Blogging about football shows limits to inter-faith understanding

A recent post on Barney Leith’s blog Barnabas quotidianus exemplifies what I think is the great Baha’i double standard. Baha’is talk about the need for understanding other religions, but in practice they fail dismally to do so.

In his post, Mr. Leith describes an inter-faith conference between Christian clergy and Muslim imams in Norway. There was supposed to be a football (i.e. soccer) match at the end, but the Muslims objected to the presence of women on the Christian team. The Christians obligingly planned to have only men on the team, but the women clergy were angry at being left out. So they called off the match. The Muslims objected for a pretty straightforward reason. They regard co-ed athletics to be immodest.

Barney quotes some stuff from Baha’u’llah and concludes

So, the purpose of religion is not to defend outmoded traditions. As we go further into the 21st century, we can no longer say, “If it was good enough for your father, it’s good enough for you”

That’s a very patronizing statement. No attempt to explain where the Muslims were coming from. Just a dismissive conclusion: the Muslims objected to the co-ed match because they blindly follow tradition.

Mr. Leith evidently thinks that Muslim imams can’t think for themselves. He doesn’t consider the possibility that they gave this a lot of thought and decided for themselves that mixing the genders in this way in inappropriate.

Both Muslims and Baha’is place a high priority on modesty and the propriety of behavior between men and women. There are certain activities that are just not appropriate in mixed company. Muslims and Baha’is will agree on this in principle. In how this principle is applied, however, there will be some differences.

Now, how do we decide how to apply this principle? Muslims and Baha’is have the same answer to this: defer to an authority who lived in the past. Muslims defer to the Qur’an, to the collections of reliable hadiths and to the decisions of jurisprudents. Baha’is defer to the writings of Baha’u’llah, Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi.

Do you see the difference? I don’t. So it strikes me as rather hypocritical of Mr. Leith to criticize the Muslims for their decision on what they regard as a moral issue. Baha’is wouldn’t make the same decision, but they would arrive at a decision in the same way.


3 Responses

  1. Thanks for this post. I read this same piece by Barney a while back and also had difficulty with it. Your point is a good one.

    I’ve just found your blog and am glad to see it.


  2. The Baha’i Faith is the teenager of religion. And like a teenager, It thinks it knows everything and understand the truth better than old people. Old people are just stupid people who are set in their ways. They’re not in with “the times”, and before they know it–they have turned 40 themselves and are saying the same things to their teenage children that were said to them when they were that age.

  3. ” The fruits that best befit the tree of human life are trustworthiness and godliness, truthfulness and sincerity; but greater than all, after recognition of the unity of God, praised and glorified be He, is regard for the rights that are due to one’s parents.”~Baha’u’llah

    I don’t see it as patronizing to call for a reasoned justification to why women weren’t allowed to join a soccer match, and given papal statements accusing Muhammad of spreading religion by the sword, I’m left scratching my head as to how the Baha’is who regard the Qur’an as a sacred book are the one’s being accused of interfaith intolerance towards Muslims.

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