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COLLECTIONUnpublished articles
TITLEDivision and Unity in the Baha'i Community: Towards a Definition of Fundamentalism
AUTHOR 1Moojan Momen
ABSTRACT15 criteria that define "fundamentalism," and their applicability and/or inapplicability to the Bahá'í community; it may be more useful to use a psychological definition that sees the phenomenon as a value-free cognitive style, a way of perceiving.
NOTES Adapted with permission of author from unformatted draft on
TAGSDivision; Fundamentalism; Unity
CONTENT Abstract:

The definition of fundamentalism advanced by the Fundamentalism Project (directed by Martin Marty and Scott Appleby) suffers from a number of problems not least of which is the fact that serious objections can be raised against almost all of the points that it contains. Nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than when considering the Bahá'í community. In trying to apply these criteria to the Bahá'í community, one finds that the Bahá'í community fits some well but is the diametric opposite of others. The Bahá'í community is strongly oriented towards unity and it is this aspect that makes it appear to be fundamentalist according to the Marty-Appleby definition. But the community is also, with a few reservations, highly committed to the modern world, to science and rationality and to democracy. Thus one finds that the definition itself is not useful in relation to the Bahá'í community. Indeed it will be demonstrated that the definition has problems when applied to other communities as well.

This article proposes that it may be more useful to use a psychological definition of fundamentalism that sees the phenomenon as a cognitive style, the individual's characteristic way of organising and categorising perceptions and concepts. This makes fundamentalism a value-free term in that there are no good or bad cognitive styles, although different cognitive styles may be good or bad in a given situation or for achieving a particular goal. This approach allows fundamentalism to be seen as one end of a spectrum with liberalism at the other. Thus any large enough religious movement will have a range of individuals at different points on the spectrum.

Whether a fundamentalist group emerges from a large religious movement then depends on the social dynamics within the movement. In the Bahá'í community, certain mechanisms are in place that act to prevent the emergence of fundamentalist groups and movements (and indeed of other organised groups based around an ideological or political position). In addition, certain changes set in motion in the last decade mean that those of fundamentalist mind-set will increasingly be engaging in non-confrontational dialogue with those of liberal views, a process that may well result in the breaking down of fundamentalist certainties. Furthermore this process is designed to dissolve power hierarchies in the community, which will block the emergence of the charismatic leaders typical of fundamentalist groups. These structures and developments may act to make the emergence of fundamentalist groups in the future unlikely.


In this paper, the phenomenon of fundamentalism is examined in relation to the Bahá'í Faith, a religion that is only 160 years old and, although stemming from Islam, is now classified in most recently published studies of religion as an independent religion. In trying to apply the criteria or characteristic features of fundamentalism to the Bahá'í community, one finds a mixed picture emerging with the community fitting some well but being the diametric opposite of others. This calls into question the usefulness of these criteria and an alternative definition is here proposed as being more accurate and value neutral. Finally the social dynamics of the Bahá'í community are examined for the manner in which they deal with fundamentalism and the extent to which they encourage or discourage it.

Religious fundamentalism came to the centre of the world's attention in the 1970s and particularly with the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Iran. There has been a mixed reaction in the scholarly community to the study of fundamentalism with some on the one hand even denying that it is a useful label[1] while on the other hand Martin Marty and Scott Appleby have produced a five-volume series of books in The Fundamentalism Project describing, analysing and arguing for the usefulness of the category. The analysis of those who argue for the usefulness of the category has also been mixed with a noticeable tension among scholars (and often even within the work of an individual scholar) between, on the one hand, an inclination to treat it in value-neutral terms as a phenomenon that has merely to be described and analysed and, on the other, an inclination to treat it as a negative phenomenon requiring the scholar to find ways of combatting it, controlling it or curing it.

It has been suggested that religious fundamentalism be defined in terms of nine characteristic features drawn from the paper of Gabriel Almond, Emmanuel Sivan and R. Scott Appleby:

    1) a reaction against the marginalization of religion in society;

    2) the selective use of tradition and modernity;

    3) moral dualism;

    4) absolutism and inerrancy of essential texts;

    5) millennialism;

    6) elect membership;

    7) sharp boundaries;

    8) authoritarian organization; and

    9) strict behavioural requirements;[2]

In addition there are two features suggested for Islam by Said Amir Arjomand but which have a more general application:

    10) resistance against a scientific worldview and scientific principles applied to religion and religious texts, and

    11) resistance against the secular state.[3]

All of this was published as part of the Fundamentalism Project directed by Marty and Appleby. One problem with accepting these as the defining characteristics of fundamentalism is that even during the years that the Fundamentalism Project was operating and certainly in the years since the publication of the conclusions of the project, reports have accumulated of other characteristic features of fundamentalism which have been tested across different religions and in non-Western environments. Studies have shown, for example, that fundamentalists characteristically display:

    12) a negative view of the participation of women in society;[4]

    13) opposition to globalization;[5]

    14) a traditional moral code and a negative view of homosexuality;[6] and

    15) xenophobia, ultra-nationalism and a negative attitude towards ethnic minorities.[7]

The Bahá'í Faith

The Bahá'í Faith originated in the Middle East with its founder Bahá'u'lláh (1817-1892) being exiled from Iran to what is now Iraq and Turkey and finally to the Haifa-Akka area which was then part of the Ottoman Empire and is now in the state of Israel.[8] He appointed his son `Abdu'l-Bahá (1844-1921) as his successor and as the authorized interpreter of his teachings. During the period of `Abdu'l-Bahá's leadership (1892-1921), the Bahá'í Faith spread to North America and Europe. The next leader was Shoghi Effendi (1897-1957), who was appointed the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith and who, from 1921, directed the spread of the Bahá'í Faith around the world and its separation from Islam. Since 1963, the Bahá'í community has been led by an elected institution, the Universal House of Justice.[9] This body does not create doctrine (as, for example, the Papacy does), but it does direct the activities of the Bahá'ís and is charged with legislating in all areas not covered by scripture. By 2006, some five million Bahá'ís are stated to be found in 191 countries among more than 2,100 ethnic groups.[10]

Bahá'u'lláh states that the main purpose of his teachings is to take humanity on to the next stage of its social evolution -- the stage of world unity. Human beings need to overcome the divisions that maintain the conflicts of the present-day world. In the oft-repeated words of Bahá'u'lláh: "The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens."[11] For this to occur, a number of global institutions need to be established and certain social changes need to be made; for example: elimination of national, ethnic and religious prejudices, advancement in the social role of women, and the abolition of extremes of wealth and poverty. But above all, a global consciousness, a sense of being citizens of one inter-connected world needs to arise within each individual.

In the authoritative Bahá'í texts there are a number of passages that relate to the phenomenon of fundamentalism. In the time of Bahá'u'lláh, the concept of fundamentalism did not exist but he refers to a politically-oriented religious rigidity and prejudice, using the closest word that existed at the time "religious fanaticism (bughdá-yi madhhabí)" and says for example that: "Religious fanaticism and hatred are a world-devouring fire, whose violence none can quench." Bahá'u'lláh's answer however is not to move towards secularism as occurred in Europe throughout the 19th-20th century, rather he goes on to say: "The Hand of Divine power can, alone, deliver mankind from this desolating affliction." In other words, the answer is the birth of a new religious impulse. Religious fundamentalism and fanaticism are seen in the Bahá'í worldview not as signs of the strength of a religion but as signs of the end-stage weakness of a religious cycle. And so for example, the second leader of the Bahá'í Faith, `Abdu'l-Bahá writes that at first "true religion promotes the civilization and honour, the prosperity and prestige, the learning and advancement of a people" but later, "when it falls into the hands of religious leaders who are foolish and fanatical, it is diverted to the wrong ends, until this greatest of splendours turns into blackest night."[12] Only the emergence of the new youthful religious impulse that has the confidence to be tolerant can counter this fanaticism. The underlying message here is, of course, that the answer to the religious prejudice and hatred seen in the world is the emergence of the Bahá'í Faith.

It is clear therefore that religious prejudice and rigidity are condemned. `Abdu'l-Bahá states: "One of the forms of prejudice which afflict the world of mankind is religious bigotry and fanaticism. When this hatred burns in human hearts, it becomes the cause of revolution, destruction, abasement of humankind and deprivation of the mercy of God."[13] Additionally, schools have an important role in educate children in ways that mitigate against the rise of religious fanaticism: "Schools must first train the children in the principles of religion, so that the Promise and the Threat recorded in the Books of God may prevent them from the things forbidden and adorn them with the mantle of the commandments; but this in such a measure that it may not injure the children by resulting in ignorant fanaticism and bigotry."[14] In their dealings with others, Shoghi Effendi urges Bahá'ís to tread a middle road "neither fanatical nor excessively liberal."[15]

In the Bahá'í teachings and beliefs, one can find points that point towards both fundamentalism and liberalism. Some have described the Bahá'í Faith as fundamentalist and have pointed to such beliefs and teachings as:

    1. A traditional attitude towards sexual morality (permissible sex is between married, heterosexual couples) and a generally traditional individual moral code.

    2. An anti-secularist position in that it considers that religion is the best moral and ideological basis for society.

    3. Bahá'ís tend to be actively seeking to convert others to their viewpoint (although most would deny that they engage in proselytisation).

    4. Strict membership conditions, the transgressing of which brings, after several warnings, administrative sanctions or even expulsion from the community.

    5. The belief that religious institutions should ultimately merge with state institutions (although some Bahá'ís have dissented from this position).

But there are also Bahá'í positions and beliefs that point towards liberalism:

    1. A belief that Satan is the animal side of human, not a real existing figure.

    2. A belief that all humanity is one - no division into believer and unbeliever or pure and impure.

    3. The promotion of the social role of women.

    4. A belief that religion should be in conformity with science and an affirmation of the principle of evolution.

    5. A lack of an idealization of the past and a condemnation of a blind following of tradition; the faithful are working towards a better future condition of society rather than trying to bring it back to an idealised past community.

Indeed some of the fundamental Bahá'í teachings can be interpreted as promoting either fundamentalism or liberalism. Thus, for example, the apparently triumphalist view that the world will eventually adopt the teachings of the Bahá'í Faith is moderated by indications that this will not necessarily be the result of the activities of the Bahá'ís (i.e. force of circumstances will also drive the world towards greater degrees of unity) nor will it necessarily involve everyone adopting the Bahá'í Faith. Similarly, the presence of a strong authoritative institutional structure may appear to point towards fundamentalism, but this is mitigated by an increasing decentralization of decision-making processes (see below).

This uncertainty about the positioning of the Bahá'í Faith is reflected in the academic literature. Researchers such as the sociologist of religion Margit Warburg of the University of Copenhagen have found that the Bahá'ís that she has studied in general have a liberal and cosmopolitan outlook.[16] On the other hand papers by two Middle Eastern scholars, Juan Cole of the United States and Denis MacEoin of Britain, have described the Bahá'í community as fundamentalist.[17]

The Bahá'í Community and the definition of fundamentalism

In this section, the Bahá'í community will be examined in relation to the criteria for fundamentalism listed above. In particular, the comments of Cole and MacEoin, who have published previously on this subject, will be reviewed. These latter authors need, however, to be approached with caution. Cole, for example, has asserted that, in recent decades, there has been a fundamentalist takeover of the Bahá'í leadership (the Universal House of Justice and the American elected national Bahá'í council, the National Spiritual Assembly) which has moved the community from a relatively liberal position to an increasingly fundamentalist one and he describes what he calls a "culture war" going on.[18] His position on this, however, is biased by his own conflict with the Bahá'í leadership, which led to his departure from the Bahá'í community in 1996 after a period as a dissident at the extreme liberal end of the spectrum. His articles are thus partly a justification of his departure. Since his departure, Cole has taken on the role of what the sociologist David Bromley defines as an "apostate": "that subset of leave-takers who are involved in contested exits and affiliate with an oppositional coalition".[19] The oppositional coalition in this case is a group of like-minded apostates who have formed a "virtual community" on Internet e-mail lists. In so far as the points he makes are true, they relate to the perceptions of this small number of people and the "culture war" is a "virtual" phenomenon and does not affect the vast majority of Bahá'ís who perceive their "real" community in almost diametrically opposite terms to those described by Cole. I have analyzed this in detail elsewhere[20] and so there is no need to go into details here. For the purposes of this article, it is sufficient to say that one of the aims of these apostates is to turn the status of the Baha’i Faith from that of what Bromley calls an "allegiant organisation" (i.e. one that is in broad agreement with society) to that of a "subversive" one, or a "cult" (one that is in a state of tension with society)[21] and one of the main ways of doing this has been to make the Bahá'í community appear rigid and fundamentalist. MacEoin shares a similar personal history to Cole with regard to the Bahá'í Faith.

One must start by agreeing with Cole and MacEoin that there is some degree of fundamentalist-liberal tension within the Bahá'í community, indeed it would be surprising if there were not in a community the size of the Bahá'í one. Because of the social dynamics of the Bahá'í community, as described below, however, this tension tends not to be played out in a conflictual manner within the Bahá'í community. A starting point for considering this matter would be to examine the Bahá'í Faith in relation to the characteristics of fundamentalism described above and Cole's comments on each:

1) Reaction against the Marginalization of Religion in Society. Bahá'u'lláh did react against the marginalization of religion in society and he attributed the ills of the present day to this: "Religion is verily the chief instrument for the establishment of order in the world and of tranquillity amongst its peoples. The weakening of the pillars of religion hath strengthened the foolish and emboldened them and made them more arrogant. Verily I say: The greater the decline of religion, the more grievous the waywardness of the ungodly. This cannot but lead in the end to chaos and confusion."[22] Ultimately, the marginalization of religion leads, the Bahá'í texts affirm, to the weakening of the moral code of society and its resultant disintegration. Having said this, however, this would not appear by itself to be a very discriminating distinction. Numerous Christian, Islamic and Buddhist leaders who would be regarded as liberal also want to see religion back at the centre of the public sphere, giving a lead in matters of morality.[23]

Cole asserts that, contrary to the position of the present Bahá'í leadership, the original writings of Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá were "anti-theocratic" and did not envisage that the Bahá'í institutions would become involved in governance. He has, however, confused a number of different issues. He states for example that "In his Treatise on Leadership of the early 1890s `Abdu'l-Bahá said that religious institutions, including Bahá'í ones, are never to intervene in affairs of state or political matters unbidden . . ."[24] In this work of `Abdu'l- Baha, however, there is no mention of Bahá'í institutions and it is not religious institutions that `Abdu'l-Bahá says should not intervene in affairs of state, but rather professional religious leaders. Since the Bahá'í Faith has no professional religious leaders but rather has elected councils made up from lay people, this statement of `Abdu'l-Bahá does not apply to the Bahá'í institutions. On the contrary, Bahá'u'lláh expressly says, and `Abdu'l-Bahá reiterates, that the elected Bahá'í councils should in the future involve themselves in affairs of state.[25] Since the Bahá'í community has no religious professionals but is run by elected councils made up of lay members it is, moreover, not correct to call this a theocracy as Cole does.[26]

This desire to see religion at the centre of society does not lead to the Bahá'í community being fundamentalist, moreover, since individual Bahá'ís and Bahá'í institutions are prohibited from taking political action at present. This prohibition has been in place since the early 1900s and means that the Bahá'í community whether acting as individuals or as a community should not be involved in trying to impose an Bahá'í ideology on others through political actions in the way typical of fundamentalist groups. To what extent and when any Bahá'í institutions take part in any political action is under the jurisdiction of the Universal House of Justice and it is impossible to predict how this may develop in the future (in fact the Universal House of Justice has mandated a small amount of political action at the international level on such liberal issues as education for the girl child, human rights and the social advancement of women27).

2. Selective Use of Tradition and Modernity. The Bahá'í Faith is only 160 years old and there has therefore not been enough time for much tradition to have developed. Indeed, in several instances, over such matters as marriages, funerals, and setting prayers to music, for example, Shoghi Effendi, expressly warned the Bahá'ís against allowing traditions and rituals to develop.[28] Moreover the elected Bahá'í councils do not make their decisions on the basis of tradition or precedents but are advised to come to a decision on each major matter after viewing the facts and the principles applicable. Bahá'ís do not have any idea of an ideal past community which they are trying to recreate as some fundamentalists do, rather they see themselves as an evolving community trying gradually to bring out the implications of Bahá'u'lláh's teachings.

The examples that Cole gives in this section are either erroneous, forced or irrelevant. While Cole and MacEoin see pre-publication review of anything that a Bahá'í wants to publish as a means of enforcing doctrinal conformity,[29] the Bahá'í authorities see it as a temporary measure taken because the Bahá'í Faith is still relatively obscure and any public statements published by Bahá'ís are likely to be taken by readers as representative of the Bahá'í position. If, for example, a Christian says that Christianity encourages suicide, then most people know enough about Christianity to discount such a statement; but if a similar statement is published about the Bahá'í Faith by a Bahá'í, the majority of readers who know nothing about the Bahá'í Faith would probably assume it is correct -- else why would a Bahá'í publish such a statement? Bahá'ís writing in the academic sphere can ask for suitably qualified people to review their work. The decision as to when this requirement is lifted rests with the international leadership, the Universal House of Justice, but Cole is incorrect to assert that its temporary nature has ever been questioned by any Bahá'í authority. Indeed the measure has already been partially lifted in that materials to be published on the Internet are exempt from it.[30]

3. Moral Manicheanism (dualism). There are problems with this criterion for fundamentalism in that it is ambiguous and involves a great deal of subjective judgement by the researcher. Almond et al. also acknowledge problems when they say that "moral dualism or Manichaeanism is by no means a distinguishing mark of fundamentalism" and is a feature of many fundamentalist group "simply as a consequence of being militant".[31] The Bahá'í case strengthens the argument that this is not a reliable distinguishing feature.

The scriptures of all religions, including those of the Bahá'í Faith, have some degree of moral dualism inherent within them and evident in their scriptures. This is particularly strong in the case of the religions of the Abrahamic line where the founders of these religions regard their message as the word of God and consequently those who oppose them become the enemies of God and thus morally evil (even those who are not enemies but simply unbelievers are morally or spiritually flawed to some degree since they are not following God's path). This attitude is, however, also evident in religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism. In the latter, for example, Devadatta becomes an embodiment of evil trying to undermine and destroy the Buddha in his successive lives;[32] while the mythical history of the Mahavamsa becomes the means by which modern Sinhalese Sri Lankan fundamentalists are able to paint the Hindu Tamil minority in terms similar to the Nazi use of the terms "Aryan" and "Semite".[33] To decide then whether a group is fundamentalist or not is not so much a matter of what is in the scripture (since most scriptures have passages that can be interpreted in a dualist manner) but is a matter of judging how these dualist concepts are interpreted and how central they are in the group's thinking and activities.

The approach taken by, for example MacEoin, of quoting a number of passages from authoritative Bahá'í texts as evidence of the "intolerant world" of the Bahá'í Faith is, therefore, inherently flawed.[34] One could equally point to other texts in Bahá'í scripture such Bahá'u'lláh's abolition of the concept of ritual impurity,[35] a key factor in the tendency of some religions towards dualism, or his injunction "Consort with all religions with amity and concord"[36] as evidence of a move away from fundamentalism. The evidence of Warburg,[37] who carried out a systematic and scientifically-designed survey (as against the anecdotal and highly selective evidence presented by Cole38) points to the average Bahá'í among those she surveyed in Denmark being liberal and cosmopolitan.

The Bahá'í teachings do not in any case take a black and white view that an individual is either "saved" or "damned". Salvation is seen as a journey in which one becomes closer to God by acquiring the attributes of God (attributes such as love, justice, purity, etc.). Since everyone is on this journey and the important factor is not so much where one is on the journey but how much progress one is making, it is clear that there is no simple dualist division into "saved" and "damned" nor even any easy way of making judgements about individuals (since an apparent saint could be making little or no progress while an apparent sinner may be taking giant strides forwards).[39]

4. Absolutism and Inerrancy. With this criterion, the picture is again mixed when it comes to the Bahá'í Faith. Certainly, the Bahá'í Faith can be said to be a text-centred religion: the writings of Bahá'u'lláh are regarded as Divine revelation, the word of God, while the writings of the successive leaders of the Bahá'í Faith, `Abdu'l-Bahá, Shoghi Effendi, and the Universal House of Justice are regarded as divinely inspired when each is writing within certain defined spheres. But this seeming fundamentalism and authoritarianism is countered by a number of anti-authoritarian and anti-dogmatic strands: Bahá'u'lláh's assertion that, in many passages, it is not the literal but the metaphorical meaning that is intended;[40] the emphasis in the Bahá'í writings on the importance of human reason and scientific enquiry; and the categorical statement of Shoghi Effendi: "Let us also remember that at the very root of the Cause lies the principle of the undoubted right of the individual to self-expression, his freedom to declare his conscience and set forth his views."[41] This complex situation can be summarized by saying that, although all Bahá'ís have the right and indeed the obligation to study the Bahá'í scriptures and come to their own understanding of these, no individual Bahá'í has the right to claim authority for their interpretation. Only the writings of Bahá'u'lláh, `Abdu'l-Bahá, Shoghi Effendi and the Universal House of Justice are authoritative for Bahá'ís.

The question of what elements of the scripture should be taken literally and what should be interpreted as metaphorical is one that has been the subject of much debate among Bahá'ís which will no doubt continue, but what Cole fails to make clear in his presentation is that, far from being on the side of the literalists, the Universal House of Justice has frequently come out against too narrow and literal an understanding of Bahá'í scripture.[42] Cole also fails to mention that, in the article that he quotes from the member of the Universal House of Justice, Peter Khan, the latter asserts categorically that the fundamentalist notion that Bahá'ís do not need scientific and academic studies because "all knowledge" is contained in "the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh" is considered by him to be an "erroneous view" that is "pernicious", "dangerous, very narrow, and quite wrong."[43] There are also examples where Cole has cited incorrectly in order to prove points.[44]

5. Millennialism and Messianism. The link between fundamentalism and millennialism in Western religions has been clearly demonstrated in the writings of several scholars.[45] This link does not necessarily apply, however, to fundamentalisms in other religions. The early Bahá'í community was clearly millennialist in outlook. Millennialist thinking has, however, receded from the forefront of Bahá'í thinking since Bahá'ís regard the coming of Bahá'u'lláh as the fulfilment of the millennialist and messianic expectations of all religions and Bahá'u'lláh has stated that any future messenger of God will not appear for a thousand years. Insofar as any millennialism remains, it has shifted from what the American scholar of religious studies Catherine Wessinger calls "catastrophic millennialism" (a sudden Divine intervention in human affairs) to "progressive millennialism" (looking to a gradual improvement in human circumstances through human efforts, rather than supernatural means).[46] Although small numbers of Western Bahá'ís have over the years intensely discussed the possibility of some future catastrophe, referred to in some Bahá'í texts, such speculation has decreased over the years and since the passing of the year 2000, the last focus of such expectations, these discussions have almost disappeared.[47]

6. Elect, Chosen Membership. While considering that they have possession of the teachings that can bring a social salvation to the world, Bahá'ís do not in general think of themselves as a saved elect, having a station above that of other human beings. It is the person who is spiritual and lives up to the moral teachings of religion who has the highest spiritual station, whether they are Bahá'ís or not. Indeed, Bahá'u'lláh in one of his writings complains that the people who have done him most harm are not his enemies but those Bahá'ís who do not follow his teachings[48] and, similarly, `Abdu'l-Bahá condemns the view that any particular religious group is exclusively saved and states that Christians who truly follow the teachings of Christ have more right to call themselves Bahá'ís than a Bahá'í who does not follow the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh.[49] In addition, Bahá'u'lláh calls upon his followers to "Consort with the followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship."[50] In this way, the Bahá'í Faith maintains a pluralist and non-exclusive theology.[51]

7. Sharp Boundaries. In order to define itself any organised group will create a boundary. Those within the boundary share a worldview, collective norms, a hierarchy of values.[52] In general, a group with weak (porous) boundaries has a nebulous identity, non-binding doctrines and few communal rules. A group with a sharp boundary will generally have a strong identity, binding doctrines and communal rules. This factor is, however, a poor discriminator for fundamentalism. Many religions, especially traditional religions such as the Roman Catholic Church or Islam, have sharp boundaries. Thus the correlation between this criterion and fundamentalism is weak and it is not a reliable indicator. The Bahá'í community in the last half of the twentieth century has had a sharp boundary and a strong identity but, as will be discussed below, the last decade has seen the community move in the opposite direction.

8. Authoritarian Organisation. Many fundamentalist groups have a charismatic leader but, apart from this figure, they have little in the way of official hierarchies, a rational-legal framework or a bureaucratic structure. By contrast, the Bahá'í community has, in the course of its history moved away from charismatic leadership and has, in Weberian terminology, "routinised" this charismatic authority in a hierarchy of elected councils ranging from the Universal House of Justice at the international level, the ultimate authority in the world Bahá'í community, to councils at the local level called Local Spiritual Assemblies. This organizational structure was authorised by Bahá'u'lláh in his writings and slowly built up over a period of a hundred years by Bahá'u'lláh's successors. Its authority, power and functioning is described in more detail below. For here it is sufficient to state that this elected organizational structure is mainly concerned with directing Bahá'í activities and maintaining unity in the community. It does not determine doctrine or set dogma. Thus while most fundamentalist groups are profoundly inimical to democracy, the Bahá'í community has democracy at the heart of its operations.

Cole has pointed to the doctrine that the Universal House of Justice is infallible as evidence of authoritarianism. One point that needs to be made is that this question has been little debated as yet among Bahá'ís and anyone who makes statements about the matter is voicing personal opinions rather than any agreed or authoritative positions. The only scholarly paper written on the subject suggests that the infallibility of the House of Justice is limited to the legislation of any laws that are not explicitly contained in Bahá'u'lláh's writings. Bahá'u'lláh writes that he has done this because circumstances change and thus there is a need for flexibility in the legislative framework of the Bahá'í Faith. Even here, "infallibility" does not mean a fixed and unchanging pronouncements. Any subsequent House of Justice can abrogate and alter previous legislation.[53] In fact, the Universal House of Justice has declared a policy of refraining from laying down new laws in exactly the sorts of areas that it might be imagined that they would legislate (for example, over contraception and abortion) and has merely laid out the spiritual principles involved and left the final decision to the individual Bahá'í. It has stated that this (moving away from laying down prescriptions for all areas of human life and leaving such matters to individual conscience) is part of the coming to maturity of humanity.[54] In practice, the Universal House of Justice appears to have imposed very few new laws upon ordinary Bahá'ís in the 44 years of its existence.[55]

Cole has asserted that the authority of the Bahá'í institutions has been used in recent years to promote a fundamentalist agenda. He can only maintain such a position by being highly selective with his facts, however. He mentions, for example in his paper, a group of ultra- orthodox incarnationist Iranian Bahá'ís in the United Kingdom as an example of a move towards fundamentalism[56] but fails to mention that the Universal House of Justice warned this group about its divisive activities as it did with the ultra-liberal groups that Cole champions. Thus the actions of the Universal House of Justice appear not to be prompted by a desire to promote fundamentalism or a concern to enforce a doctrinal orthodoxy but rather to be triggered by the formation of cabals and factions that threaten the unity of the community and may presage sectarian fission.

Another factor to be considered is that the Bahá'í teachings emphasise the importance of community and a social salvation rather than the individualism and personal salvation of Protestantism, which is reflected in what Robert Bellah has described as the "faith without community" and privatism of much of contemporary religious life.[57] This communitarianism may (by contrast with the individualism of much of modern life) be seen as institutional authoritarianism but this is no more so than, for example, the Roman Catholic Church (and indeed, given that the Bahá'í institutions are elected and there are no professional religious leaders, it is probably a good deal less so). Thus in general, this criterion does not appear to be a very discriminating one.

9. Behavioural requirements. Fundamentalist groups tend to control the activities of their members, such that their behaviour is finely regulated and much of their time is taken up with group activities. Even such matters as the dress worn and the music listened to can be regulated.

Bahá'ís do not have a distinctive dress code and do not live in segregated areas, unless they are forced to. Although the Bahá'í teachings endorse what may be regarded as traditional moral values (for example that the only legitimate sexual relations are within a heterosexual monogamous marriage), in fact the controlling effects of this are mitigated by the fact that, as long as there is no injury or compulsion involved, what goes on behind closed doors is not considered the business of the Bahá'í administration. It is only if the good name of the Bahá'í Faith is being brought into disrepute by the public actions of any individual that the Bahá'í authorities may act by first warning the individual, then removing their administrative rights (such a person is still regarded as a Bahá'í but not a "Bahá'í in good standing" -- they are unable to vote or be voted for in Bahá'í elections and may not donate to the Bahá'í Funds) and even here the Universal House of Justice has reiterated Shoghi Effendi's insistence that the Bahá'í institutions should be "very cautious" in using this sanction "in rare cases" and not "unless the matter is really very grave" and then only after giving "repeated warnings".[58]

10. Resistance against a scientific worldview and scientific principles applied to religion and religious texts. Although the Bahá'í texts consider that science should be guided in the choice of areas of research by the moral values of religion, these texts are equally clear that if religion does not agree with science, it risks becoming no better than superstition. Cole erroneously implies that leading Bahá'ís have expressed anti-scientific views.[59]

An area that MacEoin and Cole have both been critical of the Bahá'í institutions is their attitude towards academic methodology and this has undoubtedly been the subject of much discussion. The Universal House of Justice has specifically stated that it does not wish to prescribe or proscribe any particular methodology[60] but has commented that: "In scientific investigation when searching after the facts of any matter a Bahá'í must, of course, be entirely open-minded, but in his interpretation of the facts and his evaluation of evidence we do not see by what logic he can ignore the truth of the Bahá'í Revelation which he has already accepted. To do so would, we feel, be both hypocritical and unscholarly."[61]

11. Resistance against the Secular State. This criterion overlaps considerably with the first criterion listed above and should probably be merged with that. It does not, in any case, relate to the Bahá'í community which has from its earliest days had a policy of complying both in letter and spirit with the laws laid down by whatever government Bahá'ís are living under. The only exception to that is if the government asks them to deny their Faith. As a result of their drive towards unity and their attitude of obedience to government, Bahá'ís are not engaged in demonstrating, preaching against the government or launching terrorist attacks. Thus the activities of Bahá'ís tend to be ignored by the media who prefer to report on religious groups engaged in conflict and aggression.

12. A negative view of the participation of women in society. The Bahá'í community has been almost the exact opposite of this feature of fundamentalism in that it has always strongly supported the promotion of an active social role for women. This can be seen not only in the authoritative Bahá'í texts,[62] but also in the existence of a Bahá'í Office for the Advancement of Women in New York that co-ordinates the global efforts of Bahá'í women with those of the United Nations and UNIFEM (especially in areas such as the education of the girl child); a number of national Bahá'í Offices for the Advancement of Women and Associations of Bahá'í Women; strong support for UNIFEM at national and local level; and the existence of many Bahá'í development projects that have the advancement of women as their main or subsidiary goal.[63] A qualitative social scientific study of gender issues in the Canadian Bahá'í community by sociologists Deborah van den Hoonard and Will van den Hoonaard revealed that there was a gap between normative Baha’i beliefs and actual practice but also found a great deal of interest in and efforts being made to achieve equality among both men and women.[64]

13. Opposition to globalization. As with the previous point, the Bahá'í community represents almost the exact opposite of this feature of fundamentalist groups. From its very inception, it has promoted the idea that the present problems of the world can only adequately be addressed by action taken at the global level. Since world unity is seen not just as desirable but inevitable, the Bahá'í teachings are focussed on the steps that are necessary to achieve it and the means of making this trend work to the benefit of the poor and disadvantaged and not just for the enrichment of the already rich.[65] The Bahai community has expended a great deal of effort in building up relations with and supporting the United Nations and its subsidiary organizations, which are the "cursed other" of the fundamentalist holistic vision.[66] Indeed this activity of the Bahá'ís is a focus of attack by Christian fundamentalist groups.[67]

14. A traditional moral code and a negative view of homosexuality. The Bahá'í Faith can be said to reject the Enlightenment idea that it is possible to build a moral code from scientific and rational principles and also to reject the concept of natural law. It considers that only religious teaching can be an effective basis for morality.[68]

As mentioned under 9 above, the Bahá'í teachings take a traditional view of sexual morality and may thus be said to comply with this feature of fundamentalism. As pointed out under 3 above, however, there is not an attitude that the homosexual is a "sinner" and therefore "damned", but rather that Bahá'u'lláh has given all the guidance of the best way to achieve spiritual progress and, if an individual chooses not to take this guidance in one area, they are hindering their progress. Since no human being is perfect, however, then all human beings are hindering their progress in one area or another. Again as described under 9 above, as long as there is no compulsion or injury involved, what goes on behind closed doors is not a matter of regulation by the Bahá'í institutions. It only becomes the concern of the institutions, and may eventually lead to sanctions, if it is damaging the reputation of the community.[69]

15. Xenophobia, ultra-nationalism and a negative attitude towards ethnic minorities. Fundamentalists are the antithesis and opponents of multi- culturalism. By contrast, all forms of prejudice, national, racial and ethnic, are condemned in the Bahá'í writings as blocking the path to world unity and thus holding human society back from spiritual and material prosperity. While a moderate amount of nationalism can be beneficial, the divisive effects of excessive nationalism and the resulting xenophobia engendered are strongly condemned in the Bahá'í scriptures.[70]

The Definition of Fundamentalism

In all then, the Bahá'í Faith presents a quandary for the defining characteristics of fundamentalism in that it complies with some of them but is diametrically the opposite of others. And indeed it is not the only example of such difficulties. Counter-examples and problems with any definition based on theological or sociological criteria can be found for other religious communities. The most clear example of this is the fourth criterion, absolutism and inerrancy of essential texts. There are very few Muslims who do not consider the Qur'an to be the revealed and inerrant "Word of God" but this does not make them all fundamentalists; indeed until the rise of political Islam (Islamism) in the 1980s, fundamentalists were a small minority. Similarly, millennialism, while it plays a large part in the fundamentalism of Shi`i Islam in Iran, particularly with the presidency of Ahmadinejad, plays almost no part in the fundamentalism in the rest of the Islamic world which is mainly Sunni. At the same time, although fundamentalists exist among Buddhists, several of this list of characteristics would not appear to apply to them (to a large extent items 4, 5, 6, 7, 9 of the list).[71]

In the case of the Bahá'í Faith there is the added complexity that, since the religion is only about 150 years old, many of its teachings already take modernity into account and so there is less inherent strain between modernity and the teachings of the religion. This has the effect that a Bahá'í of fundamentalist inclination will, by virtue of these matters being in the scripture, be forced to take positions on many social issues that would, in other religions, be considered liberal. For example, the five points that I have described above as Bahá'í teachings that point towards liberalism are promoted just as ardently by Bahá'ís inclined to fundamentalism as by those inclined to liberalism. Thus a mere consideration of the teachings advocated by any particular Bahá'í will not be a useful guide to distinguishing between those inclined to fundamentalism and those inclined to liberalism.

Elsewhere, I have suggested that it may be better to look upon these theological and sociological characteristics of fundamentalism as being epiphenomena and that it would be more useful to look at the level of the individual for a psychological definition of the phenomenon of fundamentalism. I have suggested that it is useful to look at religious fundamentalism and liberalism as two cognitive styles. Cognitive style refers to the individual's characteristic manner of organising information and categorising perceptions and concepts. It is a value- free term in that cognitive styles are neither good not bad (although some may be better for some purposes than others). It is moreover not something that is fixed in an individual; it tends to be learned and can alter with time especially as a result of the experiences of an individual.

The fundamentalist mentality is characteristically one that sees things in black and white terms -- things are good or bad, people are either among the saved or the damned; the lines are clearly drawn. Historian Richard Hofstadter describes such people as having a "one-hundred per cent mentality"; they "tolerate no ambiguities, no equivocations, no reservations and no criticism."[72] The liberal by contrast see a spectrum from good to bad with a grey area in the middle; some people may not be believers but that does not necessarily make them bad. Fundamentalists have a drive for certainty which can only be achieved by objectivity; they consider the indecisive world of the liberal to be tainted by subjectivity and personal opinion.

In experimental psychology, fundamentalist and liberal cognitive styles can be reproduced by what is called "field-dependence versus field- independence". In the former, the subject tends to see an object in relation to its background (and this corresponds to liberalism), while the latter tends to isolate objects and extract them from their background (corresponding to fundamentalism).[73] One can also see similarities between fundamentalism and a convergent style of thinking, which focuses from the general to the particular, analysing and aiming for certainty; while liberalism corresponds to a divergent style of thinking, which goes from the particular to the general, prizing inductive, intuitive thinking and aiming for inclusivity rather than certainty.[74]

This psychological definition of fundamentalism then produces the characteristic social and theological features of fundamentalism described above. Thus for example, the inerrancy of the scripture and the view that the scripture has a plain meaning apparent to any reader derives from the desire for certainty; the sharp boundaries of the community and moral dualism derive from the black and white vision of the world; and so forth. Even the observed sociological differences can be accounted for by positing that as rural populations come to the cities and become literate, they will at first tend towards fundamentalism, because the early stages of education will tend to teach simple dichotomies. As they become more educated, perhaps by the second generation, and more used to thinking in a more complex and nuanced manner, the result will be a more liberal cognitive style.

The psychological definition of fundamentalism also explains why fundamentalist groups prefer to restrict contacts with the rest of society. Even when living in cities, they form socially isolated enclaves with the time of the members being taken up by a series of contacts with other fundamentalists (fundamentalist trade and occupational associations, clubs, colleges, holiday centres, etc.) rather than with the wider society.[75] Exposure to other cognitive styles tends to erode confidence in the black and white attitude typical of fundamentalists.

The social and theological manifestations of a fundamentalist cognitive style may thus show themselves in two distinct ways. In the first, they may be manifest in pietism, an inward-looking social enclave (that has turned its back on the rest of the members of their religion), sometimes characterised by a tendency to be highly mystical or legalistic and perhaps seeking to re-create an ideal community thought to have existed in the religion's past. The second pathway is more radical and politicized: an often aggressively outward-looking grouping that seeks to represent and lead the whole of the religion and aims to protect the whole community from what it perceives to be the ravages of modernity, secularism or the "great Satan" of cultural domination by an alien religion. Some scholars have called both groups fundamentalists while others have restricted the term to the latter group. Basing the definition of fundamentalism on a psychological foundation may, to those primarily interested in the political ramifications of fundamentalism, appear to be less useful, but I would contend that it produces a more thorough understanding of the phenomenon. Since I have discussed this at length elsewhere, I will not lengthen the discussion here further.[76]

Seeing it as a cognitive style makes fundamentalism a value-free term in that there are no good or bad cognitive styles, although different cognitive styles may be good or bad in a given situation or for achieving a particular goal. This approach allows fundamentalism to be seen as one end of a spectrum with liberalism at the other and most people somewhere in-between. Thus any large enough religious movement will have a range of individuals at different points on the spectrum. Whether a fundamentalist group emerges from a religious movement then depends on the social dynamics within the movement.

Fundamentalism and the Social Dynamics of the Bahá'í community

Much of what has been written above is theoretical and has little to do with the practice and realities of Bahá'í community life. In this section, I propose to look at the social dynamics of the Bahá'í community and the ways in which this might interact with fundamentalists.

The Bahá'í community has in its 160-year history been in a continual state of change and development. Indeed the leadership of the Bahá'í Faith has always pushed the Bahá'í community onwards towards an ideal based on the writings of Bahá'u'lláh rather than looking backwards, as some fundamentalist groups do, towards an ideal community set in the past.[77] It is moreover an operating principle of Bahá'í institutions that past practices and decisions do not set a binding precedent; each major issue facing the community should be thought out anew based only on the principles to be found in the authoritative Bahá'í texts and not on traditional practices. Thus there is only a limited scope for the traditionalism that is the basis for some fundamentalist ideologies.

One consideration when looking at how fundamentalism is dealt with in the Bahá'í community is that the overarching principle of Bahá'í community life is the maintenance of unity. Indeed unity can be said to be the ultimate aim of Bahá'u'lláh: "The fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His Religion is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race, and to foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst men."[78] Since the Bahá'í community claims to be trying to unite the world, it clearly needs to be united itself. The central mechanism for the maintenance of unity in the Bahá'í community is the concept of the Covenant, which was established by Bahá'u'lláh in his writings and at the present time involves the loyalty that each Bahá'í expresses to the Universal House of Justice as the final arbiter of all matters relating to the Bahá'í Faith. One aspect of this doctrine is that, as mentioned above, although Bahá'ís are free to read the Bahá'í scriptures for themselves and come to their own understandings of it, no Bahá'í can claim an authoritative status for his or her understanding. Thus this doctrine of the Covenant acts to counter the tendency, seen among charismatic leaders, especially fundamentalists such as the American televangelists, to maintain that their interpretation is the only valid interpretation of the text.

This focus on unity leads to a number of mechanisms in the community for maintaining unity which have been the particular focus of criticism by Cole and MacEoin. While the elected Bahá'í councils hold the highest level of authority within their respective areas of jurisdiction, there are also a number of individuals appointed as "Counsellors" and "Auxiliary Board members". These individuals tend to be well-experienced Bahá'ís who, although holding no power, are charged with encouraging and motivating Bahá'ís in propagating the religion and also with guarding against disunity and schism. In this latter role, they are sometimes required to speak to Bahá'ís who have been forming factions or cabals around a particular position or claim. This function has led critics of the Bahá'í Faith to accuse these individuals of promoting fundamentalism and uniformity of thought in the community. Cole for example speaks of a "commitment to control of public discourse" on their part[79] and states that "Scriptural literalists, whether of the soft or hard variety, are often promoted within the ranks of the Bahá'í administration, especially to the offices of 'Auxiliary Board Member' and 'Counselor,' and they then use their offices for the promotion of anti-intellectualism."[80] And yet the two individuals whom he describes immediately after this latter passage and whom one would assume are examples of what he has just stated are not in fact Counsellors or Auxiliary Board members. So, although he appears to be giving evidence for his assertion, he has in fact given none.

This aim of world unity is not left as a vague hope in the Bahá'í scriptures. These scriptures acknowledge the many causes of disunity in the world -- poverty, lack of education, the status of women and the numerous forms of prejudice brought about by such factors as differences of race, ethnic group, nationality, religion, class, wealth, levels of education, culture and opinion--and these factors are addressed in the Bahá'í social teachings. One way of addressing these prejudices and creating unity is within the Bahá'í community itself so that the Bahá'í community can act as a model for what it is advocating for the wider society.[81] In the course of the development of the Bahá'í community, its successive leaders have made a point of trying to attract into the community members of different races, religions, cultures, social classes and minority groups. This deliberate policy introduces into the community a great potential for discord as individuals from different cultures, feuding groups, opposing religious backgrounds and incompatible ways of thinking (such as fundamentalists and liberals) enter the community and start to interact with one another in community consultations and activities. This is, however, not seen as a threat but rather as an opportunity to achieve, at the local level, the overall goal of unity. Differences of race and colour, for example, are to be welcomed: "If you meet those of different race and colour from yourself, do not mistrust them and withdraw yourself into your shell of conventionality, but rather be glad and show them kindness. Think of them as different coloured roses growing in the beautiful garden of humanity, and rejoice to be among them."[82] Even differences of opinion, such as that between fundamentalists and liberals, are to be welcomed since someone with a different opinion to oneself may have access to an aspect of the truth concealed from oneself: "Likewise, when you meet those whose opinions differ from your own, do not turn away your face from them. All are seeking truth, and there are many roads leading thereto. Truth has many aspects, but it remains always and forever one. Do not allow difference of opinion, or diversity of thought to separate you from your fellow-men, or to be the cause of dispute, hatred and strife in your hearts. Rather, search diligently for the truth and make all men your friends."[83]

Thus even when there are opposing opinions, this can be a source of creative energy leading to the unfoldment of a higher level of truth: "The shining spark of truth cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions."[84] However this result can only emerge if the "clash of differing opinions" occurs within an overall context of unity. Indeed this passage was written in the context of the process of consultation which is the decision-making process in the Bahá'í community and occurs in an atmosphere set by prayer and concord.[85] `Abdu'l-Bahá says that if there is disunity then no beneficial result will accrue. Indeed he goes further and says that "If they agree upon a subject, even though it be wrong, it is better than to disagree and be in the right." He then explains this by saying that if the decision is wrong and unity is maintained, it soon becomes evident that the decision is wrong and it can be corrected, but if there is disunity, then the social structure itself is destroyed and no benefit can come.[86] In summary then, clashes of opinion, such as those that occur between fundamentalists and liberals, are not viewed as being undesirable; but rather they are seen as opportunities to uncover the truth (by having different aspects of it exposed by people who see things differently) and an opportunity to build unity (through transcending the differences exposed).

The provisions of the Covenant described above prevent the formation of groups within the community based on a platform of action such as a fundamentalist action group. For example, while it is possible for a fundamentalist study circle to operate, if they then tried to turn this study circle into a platform for political action within the community, they would find themselves running up against the mechanisms for preserving unity described above, as indeed happened to what Cole calls the "Iranian-British incarnationist group".[87] Those going too far along such a road would be cautioned by the institutions of the Counsellors and Auxiliary Board members described above and, if they persisted, they might even be sanctioned by the elected institutions. Thus such separatist tendencies, whether at the fundamentalist or liberal extreme, are checked in their early stages and those engaged in them are encouraged to engage with the mainstream of the community rather than maintaining their isolated dialogue with like-minded individuals, since the later path that is seen as likely to end in conflict with the main body and eventually secession. Dialogue, or what is called in the Bahá'í community "consultation", is seen as the best way not only of resolving differences, but of transcending them and creating new levels of unity.[88]

Decentralization, the devolution of power from the centre to the periphery, has been a goal of the Bahá'í administrative system since 1931 when Shoghi Effendi first pronounced it so.[89] In practice, however, as the Bahá'í institutions were being established and developed, they remained firmly under the control of the central leadership of the Bahá'í Faith. In the last three decades, however, there has been a gradual devolution of the responsibility for planning the spread and development of the Bahá'í Faith down from the international level to the national level. And in the last decade, there has been an even more radical and significant structural change in the Bahá'í community. Responsibility for planning growth and development has been devolved down to small clusters of communities and is now done on the basis of local empirical knowledge rather than top-down commands.[90] Cycles of planning-growth-consolidation-reflection create what is called a "culture of learning" at the local level, into which is also fed the "learning" that is going on in other clusters and other countries. At the same time, a programme of study courses (the Ruhi Institute programme) has been developed to encourage individual Bahá'í to move from merely being passive recipients of pastoral care to taking individual responsibility for being involved in the consultative process and administering all aspects of Bahá'í community life.[91]

These developments of devolving authority down to the local level and enabling individual Bahá'ís to take greater responsibility for running the community is of great importance since the Bahá'í Faith has no priesthood or professional religious class. Bahá'u'lláh envisaged a community in which all members were equal with no individuals holding power or authority (even individuals elected onto national or international bodies have no individual authority; all authority rests with the institutions). Since most Bahá'ís have come into the religion from other religious cultures where the ordinary believer is expected to defer to the understandings and instructions of a religious professional, something of the same culture had been present in the Bahá'í community with prominent individuals leading communities. The present programme is aimed at slowly dissolving such hierarchies, which are almost always patriarchal and usually based on wealth, power and knowledge.[92]

These developments have potentially a great effect on fundamentalism in the Bahá'í community since one of the aspects of the Ruhi programme is that it involves group study of the Bahá'í scriptures and encourages all participants to develop their own understandings of them. Since there is no imposed interpretation, some will tend to fundamentalist interpretations will but others will be rationalist. The discussions of these interpretations in the group is a powerful counter to the fundamentalist certainty that there is a single, unchanging, correct, plain interpretation of scripture.[93] The dissolution of hierarchy inherent in the process decreases the chances of any individual accumulating the sort of personal charismatic authority typical of many fundamentalist groups.[94]

Another feature of the present programme initiated by the Universal House of Justice about a decade ago is the fact that Bahá'í communities are being encouraged to have an "outward-looking orientation' and to throw their meetings open to all, especially their devotional meetings, children's classes, junior youth activities and study circles.[95] Part of this involves moving away from a discourse that is particular to Bahá'ís such that Bahá'ís and non-Bahá'ís are holding one conversation. This is again a movement that counters the tendency of fundamentalist groups to encapsulate the life of a believer in a fundamentalist "discursive style" (the epistemic seclusion of a private and isolating discourse) and a fundamentalist "ghetto" (social isolation with all social interaction being with other fundamentalists).[96] The result is a blurring of the boundaries of the Bahá'í community and the creation of what is called a "community of interest", people who are not committed Bahá'ís but who broadly support Bahá'í aims and wish to work with Bahá'ís in achieving these aims.[97]

It should be understood that the above four paragraphs are still more a matter of potential and of aspiration rather than of achievement. The process has only been underway for a little more than a decade and it is really only in the last 5-6 years that most of the Bahá'í community has begun to get behind it. There has been resistance to the change in the community from individuals who were comfortable with the old system, from those who had a great deal of knowledge and experience invested in the old system and from those whose positions of power in the community are threatened by the changes. Thus this democratization of power and responsibility is only in the early stages of its development and its application throughout the Bahá'í world is patchy. One can, however, already see that youth, women, members of minority groups, those who lack eloquence and are poorly educated, exactly the people who remain silent in the hierarchical and patriarchal structures of most social groups, are taking the lead in becoming tutors in the Ruhi courses, cluster co-ordinators (for the core activities that are underway as part of this raising up of human resources) and are among the most energetic and enthusiastic in taking forward these changes.[98] It is too early, however, to make firm judgements about how successful the whole project is in terms of moving individual Bahá'ís across the world into taking responsibility for Bahá'í community life and in removing hierarchical social structures.


In this survey of the Bahá'í Faith in relation to fundamentalism, it has been observed that the Bahá'í community has certain features that would predispose it to fundamentalism: millennialist roots, a desire to see religion return to its focal place in society, and a traditional attitude towards morality, especially sexual morality. Its social teachings are, however, for the most part modern and liberal and its advocacy of globalization and religious non-exclusivity directly contradict basic fundamentalist positions. Thus the Bahá'í Faith does not appear to fit easily into the category of fundamentalism. It has therefore been suggested that it may perhaps be better to move the definition of fundamentalism from a social and theological level to an individual psychological level, seeing it as a cognitive style which see things in black and white terms.

A brief survey of the social dynamics of the Bahá'í community has been conducted looking at features that relate to fundamentalism. It has been pointed out that, although the emphasis on unity and the mechanisms for its maintenance can seem like the forced uniformity of fundamentalist groups, in practice it works differently. Thus, since the Bahá'í community includes a wide range of people form all segments of society in most of the places where it exists around the world, it is inevitable that the community will include people who tend towards fundamentalist thinking as well as those who tend towards a liberal thought. The social dynamics of the Bahá'í community, however, inhibit these fundamentalists from creating a fundamentalist group or movement within the community. Thus fundamentalists are forced to engage with the main body of the community in consultation over the meaning of the scripture as well as by working together in community activities. Since one of the mechanisms that keeps fundamentalism going is to form social enclaves and since prolonged exposure to other points of views tends to break down fundamentalist structures of thought, this means that in the Bahá'í community it is unlikely that fundamentalist groups will be able to sustain themselves for any length of time. Similarly, the programme being developed in the Bahá'ís community presently is designed to dissolve power hierarchies in the community, which will block the emergence of the charismatic leaders typical of fundamentalist groups. These structures and developments may act to make the emergence of fundamentalist groups in the future unlikely.


    1. See for example, Jay Harris's objections to designating Jewish ultra- orthodox movements as fundamentalist, arguing that it is erroneous to subsume a European movement that arose as a reaction to assimilationism under a label used to define an American Protestant reaction to modernism; "'Fundamentalism': Objections from a Modern Jewish Historian," in John S. Hawley (ed.), Fundamentalism and Gender (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), pp. 137-74; and the objections of Bjørn Utvik to the classification of Islamic revivalism as a form of fundamentalism; "Religious revivalism in nineteenth-century Norway and twentieth-century Egypt: A critique of fundamentalism studies", Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, 17:2 (2006), pp. 143-157.

    2. Almond, G., E. Sivan and R. S. Appleby, "Fundamentalism: Genus and Species", in M. Marty and R. S. Appleby (eds.), Fundamentalisms comprehended (The Fundamentalism Project, vol. 5, Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1995, pp. 399-424), pp. 405-7

    3. Said A. Arjomand, "Unity and Diversity in Islamic Fundamentalism", in Marty and Appleby, Fundamentalisms comprehended (pp. 179–198), see pp. 182–185

    4. John S. Hawley (ed.), Fundamentalism and Gender, New York: Oxford University Press, 1994; Charles W. Peek, George D. Lowe, L. Susan Williams, "Gender and God's Word: Another Look at Religious Fundamentalism and Sexism," Social Forces 69/4 (1991), pp. 1205-1221.

    5. Spickard, James V., "Human Rights, Religious Conflict, and Globalisation – Ultimate Values in a New World Order," International Journal on Multicultural Societies, vol. 1, no. 1 (1999), pp. 2-19. (accessed 2 March 2008)

    6. Aubyn S. Fulton, Richard L. Gorsuch and Elizabeth A. Maynard, "Religious Orientation, Antihomosexual Sentiment, and Fundamentalism Among Christians," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 38 (1999), pp. 14-22; and Bruce Hunsberger, "Religious Fundamentalism, Right-Wing Authoritarianism, and Hostility Toward Homosexuals in Non- Christian Religious Groups," International Journal for the Psychology of Religion 6 (1996), pp. 39-49.

    7. Bob Altemeyer and Bruce Hunsberger, "Authoritarianism, Religious Fundamentalism, Quest, and Prejudice." International Journal for the Psychology of Religion 2 (1992), pp. 113-133

    8. Moojan Momen, Bahá'u'lláh: A Short Biography, Oxford: Oneworld, 2007

    9. Peter Smith, A Short History of the Bahá'í Faith, Oxford: Oneworld, 1996

    10. The Bahá'í World 2006-2007 (Haifa: Bahá'í World Centre, 2008), p. 249; cf. The World Christian Database, which has continued the work of the World Christian Encyclopedia, lists the total number of Baha’is as 7,684,618 and lists Baha’is in 220 of 238 countries -- a global spread second only to that of Christianity; Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Leiden: Brill. Available from: http://worldchristiandatabase.o rg/wcd/esweb.asp?WCI¼Results&Query¼1952 (accessed 22.05.07.).

    11. Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh (trans. Shoghi Effendi, Bahá'í Publishing Trust, Wilmette, IL, 1983), p. 250. Most of the Bahá'í scriptural references given in this article can be found at

    12. `Abdu'l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization (Wilmette, IL: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1990), p. 80

    13. `Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace (Wilmette, IL: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1982), pp. 337-8

    14. Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas (Haifa: Bahá'í World Centre, 1978) p. 68

    15. Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith: Messages to America 1947-1957 (Wilmette, IL: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1965), pp. 25-26

    16. Margit Warburg, "Baha’i: A Religious Approach to Globalization," Social Compass 46/1 (1999), pp. 47–56.

    17. See for example, Juan R.I. Cole, "Fundamentalism in the contemporary U.S. Baha’i community", Review of Religious Research 43 (2002), pp. 195-217 (Available from: 2/fundbhfn.htm (accessed 24.06.06); idem, "The Baha’i Faith in America as panopticon (1963-1997)," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 37 (1998), pp. 234-238. Available from: /1999/jssr/bhjssr.htm (accessed 23.06.06); Denis MacEoin, "Bahá'í fundamentalism and the academic study of the Bábí movement," Religion 16 (1986), pp. 57-84.

    18. Cole, "Fundamentalism", p. 197

    19. David G. Bromley, "Sociological perspectives on apostasy: an overview," in D.G. Bromley (ed.), The Politics of Religious Apostasy: The Role of Apostates in the Transformation of Religious Movements (Westport, CT: Praeger), pp. 3-16, see esp. p. 5.

    20. Moojan Momen, "Marginality and apostasy in the Baha’i community" Religion 37 (2007), pp. 187-209

    21. David G. Bromley, "The social construction of contested exit roles: defectors, whistleblowers and apostates", in Bromley, Politics of Religious Apostasy, pp. 19-48, see especially pp. 21-25

    22. Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets, pp. 63-4.

    23. See for example the report "Faith in the City", commissioned by Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1985, which was widely regarded as an effort to place the church in centre stage of the opposition to the policies of Margaret Thatcher's government (see http://www.cofe.anglican .org/info/papers/faithinthecity.pdf, accessed 23 April 2008).

    24. Cole, "Fundamentalism, p. 199.

    25. Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets, p. 27; Moojan Momen, "`Abdu'l-Bahá,s Tablet on the Functioning of the Universal House of Justice", Lights of Irfan, vol. 8 (Evanston, IL: `Irfan Colloquia, 2007), pp. 257-97.

    26. In line with other liberal intellectuals, Cole has a profound dislike of any mixing of religion and government and regards this as evidence of fundamentalism; cf Utvik, "Religious revivalism", p. 153.

    27. Bahá'í World 2005-2006 (Haifa: Bahá'í World Centre, 2007), pp. 93-114. See also, see under "Areas of Work" (accessed 27 April 2008)

    28. Hornby, Helen (comp.), Lights of Guidance: A Bahá'í Reference File (5th ed., New Delhi: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1997), pp. 199, 389, 411, 476-7

    29. Cole, "Fundamentalism", p. 203; MacEoin, "Bahá'í fundamentalism," pp. 61-2

    30. The Universal House of Justice has also lifted the requirement that translation of Bahá'í scripture being published in journals or on the Internet be reviewed at the Bahá'í World Centre, letter of 30 June 1999 to all National Spiritual Assemblies.

    31. "Fundamentalism", p. 412

    32. See for example, I.B. Horner, "The Earth as a Swallower", Artibus Asiae. Supplementum, vol. 23, Essays offered to G.H. Luce by his Colleagues and Friends in Honour of his Seventy-Fifth Birthday (ed. Ba Shin, Jean Boisselier and A.B. Griswold). Volume 1: Papers on Asian History, Religion, Languages, Literature, Music Folklore, and Anthropology, (Zurich: Artibus Asiae, 1966), pp. 151-159.

    33. Stanley J. Tambiah, Buddhism Betrayed?: Religion, Politics and Violence in Sri Lanka (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), pp. 58-60, 129-139; Donald K. Swearer, "Fundamentalistic Movements in Theravada Buddhism", in Martin Marty and R. Scott Appleby, Fundamentalisms Observed (The Fundamentalism Project, vol. 1, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991, pp. 628-690), pp. 647-51.

    34. Denis MacEoin, "A Response to Moojan Momen's 'Marginality and Apostasy'", Religion forthcoming 2008

    35. Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas (Haifa: Bahá'í World Centre, 1992), v. 75, p. 47

    36. Bahá'u'lláh, Kitáb-i-Aqdas, v. 144, p. 72

    37. Margit Warburg, "Baha’i: A Religious Approach to Globalization".

    38. In Cole, "Fundamentalism in the contemporary U.S. Baha’i community". As well as being anecdotal, there are a number of other problems with the data that Cole adduces in this article. Although the article is supposed to be about fundamentalism in the U.S. Bahá'í community, of the various individuals whom he quotes as evidence for his assertions, at least one was not a U.S. Bahá'í (the individual referenced as "SRB 6 July 1997" on p. 205) and there are doubts whether two others were resident in the United States (the individuals referenced as "SRB, Apr 4,1994" on p. 201 and "March 17, 2001" on p. 207; Brent Poirier, personal communication, 4 May 2008). Furthermore, at least one of the references that he gives (talk.religion.bahai 1999/07/28, on p. 209) does not support the point he is making. An example of the highly selective nature of what Cole quotes is the e-mail of the person referenced as "SRB 6 July 1997" on p. 205 which is cut to make it look fundamentalist whereas the writer in fact advocates looking at the scripture scientifically and rationally (Brent Poirier, personal communication, 4 May 2008).

    39. See for example, J.A. McLean, Dimensions in Spirituality: Reflections on the meaning of spiritual life and transformation in the light of the Bahá'í Faith (Oxford: George Ronald, 1994), pp. 39-46

    40. "In such utterances, the literal meaning, as generally understood by the people, is not what hath been intended. Thus it is recorded: 'Every knowledge hath seventy meanings, of which one only is known amongst the people . . .' He also saith: 'We speak one word, and by it we intend one and seventy meanings . . .'" Bahá'u'lláh, Kitáb-i-Íqán: The Book of Certitude (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1989), p. 255

    41. Shoghi Effendi, Bahá'í Administration (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1968), p. 63.

    42. See for example, Universal House of Justice, Messages from the Universal House of Justice 1963-1986 (Wilmette, IL: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1996), p. 547.

    43. Peter J. Khan, "Some Aspects of Bahá'í Scholarship." Journal of Bahá'í Studies, vol 9, no. 4 (December 1999), pp. 43-64, see pp. 46-7.

    44. For example, Cole asserts that Nader Saeidi has "expressed outrage that Bahau'llah's ability to work miracles had been questioned on the H- Bahai discussion list." But Saeidi actually affirms that Bahá'u'lláh, in the work in question, has said that he has not performed certain miracles attributed to him; Saeidi merely points out that Cole's assertion that this means that Bahá'u'lláh has stated that he cannot perform any miracles is an unwarranted assumption; Saedi, "Sahifiy-i Shattiyyih (Book of the River)," Journal of Bahá'í Studies, vol. 9, no. 3 (September 1999), pp. 25-61, see pp. 39-45. See also note 37 above.

    45. See in particular, Ernest R. Sandeen, The Roots of British and American Millenarianism 1800-1930, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970.

    46. Catherine Wessinger, "Millennialism With and Without the Mayhem," in Millennialism, Messiahs and Mayhem, ed. Thomas Robbins and Susan J. Palmer (London: Routledge, 1997), pp. 47-59.

    47. Moojan Momen, "Millennialist Dreams and Apocalpytic Nightmares" in Moshe Sharon (ed.), Studies in Modern Religions, Religious Movements and the Babi-Bahá'í Faiths. Numen Book Series. Studies in the History of Religions. vol. 104 (Leiden: Brill, 2004), pp. 97-116

    48. "My imprisonment doeth Me no harm, nor do the things that have befallen Me at the hands of My enemies. That which harmeth Me is the conduct of my loved ones who, though they bear My name, yet commit that which maketh My heart and My pen to lament." Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 70

    49. `Abdu'l-Bahá, Paris Talks (London: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1995), pp. 45-6, 81; idem, Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 247-8; idem, Selections from the Writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá (Haifa: Bahá'í World Centre, 1978), pp. 29-30, 143; idem in Compilation of Compilations (3 vols. Ingleside, NSW, Australia: Bahá'í Publications Australia, 1991-2000), vol. 1, p. 372; idem, `Abdu'l-Bahá in London (London: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1987), p. 106

    50. Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 22

    51. Seena Fazel, "Religious Pluralism and the Baha’i Faith", Interreligious Insight 1:3 (2003), pp. 42-49; idem, "Bahá'í approaches to Christianity and Islam: Further Thoughts on Developing an Inter- Religious Dialogue", Bahá'í Studies Review 14 (2008) 39-51

    52. George Schöpflin, "The construction of identity." Österreichischer Wissenschaftstag 2001. Published by Österreichische Forschungsgemeinschaft at t/wiss_tag/Beitrag_Schopflin.pdf (accessed 28.06.06).

    53. Udo Schaefer, "Infallible Institutions?", Bahá'í Studies Review, vol. 9 (1999/2000), pp. 17-45, see in particular pp. 30-32. To establish these points, Schaefer quotes from the following writings of Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, pp. 68, 129, 134, and `Abdu'l-Bahá, Will and Testament (Wilmette, IL: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1944), p. 20

    54. This is specifically stated to be an operating principle in a letter from the Universal House of Justice to an individual Bahá'í dated 5 June 1988; available at: (accessed 23 April 2008).

    55. Udo Schaefer, who is a lawyer, lists six enactments that he considers that the Universal House of Justice has made. Four of these relate to institutional arrangements and two relate to the applicability of laws already existing in the writings of Bahá'u'lláh (Udo Schaefer, "Infallible Institutions?", p. 33). The condemnation of female genital mutilation appears in a compilation (dated 16 December 1998), which was entitled "Aspects of Traditional African Culture" and distributed to all Bahá'í national spiritual assemblies in Africa. This may be what Peter Khan, a member of the Universal House of Justice, refers to when he cites this as legislation (Khan, "Some Aspects of Bahá'í Scholarship", p. 51) but it appears to merely more the taking of a position than what would normally be called legislation. There have been a few cases of what is clearly legislation affecting the individual; for example, the ruling by the Universal House of Justice that LSD, peyote and similar substances should be added to the prohibitions on opium made by Bahá'u'lláh and on cannabis contained in a letter of `Abdu'l-Bahá (in Bahá'u'lláh, Kitáb-i-Aqdas, note 170, p. 238).

    56. Cole, "Fundamentalism", p. 208

    57. As described in Robert N. Bellah, Richard Madsen, William M. Sullivan, Ann Swidler, and Steven M Tipton, Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1985), see for example the description of "Sheilaism", pp. 221, 235, and pp. 71-75 on personal fulfilment and privatism.

    58. Shoghi Effendi and the Universal House of Justice in Hornby, Lights of Guidance, pp. 50-60

    59. Cole implies that the member of the Universal House of Justice, Peter Khan, is to be accounted as a fundamentalist (Cole, "Fundamentalism", pp. 205, 206), who wishes "to affirm the existence of ether and the chemical transmutation of elements" (Cole, "Fundamentalism", p. 205). Cole gives as reference for this assertion Peter J. Khan, "Some Aspects of Bahá'í Scholarship," (Journal of Bahá'í Studies, vol 9, no. 4, December 1999, pp. 43-64), p. 63. Khan says nothing at all about ether on that page or any other page of this article and his statement about "transmutation of elements" is against a naive and simplistic reading of this.

    60. Compilation of Compilations, vol. 3, pp. 259-260

    61. Messages from the Universal House of Justice 1963-1986 (Wilmette, IL: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1996), p. 390.

    62. Compilation of Compilations, vol. 2, pp. 355-406

    63. Bahá'í World 2005-2006, pp. 104-6. For an example of a development project, see the Barli Vocational Institute for Rural Women in Indore, India; see (accessed 23 April 2008).

    64. Deborah K. van den Hoonaard and Will C. van den Hoonaard, The Equality of Women and Men: The Experience of the Bahá'í Community of Canada, Douglas, New Brunswick: W. C. and D. K. van den Hoonaard, 2006.

    65. See Dan Sarooshi, "International Law and Peace Between the Nations: The Contribution of the Bahá'í Faith" in Andrew Lewis and Richard O'Dair (eds), Law and Religion, Current Legal Issues vol. 4 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 497-508; Zaid Lundberg, "Global Claims, Global Aims: An Analysis of Shoghi Effendi's The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh," and Wendi Momen, "Globalization and Decentralization: The Concept of Subsidiarity in the Bahá'í Faith," in Margit Warburg, Annika Hvithamar and Morten Warmind (eds), Bahá'í and Globalisation, Renner Series on New Religions, vol. 7 (Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 2005), pp. 175-95; and the articles in Babak Bahador and Naz Ghanea, Processes of the Lesser Peace (Oxford: George Ronald, 2002).

    66. See an account of this relationship at 1-6-0-6.html (accessed 27 April 2008). Also Bahá'í World 2005-2006, pp. 16-18, 93-114, 229-34.

    67. See for example, (accessed 27 April 2008)

    68. `Abdu'l-Bahá, Secret of Divine Civilization (Wilmette: IL: 1990) pp. 97-8; Udo Schaefer, Bahá'í Ethics in Light of Scripture: An Introduction, vol. 1: Doctrines and Fundamentals (Oxford: George Ronald, 2007), pp. 101-112, 150-55.

    69. Hornby, Lights of Guidance, pp. 365-8

    70. Shoghi Effendi, Light of Divine Guidance, vol. 1, p. 55; Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come (rev. ed. Wilmette, IL: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1980), p. 122. For an analysis of the Bahá'í approach to racism, see Richard Thomas, Racial Unity: An Imperative for Social Progress (Ottawa, Ont.: Association for Bahá'í Studies, 1993).

    71. Hema Goonatilake, "Buddhist Nuns: protests, struggle and the reinterpretation of orthodoxy in Sri Lanka," in Judy Brink and Joan P Mencher (eds.), Mixed Blessings: Gender and Religious Fundamentalism Cross Culturally (New York: Routledge, 1997), pp. 25-39; Donald K. Swearer, "Fundamentalistic Movements in Theravada Buddhism".

    72. Richard Hofstadter, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (London: Jonathon Cape, 1974), pp. 118-9

    73. See Herman A. Wikin, "A cognitive-style approach to cross-cultural research," International Journal of Psychology 2 (1967), pp. 233-50; idem, "Psychological differentiation and forms of pathology," Journal of Abnormal Psychology 70 (1965), pp. 317-36

    74. Liam Hudson, Contrary Imaginations; a psychological study of the English Schoolboy, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1967

    75. Michael Baurmann, "Rational Fundamentalism? An Explanatory Model of Fundamentalist Beliefs", Episteme: A Journal of Social Epistemology 4:2 (2007), pp. 150-166, see p. 163; Steve Bruce, Firm in the Faith (London: Gower, 1984), pp. 86-88

    76. Moojan Momen, Understanding Religion, pp. 363-80

    77. Nancy Ammerman, "Accounting for Christian Fundamentalisms: social dynamics and rhetorical strategies" in M. Marty and R. S. Appleby (eds.), Accounting for Fundamentalisms (The Fundamentalism Project, vol. 4, Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1994, pp. 149-70), pp. 150-53. Indeed one of the challenges faced by successive Bahá'í leaders has come from individual Bahá'ís who oppose the authority of the new leadership by claiming that it is radically altering the religion from what has been established by the previous leader; this claim of opponents of the Bahá'í leadership mirrors the words of Almond et al. that "fundamentalists claim to be upholding orthodoxy (right belief) or orthopraxis (right behaviour), and to be defending and conserving religious traditions . . ." ("Fundamentalism", p. 402).

    78. Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh 168

    79. Cole, "Fundamentalism", p. 204

    80. Cole, "Fundamentalism", p. 206

    81. This concept of the Bahá'í community as evidence of the practicality of the Bahá'í teachings and a model of what could be achieved in society as a whole is advanced by the Universal House of Justice in The Promise of World Peace (Haifa: Bahá'í World Centre, 1985), pp. 24-5

    82. `Abdu'l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 53

    83. `Abdu'l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 53

    84. `Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections, no. 44, p. 87

    85. The sentences preceding the "clash of opinions" sentence read: "The members thereof [of the spiritual assembly] must take counsel together in such wise that no occasion for ill-feeling or discord may arise. This can be attained when every member expresseth with absolute freedom his own opinion and setteth forth his argument. Should anyone oppose, he must on no account feel hurt for not until matters are fully discussed can the right way be revealed." `Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections, no. 44, p. 87

    86. `Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahá'í World Faith: Selected Writings of Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1976), p. 411

    87. Cole, "Fundamentalism," pp. 208, 213

    88. This transcending of differences occurs in the context of programmes of action (in areas such as expansion of the religion or social and humanitarian projects) that help to redirect the energies that might be expended in conflict into more creative paths, but this is too large a subject to go into in this paper and not completely relevant; see Michael Karlberg, Beyond the Culture of Contest, Oxford: George Ronald, 2004

    89. Shoghi Effendi, World Order, p. 42

    90. "Given the far-reaching developments occurring at the level of the cluster and as more intensive programmes of growth are launched, decentralization of administrative processes becomes ever more important . . . The main consideration is related to the devolution of the decision making process to the appropriate level of the Bahá’í administration. In practice, this principle applies both to the devolution of decision making by National Spiritual Assemblies to the regional level, and by the Regional Bahá’í Council to the cluster level" (Reflections on Growth, no. 10, Dec. 2005, p. 4).

    91. Universal House of Justice, Turning Point: Selected Messages of the Universal House of Justice and Supplementary Material 1996-2006 (West Palm Beach, FL: Palabra, 2006), pp. 146-7, 175

    92. For a more theoretical discussion of these developments, see Moojan Momen, "Changing Reality: the Bahá'í Community and the Creation of a New Reality", História, Questões & Debates, vol. 22, no. 43, (Jul-Dec 2005), pp. 13-32; also available on-line at: index.php/historia/article/view/7860/5541. See also Karlberg, Beyond the Culture of Contest.

    93. Barr, Fundamentalism (2nd ed, London: SCM, 1981), pp. 40-55, 279-80; Bruce, Firm in the Faith, p. 79

    94. Almond et al., "Fundamentalism", pp. 408, 412-3

    95. Universal House of Justice, letter to the Baha'ís of the World, 17 January 2003, Turning Point, p. 177; International Teaching Centre, Building Momentum, April 2003, Turning Point, pp. 395-6

    96. Baurmann, "Rational Fundamentalism?", pp. 162-3; Steve Bruce, Firm in the Faith, pp. 80-88; idem, Religion in the Modern World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), pp. 141-2; Ammerman, "Accounting for Christian Fundamentalisms," 161-4.

    97. One Common Faith (prepared under the supervision of the Universal House of Justice, Haifa: Bahá'í World Centre, 2005), p. 51; Universal House of Justice, Turning Point, p. 200

    98. The following are from Reflections on Growth (published in Haifa by the International Teaching Centre) which publishes reports from those participating in the process from around the world. A tutor from London: "We no longer need to leave it to the eloquent members of our community. We are invited to acquire eloquence for ourselves" (Reflections on Growth, no. 2, May 2004, p. 3). In Mongolia: "When the youth movement was launched we found that perhaps targeting younger youth who are fresh and open for learning and consistently working with them individually and in groups could be the answer to our challenge of the lack of human resources" (Reflections on Growth, no. 2, May 2004, p. 4). From United States: "Women have appeared to be more receptive . . ." (Reflections on Growth, no. 6, February 2005, p. 4). From Trinidad: "It is the activities of these youth that is giving life to the Bahá'í community" (Reflections on Growth, no. 9, Oct. 2005, p. 5). In Tajikistan, young people from the Roma (gypsy) community have been involved in the programme: "The Roma youth have become inspired and transformed. They are determined to learn and to change. They said they want to become educated people . . ." (Reflections on Growth, no. 11, Mar. 2006, p. 5).

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