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I am a Baha’i.

I have been a Baha’i my entire adult life. I chose to be a Baha’i.

But if you’re a Baha’i, some places on the planet can get you imprisoned, tortured and killed. Some places can cause you to lose your job–like my dear friend Frouhideh, who was a midwife before her family was forced to flee, hiking overland across the mountains from Iran into Turkey. Some places can deny you a place to be buried, or even refuse you a place to bury your loved ones. Some places can throw you out of school or deny you access to a higher education.

Muslim-PrayerYes, the governments of these places believe that this treatment of Baha’is is called for by Islam. But often the people who protect Baha’is in these places from harm, who help them escape, who give them places of sanctuary are, themselves, Muslim.

So, while Baha’is suffer at the hands of “Islamic” governments and sometimes individual Muslims, it doesn’t mean that Baha’is hate Muslims, or that we distrust Muslims, or that we eschew friendship and fellowship with Muslims, or that we cannot work side by side with Muslims to create a better world. It does not mean that we hate Islam, or that we blame Islam or the Prophet Muhammad or all Muslims for the things that happen to Baha’is (and others) in some places in the world. Indeed, Baha’is love Islam and revere Muhammad. Muslims are our brothers and sisters and, as you may have noticed, that means we defend them when they are treated unjustly.

People who use their religion as an excuse to hate, to harm, to kill are rejecting faith, not practicing it. But their behavior should never cause us to assume that all who profess that faith are also hateful, harmful or murderous.

Muhammad taught this:

Hast thou observed him who belieth religion? That is he who repelleth the orphan, and urgeth not the feeding of the needy. Ah, woe unto worshippers who are heedless of their prayer; who would be seen (at worship) yet refuse small kindnesses! – Qur’an, Surih 107:1-7.

And this:

O ye who believe! Be steadfast witnesses for Allah in equity, and let not hatred of any people seduce you that ye deal not justly. Deal justly, that is nearer to your duty. Observe your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is Informed of what ye do. — Surih 5:9.

The plight of Baha’is in a number of Middle Eastern countries does not arise from people who follow the teachings of Islam. It arises from their failure to follow them.

Today, people of diverse faiths will gather to celebrate World Religion Day. I will attend a World Religion Day gathering here in the Bay Area–because I am a Baha’i and I believe:

That the divers communions of the earth, and the manifold systems of religious belief, should never be allowed to foster the feelings of animosity among men, is, in this Day, of the essence of the Faith of God and His Religion. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 287.

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