The following is my letter to one of the main organizers of a recent corporate/institutional financed conference in Canada about Intellectual Othering and Bahaism.
Dear Mohamad Tavakoli - Targhi,
The thrust of the narrative about Anti-Bahaism in the manner you are presenting it is loaded and open to serious theoretical debate as well as factual deconstruction from all angles because underlying it, to me, are clear political motivations privileging a specific "hegemonic" narrative, in this case one presenting the victimization of the Iranian Baha'i community by the mullahs as unique - which it is not. What is most troubling about such narratival constructions as the one you are engaging in is that it conveniently leaves out the systematic patterns of "Othering" and abuse that the Baha'is themselves are guilty of throughout their history, whether with schismatics, with the Bayani (Azali Babi) community or with, yes, Muslims.
For the record, I am an ex-Baha’i and have experienced Bahaism very much as an abusive cult much like a Scientology. I am sure you are not completely unaware of the circumstances in which Juan Cole was run out of this organization, libelled and "Intellectually Othered" by it during the '90s. This organization even attempted at one point to destroy Juan's academic career, which they failed, but which they had earlier succeeded in the case of Denis MacEoin. I was personally witness to that whole spectacle in the '90s. But what happened to Cole is not unique. It has been a consistent pattern from generation to generation, and this organization has employed every form of underhanded method and tactic of abuse to silence and "Other" all of its critics, schismatics and dissidents exactly in the manner the mullahs and the Islamic regime are being accused. I know this because I have been at the receiving end of it. Are you aware, for example, that the Bahai NSA of the US recently lost a case in which it attempted to sue two rival, schismatic Bahai groups for trademark infringement of the name Bahai? Are you aware of the numerous public examples of harassment that former members have been subjected to? Are you aware, for example, of the existence of a Baha'i Internet Agency one of whose roles is to isolate online critics? http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php%3Ftitle%3DBaha%25E2%2580%2599i_Internet_Agency
The purpose of the conference in Toronto you were notably involved with together with its presentations, in my mind, has all the hallmarks of what Chomsky once designated as Manufacturing Consent. Besides yourself, the participation of at least one of its participants, namely Moojan Momen, renders the overall integrity of this conference a complete joke, particularly given the following: http://www.northill.demon.co.uk/relstud/apostasy.html. There are forces and actors, specifically in the big lobbyist foundation establishment of North America, out actively promoting Bahaism and in such endeavour they are simultaneously pushing Islamophobia as a political narrative: a narrative which as Hamid Dabashi proved is nothing more than a 21st century form of Antisemiticism. This is what you are supporting and are involved with by your involvement. Throughout this all other Iranian minorities groups who have been persecuted and othered by this regime have been sidelined in the corporate propaganda spree of the Haifan Bahai organization and its Washington/London allies.
Why aren't you writing about the social and intellectual "Othering" of the Iranian Sufi Orders or the Ahl-e-Haqq - who have been subjected to far worse and for far longer than the Baha'is have - and holding conferences about this subject? Is it because big corporate or institutional sponsors don't fork out money for such things as readily as they do for the Haifan Bahais that they are promoting?
In a world where the Academy has become nothing more than a venue for perception management by entrenched elites, it is truly sad to see scholars of such promise as yourself being used in this manner to promote dubious political agendas that have absolutely nothing to do with Human Rights but everything to do with dirty geopolitics and multinational capitalist greed.
Shame on you!
N. W. Azal
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