Posted by Stuart Gilman (188.8.131.52) on September 27, 2002 at 01:50:08:
REVISIONISM AND COVENANT BREAKERS
This essay describes, from a methodological perspective, some of the inherent flaws in the "revisionist" approach to the history of the Baha'i movement, particularly as it relates to the activities of Covenant Breakers. It is not intended as a polemic, nor does it attempt to ascribe motives. Rather, it seeks to explain the fundamental error in the "revisionist" approach, as well as why that approach, of necessity, leaves no other choice but to challenge the notion that Revisionism in any sense is acceptable within any serious discussion of Baha‚i Theosophy.
I shall conclude that "Revisionism" is a misnomer because the facts do not accord with the position it puts forward and, more importantly, its methodology reverses the appropriate approach to historical investigation.
What Is the Historical Method?
History is the recorded narrative of past events, especially those concerning a particular period, nation, individual, etc. It recounts events with careful attention to their importance, their mutual relations, their causes and consequences, selecting and grouping events on the ground of their interest or importance. It can be seen from this that history acknowledges the existence of events and facts and seeks to understand how they came about, what they resulted in, how they are interconnected and what they mean.
Distinctions need to be made among facts, analysis and interpretation. Facts are demonstrably empirical events whose occurrence can be proven using evidentiary methods. Analysis is the method of determining or describing the nature of a thing by resolving it into its parts. Interpretation is the attempt to give the meaning of something. It follows that facts lead to analysis which leads to interpretation. And it follows that each step in the process is more subjective than the preceding step.
In this context, history is inductive in its methodology, in that it accumulates the facts, tries to determine their nature and their connectivities and then attempts to weave them into an understandable and meaningful mosaic.
What is Legitimate Historical Revisionism?
On its basic level, Revisionism is nothing more than the advocacy of revision, which in itself is the act of revising, or modifying something that already exists. Applied to history, and, in this discussion to the history of the Baha‚i Faith, it means that historians or religious scholars challenge the accepted version of the origins, causes or consequences of historical events.
As such, Revisionism can be an accepted and important part of historical endeavour for it serves the dual purpose of constantly re-examining the past while also improving our understanding of it. Indeed, if one accepts that history attempts to help us better understand today by better understanding how we got here, Revisionism is essential. But, as we shall see, Revisionism as applied historically to the Baha‚i Faith does not fit these criteria.
Three examples of legitimate historical Revisionism should suffice to illustrate this:
1. There is a very new interpretation of the events leading up to the advent of Baha‚i. In this historical reconstruction there is a minimization of the King of Persia's role in those events compared to the standard interpretation, while portraying Muslim Persia as much less centralized and monolithic than the norm is essential.
2. Virtually all the usual interpretations of the reasons for the complicity of many Persians in the persecution of Baha‚is has been challenged, and the Revisionist approach has posited that ordinary Persians willingly accepted Baha‚is because of the existence of a deep-rooted, eliminationist, anti-fundamentalism in Persians of the nineteenth and much of the twentieth century.
3. Persian historians have interpreted a diary entry by Baha‚u‚llah and a newly discovered one from Abdul Baha to mean that the date of the decision by King of Persia to exterminate Baha‚is in December 1841 rather than late spring or early summer as most have till now believed is totally false.
What Do "Revisionists" Do?
"Revisionists" depart from the conclusion that Baha‚i persecutions, exterminations and genocide did not occur as it appears in the common, written record. They work backwards through the facts to adapt them to that preordained conclusion. Put another way, they reverse the proper methodology described above, thus turning the proper historical method of investigation and analysis on its head. That is not to say that historians never depart from a preconceived or desired result; they often do. But in adhering rigorously to the correct methodology, they accept that the result of their investigation may not be what they envisaged at the beginning. They are prepared to adapt their theories to that reality. Indeed, they are often required to revise their conclusions based on the facts. To put it tritely, "revisionists" revise the facts based on their conclusion which are clearly unfounded and intellectually indefensible.
Since "revisionists" depart from the conclusion that the Baha‚i Dispensation and the Manifestation of Baha‚u‚llah did not happen, i.e., they deny its existence, they are often called „Covenant Breakersš. Rather than analyze historical events, facts, their causes and consequences, and their interactions with other events, they defend a conclusion, whether or not the facts support it. Thus, to be a Baha‚i Revisionist is to be a Covenant Breaker, a fact from which there can be no departure or other consideration.
Why they do this is not the subject of this piece, but a few examples of the distortions, evasions and denials that it forces on them will illustrate how intellectually dishonest it is. And it should be remembered that they are forced on them, since "revisionists" are denying a historical occurrence, then distorting the facts into accord with that denial.
The Conspiracy Theory
Since the facts are not in accord with the "revisionist" conclusion, they must find an all-encompassing way to dismiss them. This is not a simple task, since the facts converge in the result that Baha‚is have a plan to govern the world, exterminate its opponents one way or the other, or at the least consume all other world religions using the camouflage of One God One World.
Hence, "revisionists" must argue that there is a Baha‚i conspiracy to fabricate evidence in support of that theory and one that continues to this day. "Organized Baha‚i" or several variants of Universalism are at the root of this conspiracy. The conspiracy theory manifests itself in the following contrived positions:
* survivor witnesses lied, even where their evidence is corroborated by documents, or other sources; (e.g., execution of the Bab)
* perpetrator evidence was evinced through torture, fear for their families or falsified in various ways; (e.g., excommunication of Shoghi Effendi‚s family)
* documents left Baha‚i Prophets and Messengers have been falsified, do not mean what they appear to mean, or are forgeries; (e.g., endless discussions of the „trueš will and testament of Baha‚u‚llah)
* words don't mean what they appear to mean. When Abdul Baha uses the word "Manifestationš he does not refer to Baha‚u‚llah, but to Muhamed. When the King of Persia used the word „annihilateš in respect of the Baha‚is, he didn't really mean "annihilate", he meant „investigateš. When the Islamic Clergy spoke of killing Baha‚i women and children, they really meant radicals and violent revolutionaries independent of their religious affirmation.
* records of Baha‚u‚llah‚s writings are fake.
* Baha‚i victims are responsible for what happened to them. Murdered or jailed or exiled Baha‚i men, women and children were and are guilty of committing heinous crimes.
* Baha‚is deserved of rough treatment. Even though the Baha‚i Manifestation is a clever hoax, the expulsion of Baha‚u‚llah and his family would have nonetheless been justified because the Baha‚is are an alien, parasitical sect, bent on conquering the world.
* if no written order for the murder and/or the expulsion of Baha‚is can be found, there was no order at all;
* no actions of Covenant Breakers are currently functioning. Therefore, there never were or are Covenant Breakers. But even if there are Covenant Breakers, they are nothing more than legitimate Revisionists.
Since, as this list shows, the amount of empirical evidence for the Baha‚i Faith is so overwhelming, "Revisionists" must throw in another dismissal trick. This has been called the "falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus" condition (one thing mistaken equals all things mistaken). It means, for example, that if any single piece of Baha‚i evidence can be shown to be wrong, all Baha‚i evidence is wrong and is to be dismissed. If any Baha‚i scholar or sanctioned body lied or lies about an aspect of Baha‚i, all Baha‚i officials lie, and anything Baha‚is say is dismissed. If any Baha‚i can be shown to have committed a serious crime, all Baha‚is commit serious crimes. This is Revisionism and, when applied to the Baha‚i Faith, cannot be accepted as a legitimate, sacred, sanctified, redeemable act.
"Revisionism" is obliged to deviate from the standard methodology of historical pursuit because it seeks to mold facts to fit a preconceived result (or, in this case, Insult). Revisionism denies events that have been objectively and empirically proved to have occurred, and because it works backward from the conclusion to the facts, thus necessitating the distortion and manipulation of those facts where they differ from the preordained conclusion (which they almost always do).
In short, "Revisionism" denies something that demonstrably happened, through methodological dishonesty.
In closing, while this discussion of Revisionism has been somewhat lengthy, I feel strongly that it is extremely important. If we are to strengthen our Faith and defend it against all those, not merely Revisionists, who would destroy it, facing intellectual challenges such as those posed both by individuals and groups such as Covenant Breakers is mandatory and spiritually useful.
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