Re: Baha'i scholarship is academically sound

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Posted by Dawud ( on October 03, 2002 at 19:19:27:

In Reply to: Baha'i scholarship is academically sound posted by Stuart Gilman on October 03, 2002 at 08:00:59:

I recognize that there are Baha'is who happen to do good scholarship, just as there must be Christian Scientists who happen to be good scientists. But the Baha'i faith has basically had a negative influence on attempts to study it.

Academic work requires several things which Baha'i institutions can't provide, and in fact discourage. To begin with, there is freedom of thought and expression. While Baha'is can trot out a number of quotes favoring these things, their behavior is another matter entirely. The forums operated by Baha'is contain various ideological constraints--some open, some hidden. Various forms of pressure are applied to members of the religion behind the scenes, should they say anything untoward, while the contributions of outsiders are selectively vetted for their degree of favorableness toward the cause.

Beyond that, an academic forum ought to be capable of holding its participants to certain standards, regardless of their views. Baha'i "scholarship" however seems to be intended to double as propaganda. Unscholarly approaches which serve this propaganda purpose well, seem to get a free pass. (Unfortunately, the presense of scholarly apparatus such as footnotes are to guarantee that the contents will be any good.)

Finally, some mention should be made of the Baha'i authorities' reprehensible practice of opening their archives only to the extent that it is likely to further their goals.

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