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The blood libel : Qom variant

Posted by Sen on October 28, 2018

This is a repost of a 2010 story on my “Sen’s Daily” blog. It is, alas, still relevant. Some outdated links to Iranian sources have been retained for historical purposes. ~ Sen
[From Sen’s Daily, May 25, 2010]

An Iranian version of the ‘blood libel’ story has been doing the rounds in Iranian media this week [i.e., in May 2010]. I repeat it here [original posting] so that those propagating such libels may know that their deeds are seen, and also because it illustrates the way in which anti-Bahaism is a substitute form of anti-semitism in Iran.

According to this story, the Bahais in the holy city of Qom, on the holy evening of Ashura when Shiah Muslims mourn the martyrdom of Imam Husayn, held a loud festivity where alcohol was served, killed a Muslim boy they had kidnapped, and laid his body on the table with the food and drink.

A shorter form of the story was placed by the INN (the Iranian Newspaper Network) on August 13, 2008 (where it was linked with an allegation of a Bahai bombing campaign in Tehran and Shiraz, and Bahai involvement with SAVAK, the intelligence service which persecuted Bahais prior to the 1979 Revolution). A longer version, covering only the supposed killing of the boy, was picked up by ‘Basirat’ on 21 January this year [2010], and the story might have died there, on an unimportant private blog, if it had not been actively propagated on numerous internet media supportive of the government line in the past week. As of today (25 May 2010) I found it on 35 sites, including and Meraj blog (both of which confuse the Bahai Faith with Wahhabi Islam), Javan daily and Javan online, Safir87, Masir-sabz and the Aryan News.

The story is recognisably a variant on the blood libel, a story about Jews which appeared in the Peterborough Chronicle in England in the 12th century, in relation to William of Norwich, a tanner’s boy found dead in 1144. Rabble-rousers accused the local Jewish community of having murdered him for ritual purposes at Easter, but the local authorities and court resisted the outcry. However the story spread, and contributed, about forty years later, to pogroms against Jewish communities in several English cities, and massacres of Jews at London and York. The ‘blood libel’ story was recyled in new guises across Europe and in the Middle East into the 19th century, and in Russia and Nazi Germany in the 20th century. The historian Walter Laqueur has found about 150 cases that resulted in the arrest and killing of Jews. Some of the bloody details are here. The blood libel continues to be everyday fare in Middle-Eastern media today.

An Iranian version of the blood libel story, which I heard from a woman who grew up in Shiraz in the 1930’s I guess (I did not ask her age), is that the Mullas would tell them that the Jews lure Muslim children into their homes, then put them in a big ball in the middle of a room, poke and cut them with knives alive, and soak or dunk their bread in their blood and eat that; all this supposedly occurring during a special religious festival.

One characteristic of the blood libel story is that it is told by a powerful majority about a powerless and persecuted minority. It serves as a moral justification for immoral oppression, by representing a powerless people who are no possible threat to either individuals or social order, as a threat to the vulnerable children of the majority.

This Qom version of the story, with Bahais as the villains rather than Jews, reads (my translation):

A small insight into the bestial nature of Bahaism

About the years 1960-61, the Baha’is would have evening meetings in the Gardens of Oveisi in Qom. [This refers to General Gholam Ali Oveisi, Imperial Guard Commander 1960-65]

There is only room here to retell a small fragment of the crimes of the Baha’is who had influence at the highest levels of the Imperial Guard, so that present and future generations may be better acquainted with this deviant cult that proclaims love and affection and “the world is one country.” Ayatollah Mas’udi Khomeini has revealed one of the crimes of the Baha’is on the night of Ashura in Qom in his memoirs. He writes:

“About the years 1960-61, the Baha’is had some evening meetings in the Gardens of (General Gholam-ali) Oveisi in Qom. Sometimes the programmes they arranged were very tragic and heart-rending. For example on the night of Ashura they would take a Muslim boy with them to the garden and kill him in the course of their celebration and prancing around, and they would shout Hurrah!

I heard about it from someone, who had heard it from someone who had witnessed these events: “Once, during one of these gatherings, a large number of the Bahais had gathered, and several of their leaders had come to Qom from Tehran, and they were all there. In Tehran, they had kidnapped a boy about 10 years old, and they brought the boy with them to Qom. The chief of the Gendarmerie in Qom told the story of these events to his friend, ‘It was the night of Ashura, and I was sitting at my workplace in the Gendarmerie, when one of my friends came and said, “There’s a meeting going on in Oveisi’s garden. Shall we go and watch?” I agreed and we went together to the garden, and we watched from behind the buildings.

We saw that men and women were mixing and dancing and there were alcoholic drinks, and they had laid the boy in the middle of the table setting. All the people around the table had a cobbler’s awl, and while they were singing and drinking wine, they were stabbing the boy’s body. I (the chief of the gendarmes) saw that a Colonel was sitting among the crowd, and he seemed to be enjoying himself more than the others!

I reflected for a moment that while some people were in the mourning ceremonies for Imam Hussain (peace be upon Him), and were striking their heads and chests, a number of those who neglect God are devoting themselves to pleasure and gratification here. The thought made my blood boil, and I lost control of myself. I told my companion, ‘By God! Come what may!’ Then I drew my pistol and put a round in the head of that Colonel. The Colonel was stone dead. The people screamed and the meeting broke up.

My companion and I then stepped forward, training our guns on the people. When they put their hands over their heads and surrendered, we imprisoned them in one of the rooms of the garden and locked the door. Then we wondered what we should do about the Colonel’s body. We hid him there, under a big pile of fertiliser that they had in the garden. We sent the mutilated boy to Tehran so that they could entrust him to his father and mother. Then, with our minds at peace, we went to one of the mourning ceremonies for Imam Hussayn (peace be upon him).

The next day we were at our work, as if nothing had happened. Later people came in, talking and complaining. They said, “we’ve lost track of a whole bunch of people? Haven’t you seen anything?”

“No,” we said, “but will you leave it in our hands?” In the end, they couldn’t hang the killing of the Bahai Colonel on us.”

(Translated from Raja News accessed 23 May 2010.)

L to R: A. Behjati, Mesbah-Yazdi & Mas`udi Khomeini pose before a large heap of fertiliser

The source cited for this is Javad Emami (ed.), Memoirs of Ayatollah Mas`udi Khomeini, 1381 (2002). Ayatollah Mas`udi Khomeini (no relation to Ruhollah Khomeini) was a student of Ayatollah Behjati, who rose to became guardian of the Shrine of Fatimah in Qom. His memoirs have been published, and I have no reason to doubt that they do contain the story as cited (which says something about the gullibility and bigotry of the people who rise to the rank of Ayatollah in Iran).

Bahais do not drink alcohol, but some other religious minorities in Iran, such as Jews and Zoroastrians, do. The story must originally have been told about one of these groups, and later transferred to the Bahais without changing the details to make it more plausible. It is absurd in other ways as well: a loud party in the Holy City of Qom on the first night of Ashura, with people drinking and dancing, and so much in the open that anyone could simply walk up and watch, would have drawn more than a little attention. A riot, most likely. The chief of the gendarmerie fires a gun, and no one in the area hears it. He and his friend are seen by dozens of witnesses, whom they lock up in a room. Are we to suppose that they died there? Or did they get out and never mention the incident? Was the body of the Colonel never found? Were the police, who had jurisdiction in Qom, uninterested in such goings-on? Iran’s Gendarmerie is a rural police force with military ranks and uniform, also charged with highway patrol and preventing smuggling. One of its divisions is based in Qom, but their remit is to work in the countryside and in towns with less than 5000 population. Events in Qom itself would therefore fall under the police, not the gendarmerie, but where are the police in this story?

And how likely is it that a Bahai would have the rank of Colonel in 1960-61? This is just five years after the Shah, working with Ayatollah Borojurdi and the popular preacher Muhammad-Taqi Falsafi, had unleashed a propaganda campaign against the Bahais, confiscated Bahai properties across the countries, had his senior military men personally demolish the national Bahai centre in Tehran before the cameras of the media, and acquiesced to the anti-Bahai pogroms instigated by Shiah clerics across the country. (See Adib Masumian, “Debunking the Myths: Conspiracy Theories on the Genesis and Mission of the Baha’i Faith,” pages 64-72.)

In his Kitab-e Aqdas, Baha’u’llah strictly forbids the taking of life:

What! Would ye kill him whom God hath quickened, whom He hath endowed with spirit through a breath from Him? Grievous then would be your trespass before His throne! Fear God, and lift not the hand of injustice and oppression to destroy what He hath Himself raised up; nay, walk ye in the way of God, the True One.
Para 73
(Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, 46)

Bahais have a religious, as well as a civil, duty to be law-abiding: Abdu’l-Baha writes:

… should any soul act contrary to the laws of the government he would consider himself responsible before God, deserving divine wrath and chastisement for his sin and wrongdoing.
(Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, 293)

Related posts:
Bahais marry their sisters
A story about Baha’u’llah?
Secret Foreign Office documents
Abdu’l-Baha and the African Tribe
Abdu’l-Baha’s British knighthood

(E-book, not on this site):
Adib Masumian, “Debunking the Myths: Conspiracy Theories on the Genesis and Mission of the Baha’i Faith.”

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