SO RAPIDLY has Baha'iism grown into a world girdling religion that many Westerners do not realize that in Iran, the country of its birth, it is regarded as a schismatic Muslim sect. Iran has a state religion - Shiah Islam. This is now giving a demonstration of the way an established religion always tends to behave, when it thinks it can safely do so, against nonconformity. Fanatical mullahs began preaching a national holy war against the Baha'iists during the recent fasting month of Ramadan. This developed enough popular tumult so that, in mid-May, the government ordered the suppression of the movement. On May 23 troops of the Teheran garrison moved in on the Baha'i temple in that city, built during the reign of the present shah's father, and started razing its dome. It is to be converted into a mosque. Of course, persecution is no new experience for the Baha'iists; it seems to be, as the New Testament suggests, a touchstone of the vigor of any new religion. As yet, Persia's Baha'iists have experienced nothig to compare with the savage martyrdoms meted out to the Bab, the Baha'i founder, and 20,000 of his followers in the 1850s. Nor is any such massacre in prospect. However, this outbreak of persecution in Iran is another sign of the reawakening of Islamic spirit which is being felt through the whole length of the Muslim world. It is unfortunate that in this case it has been diverted into such reactionary channels, though the attack on the Baha'iists, coming just at this time, provides an enlightening comment on the idyllic picture of Islamic toleration presented in the May 9 issue of Life. Meanwhile, the expansion of Baha'iism will not suffer. Its message of a universal brotherhood based on a continuing revelation and pointing toward a future universal government appeals to many contemporary minds, as do its syncretistic features. Like Buddhism and Christianity, it may discover that rejection in its birthplace is a prelude to the gaining of strength among strangers.
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