Sen McGlinn's blog

                                  Reflections on the Bahai teachings

Political activity

One of the friends wrote:

> I am also of the opinion that while participation in
> Party Politics is forbidden, Baha´is should recognise and exercise their
> political rights, including the freedom of expressing their views of any
> and all issues that affect human life.

My response (September 19, 2009):

You are in good company: Abdu’l-Baha wrote:

O thou servant of Baha’! Thou hast asked regarding the political
affairs. In the United States it is necessary that the citizens shall take
part in elections. This is a necessary matter and no excuse from it is
possible. My object in telling the believers that they should not
interfere in the affairs of government is this: That they should not make
any trouble and that they should not move against the opinion of the
government, but obedience to the laws and the administration of the
commonwealth is necessary. Now, as the government of America is a
republican form of government, it is necessary that all the citizens shall
take part in the elections of officers and take part in the affairs of the
republic.
(Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v2, p. 342)

Democratic forms of government require citizenship participation.
Therefore, the Bahais, who recognise the legitimacy of governments
and are obedient to them, have a religious duty to participate — in
principle.

BUT :

1) we have to be aware that what we as bahais in one country do
politically may rebound on the Bahais under tyrannical or suspicious
regimes elsewhere, and

2) not every government which proclaims it is ‘democratic’ and entitled
to citizen participation is. The late Shah had his Rastikhiz party and
required everyone in Iran to be a member, but the Bahais refused.

3) Some states set the terms of participation in such a
way that the voter has to become a party member or identify with a
partisan position. This will generally be inappropriate (but there are
some ‘parties’ which are not partisan, as in the “open democracy”
movement. I’ve discussed this in my book Church and State. It’s a
promising development, but politically insignificant at present)

4) there are ways to participate as a citizen and support the
democratic government and “take part in the affairs of the republic” apart
from national and party politics: there is the parent-teacher association
and the neighbourhood watch, the local Red Cross chapter and union work
and the Legal Aid organisation, the UN association, and the campaign to
clean up the lake, and a thousand more. If we are genuinly willing to
“take part in the affairs of the republic,” the present restrictions due
to the vulnerability of the Bahais in some countries, and the partisan
nature of some areas of politics, still leave us lots of room for action

Sen

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