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Bahá`í/Reform Bahai Faith Compared with the Wilmette Baha'i Faith

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What's the difference between the Reform Bahai Faith and what people call the Haifan Baha'i Faith in Wilmette, Illinois?

T.

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Question:
What's the difference between the Reform Bahai Faith and what people call the Haifan Baha'i Faith in Wilmette, Illinois?

Thank you for your question. It’s one people often ask, so I’ll make a serious effort to be as comprehensive as possible, focusing on and suggesting what I think are the essential issues.

Following Baha’u’llah’s death in 1892, Abdul-Baha, his son and appointed interpreter of his father’s teachings, guided the Bahai Movement until his own death in 1921. Like his father, Abdul-Baha himself was often imprisoned and persecuted by fanatical Muslims, yet continued to teach Baha'u'llah's faith. By the end of the first decade of the 20th Century, there were early Bahais in Europe, the United Kingdom, and the United States, many of whom were inviting Abdul-Baha to travel to their respective countries so that they could meet him. Throughout that decade, too, many had, indeed, traveled to what was then Palestine to meet him. Starting in 1910 Abdul-Baha traveled to Egypt, then to Great Britain and France in 1911. In 1912 he visited the United States, traveling from New York to Chicago and on to San Francisco, as well as other cities. Through his travels and public speaking, Abdul-Baha gained a first-hand, personal knowledge and experience of the West. It had a tremendous impact on his interpretation of the implications of Baha’u’llah’s teachings, essentially resulting in a much more open, universal conception of the Bahai Movement and Faith.

Crucial to his understanding was Abdul-Baha’s Authentic Covenant of 1912, which he publicly delivered in New York City on June 19th of that year. <a href="www.reformbahai.org/Covenant.html">
A broad, open, universal conception of religion, it was destined to be subverted by power-hungry members of his own family upon his death in 1921 when they advanced a fraudulent document as his “will and testament,” and which was later judged a fraud in 1930 by the leading forensic researcher and document expert for the British Museum, Dr. C. Ainsworth Mitchell. Fifty-six percent of all the Bahais at the time of Abdul-Baha’s death, many of whom had known him personally, either visiting him in Palestine or upon his travels, soon realized his universal interpretation of religion for the modern age was being put aside in favor of an authoritarian theocracy and voted with their feet.

Many others, Ruth White preeminently, spoke and wrote a number of books detailing what was taking place. As has so often been done in religious history, she and others were branded as heretics, many just walking away from the rising insurgency of fanaticism, with five denominations now arguing who is the rightful successor to the defective “will and testament.” Subsequent history written by the various Baha’i denominations has all suppressed and rewritten the historical record, preventing many well-meaning and genuine people who become Baha'i from knowing the truth of the early years of the faith in the West. All of the publications and written sources of the last decade of Abdul-Baha's life that preserve the record of his authentic interpretation have been maligned and suppressed, deceiving and brainwashing the innocent into a corrupted version of history. It's become a very constraining iron cage for true believers.    

It should be noted that the largest of the denominations, what you refer to as the Haifan Baha’is of Wilmette, has repeatedly sued and attacked other denominations in the US Federal Courts, apparently trying to harass and destroy them, as early as 1941 before the New York Supreme Court, most recently from 2006 to 2010, in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals of Northern Illinois, specifically against the Orthodox Baha’i Faith, the Baha’is Under the Provisions of the Covenant, and the Bahá’ís of the United States of America Under the Hereditary Guardianship. That fact can be verified from the US District Court website:  ​

Public Access to Oral Argument February 2009. ​​Case No. 08-2306
http://media.ca7.uscourts.gov/oralArguments/oar.jsp?caseyear=08&casenumber=2306&

Direct to the Mp3 file
Judge Diane S. Sykes: "Clearly raises some constitutional concerns."
Judge William J. Bauer: "How about Reform Bahai?"
http://media.ca7.uscourts.gov/sound/2009/migrated.orig.08-2306_02_20_2009.mp3

Public Access to Court Opinion PDF. ​​Case No. 08-2306.  http://media.ca7.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/rssExec.pl?Time=any&FromMonth=&FromDay=&Fr
​​
It’s important to understand that persecution of other Bahais by the largest Baha’i denomination is nothing new. It began as early as 1921, under Shoghi Effendi, Abdul-Baha’s grand son, who took the Bahai Movement basically back to the Iranian fanaticism that Baha’u’llah and Abdul-Baha had fought so hard to move away from. Such persecution has never ceased, and many believe continues. Hence, one of the major differences between the Reform Bahai Faith and the other denominations, especially the Haifan branch, located, actually, in Haifa, Israel, is that we do not practice what is fundamentally Iranian Shiite Islamic “Takfir,” defined by one great scholar of Islam as the “identification and denunciation of infidels,” hidden behind the Western sounding term “shunning.”

Baha’u’llah had taught that he had “removed from the Book” of religion all that type of thing, which Abdul-Baha had reasserted repeatedly and unwaveringly, especially throughout his travels in the West, emphasizing and praising profusely the universality of perspective of such early Reform Bahais as Jenabe Fazl, who achieved the honor of being declared an infidel by Shoghi Effendi. Putting it another way, Abdul-Baha had never tired of raising the minds of people to the non-exclusivism of religious truth, the separation of church and state, and the permanent pluralism and oneness of humanity.

For a clearer understanding of the Reform Bahai Faith, I invited you to read or skim our “About” page:  http://www.reformbahai.org/about.html​

For further historical details, An Analysis of Abdul-Baha's 1912 Authentic Covenant
http://www.reformbahai.org/Covenant_comments.html

Ruth White, an Early Reform Bahai, including her books.
http://www.reformbahai.org/Ruth_White.html

I hope this all helps answer your question. I’ve tried to emphasis what lies at the heart of the matter. Thank you again for asking your question.

Best wishes and Bahai regards,

Frederick  Glaysher

The Reform Bahai Faith
http://www.reformbahai.org  

Bahá`í

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Frederick Glaysher

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N.B. Please rely on my own books and publications as representative of my views. Since at least 1996, I have been a critic of the fanaticism of the Haifan Baha'i Faith, a Scientology-like criminal cult, based on Iranian Shiite millennialism and a fraudulent will and testament, which is attempting to create a global theocracy by deceiving and brainwashing its unsuspecting members into a false version of its history and then using them to carry out Baha'i jihads against dissenters and critics. I've been stalked, harassed, and misrepresented, on and offline, by fanatical Haifan Baha'is and Iranian Shiites and other Muslims for over a decade and a half, some of the latter frequently anti-semites, as well as possibly other religious fanatics, posting to the Internet false information and mashups intended to libel and discredit me. I no longer address questions directly related to the several other Baha'i denominations. I will not dignify antisemitism with a response.

Experience

I'm especially able to discuss the role of Iranian Shiite "takfir" in Baha'i circles, the identification and denunciation of "infidels" and "apostates," having witnessed its fanaticism against Haifan Baha'i victims on and offline, in the USA and elsewhere. I have been intimately involved in the issues of free speech and conscience within the Bahai Faith since 1996, if not longer. Most American Baha'is are naively uninformed about these issues, if not deceived and brainwashed into a cult-like and mindless acceptance of a distorted version of its history and teachings, into "taqlid," mindless obedience, as a result ultimately of the fraudulent will and testament of 1921. By attempting to destroy all other Baha'i denominations through various methods, since at least 1921, Haifan Baha'is think they can maintain their claim that they alone constitute the Baha'i Faith. As Professor Juan Cole writes in his book Modernity and the Millennium, Columbia University Press (1998), the Baha'i administration has increasingly come under the control of fundamentalists, "stressing scriptural literalism... theocracy, censorship, intellectual intolerance, and denying key democratic values" (196).

Organizations
Reform Bahai Faith https://www.reformbahai.org

Publications
I am also the editor or author of two books on the Bahai teachings. In Letters from the American Desert, Glaysher reflects on the cultural, political, and religious history of Western and non-Western civilizations, in a compelling struggle for spiritual knowledge and truth. Fully cognizant of the relativism and nihilism of modern life, Glaysher finds a deeper meaning and purpose in the universal Vision of Baha’u’llah, as expressed in the Reform Bahai Faith. Confronting the antinomies of the soul, grounded in the dialectic, Glaysher charts a path beyond the postmodern desert. Alluding extensively to Martin Luther and W. B. Yeats at All Souls Chapel, “metaphors for poetry,” from Yeats’s book A Vision, Glaysher invites Reform Bahais and others to consider the example of the global, universal, moderate form of the Bahai Teachings as interpreted by Abdul-Baha, Baha’u’llah’s son, who had spoken throughout the West in Europe, England, and the United States from 1911 to 1913. Abdul-Baha’s message of the oneness of God, all religions, and humankind holds out a new hope and peaceful Vision for a world in spiritual and global crisis. Far from a theocracy, the Reform Bahai Faith envisions a modest separation of church and state, as the will of God, in an unorganized religion, a universal synthesis of all spiritual and wisdom traditions, in harmony and balance with universal peace, in a global age of pluralism, where religious belief is a distinctive mark of the individual, not collective, communal identity.

Books and eBooks available

The Universal Principles of the Reform Bahai Faith. Baha'u'llah & Abdu'l-Baha. With a new Introduction and the original 1912 Foreword. Hardcover: ISBN: 9780967042138 148 pages. Reform Bahai Press, 2008.

Education/Credentials
MA, University of Michigan, English, 1981 BGS, University of Michigan, English, Biblical Studies, Islam, 1980 Illinois State University, All But Dissertation, English, Rhetoric. 1983- 1986. Ten years teaching, at the university and college level, English, Rhetoric, American literature, non-Western literature, World Religions, and other courses.

Awards and Honors
A Fulbright-Hays scholar to China in 1994, I studied at Beijing University, the Buddhist Mogao Caves on the old Silk Road, and elsewhere in China, including Hong Kong and the Academia Sinica in Taiwan. While a National Endowment for the Humanities scholar in 1995 on India, I further explored the conflicts between the traditional regional civilizations of Islamic and Hindu cultures and modernity. I have been an outspoken advocate of the United Nations, an accredited participant at the UN Millennium Forum (2000), and attended the UNA Members Day 2012 on the Millennium Development Goals, held in the General Assembly Hall. In November 1, 2013, I spoke at the Robert Hayden Centennial Conference and Poetry Tribute, The University of Michigan, Rackham Amphitheatre, delivering my address "Robert Hayden Under a High Window of Angell Hall," which includes discussion of Hayden's ambivalent feelings about the Haifan Baha'i Faith (text on my blog at fglaysher.com/TheGlobe or watch the entire recorded presentation on YouTube: http://youtu.be/A3P1kZOrUnQ

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