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mansion-bahji-bahaullahAmír Amín Arslan was a noted Lebanese Druze journalist. In Paris, he founded and edited several Arabic newspapers. He was the Ottoman Consul-General to Brussels and to Buenos Aires, where he died.

“I have had the honour of catching a glimpse of him who is the incarnation of ‘the Word of God’ in the eyes of the Persians. It was in 1891, during a journey that I made to St Jean d’Acre (‘Akká). As soon as I arrived I was eager to pay a visit to ‘Abbás Effendi, the eldest son of ‘the Word’ who was in charge of the external relations of the community. I had known him at Beirut, in Syria, and there had quickly been established between us the bonds of a true friendship.

‘Abbás Effendi received me in the sumptuous palace where he lives with his father, ‘the Word’…Naturally, I solicited from him the honour of an audience with his holy father. He explained to me, in a very kindly manner, that it was not the custom of him who represented the Divinity to admit to his presence unbelieving mortals. Since I insisted, he promised to make every possible effort to bring about the realization of my wish.

Eventually, after three days, I received word that this signal favour had been accorded to me…I thought then that I was going to be able to converse with him who was the reflection on earth of the rays of Divinity, but my illusions were quickly dispersed. I had to content myself with catching a glimpse of the illustrious Bahá’u’lláh at the moment when he came out to take his daily walk in the immense park surrounding his residence. In fact, ‘the Word’ never left the inside of his house except to take a walk in the park in the evening, a time when he could better elude the praying attention of outsiders.

But ‘Abbás Effendi had carefully positioned me behind a part of the wall, along his path, in such a manner that I could easily contemplate him for a short while. I even believe that ‘the Word of God’ had realised the presence of a stranger and had understood that it was a question of granting a favour to a friend. His appearance struck my imagination in such a way that I cannot better represent it than by evoking the image of God the Father, commanding, in his majesty, the elements of nature in the middle of clouds.”

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eca_de_queiros_c_1882Josá Maria Eça de Queiróz is acknowledged to be one of the greatest Portugese novelists, attempting to bring about social reform through his novels. In 1869 and 1870, he travelled to Egypt and watched the opening of the Suez Canal, which inspired several of his works, most notably “O Mistério da Estrada de Sintra”. “A Correspondencia de Fradique Mendes” features a character – Mendes – who travels to many different places and writes of them to his friends and relatives. It is said that Eça de Queiróz modelled the character of Mendes on himself. Introducing the character of Mendes, he writes of their meeting in Cairo:

“…I asked Fradique what had detained him thus in Persia for a year and a day, just as in the fairy tales. And Fradique confessed with all sincerity, that he had tarried so long on the banks of the Euphrates because he had by chance come into contact with a religious movement called Bábism, which since 1849 had been developing and nearly triumped in Persia. Although attracted to this new sect by a critical curiosity, and also wishing to observe how a new religion is born and established, he gradually began to take a very keen interest in Bábism – not so much because he admired its doctrine, but because of the dedication of its apostles…

I do not remember, after so many years, whether these are the exact facts. I only know that these revelations by Fradique, thrust upon me during the festival in Cairo, impressed me unutterably. While he spoke of the Báb…and of the rise of another faith within the Muslim world, with its own procession of martyrs and ecstasies…this personage (the Báb) took on grand proportions in my mind. I had never known anyone involved in such exalted matters, and I felt myself both proud and awed to be trusted with this sublime secret. I would not have been more moved if I had, on the eve of St Paul’s departure for Greece to take the Word to the Gentiles, walked with him through the narrow streets of Seleucia, listening to his hopes and dreams.”

chirolBritish diplomat Sir Ignatius Valentine Chirol was an author, historian and journalist. He travelled through the Middle East as a correspondent for the Morning Standard, visiting Persia in 1884 and Haifa the following year. He served as the Head of The Times’ Foreign Departmant from 1899 until his retirement in 1912. On his passing, Major-General Sir Neill Malcolm called Chirol, the “friend of viceroys, the intimate of ambassadors, one might almost say the counsellor of ministers, he was [also] one of the noblest characters that ever adorned British journalism.”

“That the movement which bears the apostolic name of the religious martyr who was put to death at Tabriz more than half a century ago is still a living force in Persia is almost universally recognised. But to what extent and in what shape that force is likely to make itself decisively felt opinions differ very largely…

…Socially one of the most interesting features…is the raising of women to a much higher plane than she is usually admitted to in the East. The Bab himself had no more devoted a disciple than the beautiful and gifted lady, known as Kurrat-el-Ain, the ‘Consolation of the Eyes,’ who, having shared all the dangers of the first apostolic missions in the north, challenged and suffered death with virile fortitude…No memory is more deeply venerated or kindles greater enthusiasm than hers, and the influence which she wielded in her lifetime still enures to her sex. That women, whom orthodox Islam barely credits with the possession of a soul, are freely admitted to the meetings of Babis, gives their enemies, the Mullahs, ample occasion to blaspheme. But they have never produced a tittle of evidence in support of the vague charges of immorality they are wont to bring against the followers of the new creed. Communism and socialism are also often imputed to them, and some of them appear to have borrowed from the West the terminology of advanced democracy.”

Dan Rather is an acclaimed US journalist and former news anchor for the CBS Evening News. He is now managing editor and anchor of the television news magazine, Dan Rather Reports, on the cable channel HDNet. His 2001 book, The American Dream: Stories from the Heart of Our Nation contained stories of people pursuing their version of the American dream. One of his interviewees was an Iranian Bahá’í who went to the United States in search of freedom of religion. 

“The Bahá’í have been persecuted from their beginnings. In 1844, a Persian merchant now known to the faithful as the Báb proclaimed that God had told him to prepare the world for a divine messenger. When the Báb and his message began to attract a following, they were set upon by extremist followers of the Muslim clergy. In 1850, they killed the Bab. Thirteen years later, a surviving disciple, Bahá’u’lláh, revealed that he was the one of whom the Bab had foretold.

Bahá’u’lláh taught, to put it in simple terms, that God is too great for any one religion to fully contain. Each, however, has contributed to humankind’s understanding and progress. To the Bahá’í, the teachings of Abraham, Moses, the Buddha, Zoroaster, Jesus, Krishna, and Mohammed are all pieces of a vast universal puzzle. All have made equal contributions to morality and civilization, and all are studied closely by Bahá’í…

Their faith asks them to work toward eliminating prejudice of all kinds. Women and men are equals in Bahá’í families … Bahá’í are encouraged to promote their religion but to avoid proselytizing in any way that would infringe on the privacy or rights of others. Each Bahá’í is expected to obey the laws of the country in which he or she lives and to serve the needs of his or her community. They are instructed to avoid partisan politics and do not accept political appointments.

Essentially, Bahá’í do not pose a threat to any religion or to any of the more than 250 nations and territories in which they live. They are not revolutionaries. They are, however, committed to changing the world through faith and education. Because they are peaceful and unobtrusive, it can be difficult to understand why they have been singled out for persecution in Iran… it’s hard to see it as boiling down to anything more than hatred. And that’s something that’s tough for fair-minded people to fully grasp.”