Iranian population is approximately 75 million, it is approximated that 99 percent of this population constitute of Muslim, 89 percent of which are Shi’a and 10 percent from Sunni. Non-Muslim groups contribute the remaining percentage (1 percent). Baha’is Faith is popular among the non-Muslim minority, in estimation, there are about 350,000 across Iran republic. Others among the minority non-Muslim residing in Iran are Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians. These “Others Faith” are from Armenians and Assyro-Chaldeans (Mille, 1974).
According to a special report for Human Rights in 1999 in Iran, there is an allegation of barring religious minorities from vying for elective positions in Teheran government in which Muslim are in majority. Baha’is’ are also barred from holding significant government or defense positions. They may vote, but they have no rights to run or contest for a presidential position. Generally, non-Muslims’ faith suffer official discrimination even in areas such as civil services and education. Teheran has put mechanisms in place ensuring that anyone who is aspiring to hold a senior office in the public sector is screened to establish their commitment to Islam.
Tough penalties and sanctions are properly stipulated in the law against workers in public-sector who fail to follow Islam’s principles and regulations. Baha’is are not allowed to serve in military of Iran as they are considered to be less adhering to Islam ideology. Applicant for a recruit position in Iranian army must be a Muslim holding objective and faith of the Islam. No Baha’is is permitted to employment in the government according to Iranian constitution.
It was estimated that by 1986 there was 350,000 Baha’is faithful in Iran. Mostly their population is denser in urban though, they are also scattered in some other small communities in rural areas. Baha’ism started in Iran around 1840 as a revolution movement. At the beginning it was enjoying support from Shia community and other oppressed society. However, later the movement faced resistance and oppression from both the political and religious authorities mostly from Islam faith. This hostility has continued since then and it intensifies. Around 1870 Bahia clergy fled to the present-day Israel and continued to teach his religion doctrine though, by compromising with other beliefs from the surrounding communities. Unlike in Islam where there is a lot of discrimination, Baha’ism has evolved into a modern Faith stressing on equality of all persons, equality of the gender, and pacifism (William S. Hatcher, 2002).
The majorities Shia followers and Iranians in general have over the years continued to label Baha’ism as anti-Islam. At one time Baha’ism enjoyed peaceful environment during the Pahlavi government that worked hard towards the secularized life of Iranians public. It is the only period in Iran History Baha’is was allowed to hold government office and to enjoy other social services such as education without restriction. However, as expected this didn’t last for long since this was against Iran constitution. A drastic change occurred after 1979. Iran (Islam) majorities did not uphold the rights of Baha’ism but the government has repeatedly persecuted the sect arresting and to some occasions executing Baha’ism leaders for apostasy. Their properties have over timed been confiscated. People who were seemed to support Baha’ism have even been disallowed to hold national identity cards denying them rights of citizenship.
The opinion that Baha’ism started as revolution movement is, however, misleading according to Baha’i Guide. The position of this guide is that Baha’is Faith originated from God Himself revelation to both Bab and Bahaullah giving themselves equal statues with the prophet Muhammad and Moses. This has been the cause for disagreement between the Muslim majorities and non-Muslim minorities in Iran.
The situation in Iran can best be framed into Douglas’ structural perspective of society. Islam is based on a strong group and strong grid- not accommodating the faith of minorities non-Muslim. The popular Muslims in Iran have remained intact by upholding this approach of strong group and strong grid making it one of the country the world where Islam has the majority support of about 99 percent. Here the gender roles are well stipulated with little regards to equality. In the Islamic country such as Iran citizen’s lives are under the control of personal forces, the country is morally infused. The Islam clergy is regarded as both political and religious leader since no person from other religion group is allowed to hold any senior office in the government. Iranian authority governs the religion freedom. It is constitutionally declared that Islam is the official religion (Douglas,1996). The Baha’ism view is that of a weak group and strong grid allowing easy interaction with non-Baha’ism as a different faith. At the same time, it advocates for equalities in various roles including gender and leadership .The faith stresses on the brotherhood of all persons, pacifism and equality of the gender.
The rationale of this paper is to come up with a hybrid approach to the subject of Baha’ism as perceived by the majority Muslims in Iran. According to Gerard Hauser approach the force behind a strong society is dialogue on the issues of concern among various bodies in any given social group. This may be a better option in the case of the conflict in Iran between the Muslim and the non-Muslim minorities. However without check and balance the approach may lead to the loss of socially accepted values creating cultureless societies. This will happen in case one group looses in the dialogue in goodwill of the other. Some of the issues that are contested in the case of Iran do not have room for compromise, for there cannot be a natural ground on religious matters, it is either one is a Muslim or non-Muslim (Douglas, 1996).
The most holistic approach to the issues of the Baha’ism and Islam in Iran should be a pragmatic way of facing the future. Not the one based on instilling fear among the groups in the society. The Iranians should be dedicating themselves to developing a peaceful and civilized world on the foundation of philosophy of justice, unity and advancement while accommodating the difference among them. Their focus should reveal an appreciation for peace, human rights and societal well being creating a new stage of maturity in understanding humanity.
With proper governing principles it will be possible to build societies on the foundation of trust, cooperation and mutual concern for each other. Iranians, both Islam and non-Islam, should embrace the fact that humanity is on the threshold of evolving socially to a world where human peace and unity is inevitable.
The Iranians have no option but to cultivate the universality of the society. Every person should be held with regards, should take second place as a citizen of Iran not on any ground, not even concerning religion background. The authorities in Tehran should work towards unity. In any developing society religion is not a source of conflicts that divide people but a bond of unity, understanding and center of reconciliation. Borrowing from the global civilization, Iran should not be left behind in the new settings for her necessary development. The change of mind is of great importance in the case of the Islam majorities in Iran embracing the fact that each member of the society should be esteemed. However, this regard to humanity is not only possible from education and constitutional roles but from mutual respect.
The collective thinking and deciding is an important attribute in resolving the matters of Iran. The government should work on an inclusive mode of making decision, avoiding adversarial pomposity and upholding the spirit of democracy in the society. This will enable the majorities Iranians to have their way and the minorities to have their say. This community should utilize the resource of their faith to solve the challenges in a model of civilization. Based on religion, this community should know that reasoning is the greatest and the most important tool that humankind get from God so as to solve the problems in his live, a quality that develop a society to maturation of a proper administrative institutions (Husain, 2006).
In conclusion the Iranian societies, regardless of their religious background should conceive in their mind the tread of a future civilized world, a pattern that already is in place. They should view this approach as a gift of a road map to humanity in the current world of development available to every society but not is in any single individual society. As to Islam, they should uphold the teaching of Allah to honor humanity (17/70). The Iranian should know that according to the Islamic teachings all people belong to a country regardless of their ethic, race, social status or religion and are supposed to be respected equally. The Iran government should refrain from being involved in the religious matters, but act like a symbol of national unity providing a level ground to all the religions and ethnic groups. All religions should enjoy equal opportunity both economically and socially. Democratic approach is more holistic approach to the subject of Baha’ism as the largest non-Muslim minorities in Iran.