May. 24, 2003
Abbas assailed for purportedly belonging to Bahai Faith
Thousands of leaflets were distributed after the Friday prayers on the Temple Mount accusing Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) of being a follower of the Bahai Faith, the youngest of the world's independent religions.
The Bahai Faith is another sect descending from Islam, but most Muslims don't regard it authentically Islamic. Its founder, Bahaullah (1817-1892), is regarded by Bahais as the most recent in the line of Messengers of God that stretches back beyond recorded time and that includes Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Zoroaster, Christ and Muhammad.
Rumors about Abbas's affiliation with the Bahai Faith have been circulating among Palestinians for many years. His critics have used these rumors to portray the new prime minister as a member of a cult who does not recognize Islam as his sole religion. This image is in sharp contrast to that earned by PA Chairman Yasser Arafat, who is keen on maintaining the figure of a devout Muslim.
The rumors resurfaced two months ago when Abbas's name was first mentioned as a top candidate for the premiership. Some Palestinians have hinted that Arafat and his inner circle are behind the rumors, which have never been denied by Abbas himself.
The leaflets distributed on Friday carried no signature and it wasn't clear who stood behind them. Some worshippers told The Jerusalem Post
that the leaflets were handed out by at least a dozen of young bearded Muslim activists.
They also accused Abbas of seeking to "uproot the Islamic trend and martyrdom" and of relinquishing the Muslim right to all of Palestine.
"The appointment of Mahmoud Abbas as Prime Minister is part of a Zionist plan so he would continue making concessions to the Jews," the leaflets said. "They want him to negotiate on the remaining 20% of Palestine after he voluntarily gave up 80% of the blessed Palestinian land when he signed the Oslo Accords."
This is the first time that such leaflets are distributed on the Temple Mount. Similar leaflets have appeared in the streets of Ramallah and Gaza City, but none mentioned the alleged Bahai connection, focusing instead on the widespread belief that Abbas was appointed by the US and Israel in order to serve the latter's security interests.
In an apparent attempt to ward off the rumors, Abbas earlier this year performed the haj, or pilgrimage to Mecca.
The main headquarters of the Bahai are in Haifa. Today there are probably between three and four million Bahais scattered throughout the world, and the largest community can be found in India. The Bahais constitute the largest religious minority in Iran, where they have been persecuted harshly.
Bahai doctrines are radically egalitarian, teaching the complete equality of men and women and the unity of all humanity. Followers of this faith consider themselves to be working towards a world government where extremes of poverty and wealth, along with all forms of persecution, will be eliminated.
©Copyright 2003, The Jerusalem Post (Israel)
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