national leaders in Iran.

They’ve been accused of all manner of things including being “spies for Israel,” “insulting religious sanctities” and “propaganda against the Islamic Republic.”

They’ve been held for a year in Evin Prison in Tehran without any access to their lawyer (the Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi) and with zero evidence of any of these charges.

When a similar thing happened in 1980, the national leadership of the Iranian Baha’i community disappeared. And this was repeated again in 1981.

In fact, since 1979, more than 200 Baha’is have been killed, holy places and cemeteries desecrated, homes burned, civil rights taken away and secret lists compiled of Baha’is (and even Muslims who associate with them) by government agencies.

It’s bad right now for all the peace-loving Baha’is in Iran who want only to practice their religion and follow their beliefs. It’s especially bad for these seven. Here’s a link to their bios. They’re teachers, and engineers, and optometrists and social workers just like us.

He asks readers to keep in mind how Americans are free to worship as they please. There’s a Congressional resolution he asks readers to lobby for before telling readers to get back to beets.

It’s not that this story has received no coverage — it’s just that it appears to be mostly foreign press that’s interested. So congrats to CNN for bringing this story to light — and perhaps that outlet and others could show some interest on the news pages as well.

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  • Jerry

    This is another story of persecution of a despised minority for political purposes. At least some of the coverage was too superficial because it did not provide sufficient background. Persecution or religious minorities has been going on in Iran/Persia for a long time. For example, I’ve read stories about persecution of Zoroastrians around the turn of the 20th century.

    With any religion that is less familiar to people, some background is helpful but too often omitted. I know it’s stretching a comparison quite a bit, but I think there’s a rough analogy between the Baha’i and Muslims compared to Mormons and Christians. So here’s a couple of useful pieces of info that should be covered in stories:

    The Bab claimed to be the Shi’a “Mahdi”, a figure with a similarity to the “Second Coming”. That, in itself, bothered many Orthodox Muslims for obvious reasons. provides an overview of the Baha’i faith including the connections to Israel.

    Given the nature of the of the regime and the perceived political value to persecute a minority, it’s not surprising that they’re doing this given this background. This does not, of course, excuse the behavior but it does help explain it.

  • Randall Dighton

    For Jerry: a more apt analogy would be Baha’i is to Islam as Christianity is to Judaism. And yes, the Bab claimed to be a Messianic figure, because He was. Baha’u’llah is the only person in history, to my knowledge, to lay claim to being the Promised One of ALL religions.
    The Muslim clergy denounces Baha’i because they believe there can be no prophet after Muhammad, something contrary to several passages in the Holy Quran.

  • Jerry

    Baha’u’llah is the only person in history, to my knowledge, to lay claim to being the Promised One of ALL religions.

    He is not the only one. See, for example, Avatar Meher Baba:

    “When I break My Silence, the impact will jolt the world out of its spiritual lethargy…. What will happen when I break My Silence is what has never happened before…. The breaking of My Silence will reveal to man the universal Oneness of God, which will bring about the universal brotherhood of man.”

  • Praveen

    For Jerry : You are right, for the fact there could be more of the claimants then we know. But Lets do some Investigation of the claim of Baha’u’llah with an Open mind. He was a exile, a Prisoner of the Ottoman empire banished to the Prison city of Acre in Palestine from where He was cut from the world. Today the Baha’i faith is the 2nd most wide spread religion in the world according to Brittanica sources with adherents from every country/race/religion, Its a faith. all this in 160 years of the existence of the faith. Now the issue at hand is the persecution of the Bahai’s in the cradle of the faith. Persia which was the home of Human rights under Cyrus the great has fallen to such lows of Demolishing Bahai cemetries and kidnapping its Leaders . This is unacceptable even by Islamic laws.

  • MJBubba

    This religion story fits a familiar pattern. Even though Iran is much in the political pages these days, persecution of the Baha’is only became a story when a B-list celebrity brought it to someone’s attention. Real coverage of the story will have to wait for an A-list celebrity to champion it.

  • http://Ihavenone. John C Cripe

    They didn’t arrest Baha’i leaders they arrested Baha’i lay people. In the Baha’i Faith, we have no clergy, priests, or ministers. One of our Teachings is the Oneness of Religion and the Oneness of humanity. Many reject our beliefs so in some Muslim Countries we are tortured and imprisoned because these countries do not believe in the existance of progressive revelation from God.Misunderstanding and superstition has caused fear among people of other faiths. Baha’is are non-partisan and obey the government in which ever country they live we also, are well wishers of that government. Baha’is do not accept donations by non-members.

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