Re: 'Abdu'l-Baha on Africans and Violence

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Posted by Brett on August 03, 2101 at 12:02:59:

In Reply to: 'Abdu'l-Baha on Africans and Violence posted by Darrick Evenson on July 07, 2101 at 23:30:32:

A reference to the original of the quote from Tablets of 'Abdu'l-Baha (which incidentally has not been reprinted in its entirety for errors of translation) will indicate that 'Abdu'l-Baha is speaking here from a hypothetical point of view.

While He does afterwards agree with the general spirit of this hypothetical point of view (though He later contradicts some of it), the context is that education is a highly significant determinant of development in contrast to merely innate differences. Thus, the passage quoted in fact contradicts theories of racial superiority by indicating that education is a preeminent factor. When He does go on to state that innate differences do play some role, the example He uses is within a family, not across races.

The Baha'i Writings commend the qualities of Africans, particularly as they become transformed and accept the Faith (or religious belief in general) and indicate that they have mental as well as spiritual gifts to contribute to the World Order of Baha'u'llah. The Baha'i Writings also indicate the negative qualities of colonialists, the frequent receptivity and good qualities of native peoples, etc. The Universal House of Justice indicates: "Let it be understood, too, that Africans are not alone in the struggle to change certain age-old practices. People everywhere have customs which must be abandoned so as to clear the path along which their societies must evolve towards that glorious, new civilization which is to be the fruit of Baha'u'llah's stupendous Revelation." (Cultural Diversity in the Age of Maturity, quoted in Compilation of Compilations, vol iii, pp. 108-109)

However, an admission of the self-evident backwardness of African society (which is changing now in many areas) due to lack of education and ethics is something which intelligent Africans themselves will not only affirm but even commend just as fair-minded Chinese can swallow the idea that Japan's success and even former conquest of China was due, as 'Abdu'l-Baha elsewhere indicates, to education. Striving to justify a lack of material, intellectual, and/or spiritual/ethical education or development (in the extreme), however understandably masked by defensiveness on the part of one's culture or race, not only hinders relations with members of other races who are befuddled by the persistent partisanship, unthinking stubborness, and lack of any sense of justice of one's race, but also to disrupts the thinking of members of one's own race who find justification in avoiding responsibilities which their development very urgently requires. This applies to white Americans or Europeans as well, particularly in the area of spiritual education which includes among other virtues, abandonment of racial prejudices, active work on improving racial relations, informally as well as formally, patience on lack of responsiveness of those who have been hurt for so long, etc., etc.

If the person posting the quotes is genuinely seeking the truth, I hope this brief summary can assuage his concerns about perceived slights to African peoples and encourage him to seek the broader context of the quotations themselves as well as the whole of the Baha'i Writings.

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