[Translator’s notes appear in square brackets.]

[Personal information has been redacted.]

[The excerpt below is from the section of the article that pertains to the Baha’i Faith]


[Adapted from website:] Radio Farda

[Date:] 14 Mehr 1388 [6 October 2009]


Iran / Social

A Group of Muslims Defending the Baha’is in Cyberspace

Arash Alborzi

The Muslim Network for Baha’i Rights is a virtual group that recently created an animated video about the situation of Baha’i citizens in Iran.

The group operates within the framework of the Middle East [Mideast] Youth website. This site covers the issues of different ethnicities, religions, genders, minorities, etc., in the Middle East and tries to support freedom of expression and human rights in this region. Esra’a Al-Shafei, a 22-year-old Bahraini woman who founded the site last year won an award from Harvard University for using the Internet as a tool to influence society.

Radio Farda spoke with Esra’a Al-Shafei about the Muslim Network for Baha’i Rights and the group’s new animation.

Radio Farda: “Ms. Al-Shafei, why and when was the Muslim Network set up to defend the Baha’is? What are the goals of this group?”

Esra’a Al-Shafei: “The Muslim Network for Baha’i Rights was established in June 2007. The reason for this group was that many Baha’is are being persecuted and abused in Muslim countries, and it is our duty as Muslims to defend their rights. Because of the sensitivity of the issue, there have been few protests against violation of the human rights of the Baha’is. This must change, and we Muslims must support them. If only Baha’is work for their rights, there is little hope of their success.

“I launched the Muslim Network for Baha’i Rights because I believed that I was not the only Muslim to believe in it. In a short time, Muslims from all over the world joined us to defend the rights of the Baha’is, saying that Islam does not agree with the violation of the rights of the Baha’is.”

[Radio Farda:] “Do you have any Iranian members in this network?”

[Esra’a Al-Shafei:] “Yes, we have Iranian members and supporters. They sometimes write about it or translate articles, videos or blog posts. The number of Iranian Muslims joining us is growing.”

[Radio Farda:] “Do you support other minorities as well?”

[Esra’a Al-Shafei:] “The Muslim Network for Baha’i Rights is one of the (mideast.com), or Middle East Youth projects that advocates for Kurds, migrant workers, and intellectuals from all walks of life. We insist on the human rights of religious and ethnic minorities in the Middle East.”

[Radio Farda:] “How did Muslims react to this project?”

[Esra’a Al-Shafei:] “At the beginning of the project, the reactions were negative and some accused us of spying and infidelity. But gradually the reaction of Muslims became more and more positive and it became clear to them that these people are innocent and are fighting for their own rights. Of course, there are still those who send us negative comments, and one of the reasons for such an attitude is the Muslims’ misunderstanding of the Baha’is, because they associate them with Zionism and even Satanism. However, I am sure that the more people know about reality, the more that way of thinking will change.”

[Radio Farda:] “Why did you choose animation to recount the problems of the Baha’is in Iran?”

[Esra’a Al-Shafei:] “Animation is interesting and can attract a lot of attention. We live in an age where many people get tired of reading; there is a war going on in the Internet and everyone wants to inform others of their news and get attention, so we are looking for creative ways to attract people. With animation and music we can attract many people, especially youth.”