April 27, 1998

Opinion

Are religion and liberty consistent and compatible?

  Copy of a letter sent to His Excellency President Mohamad Khatami, Tehran, Iran


   We, the American Baha'is, residing in more than seven thousand cities and towns across the United States and representing all races, cultures and ethnic origins in our nation, have listened with great interest to your words addressed to the American people, of which we are an organic part. Your message prompts us to address you directly, because of your expressed dedication to the principles of freedom, justice and the rule of law - principles which, as you noted, are cherished by the American people.
  
   We who enjoy such freedoms hope that our co-religionists in Iran, who have been deprived of them, will be granted their full rights as law-abiding citizens of your nation. We are particularly encouraged by your assertion "that religion and liberty are consistent and compatible." As you said, "Human experience has taught us that prosperous life should hinge on three pillars: religiosity, liberty and justice." These, you concluded, "are the assets and aspirations of the Islamic Revolution as it enters the twenty-first century."
  
   Are the Baha'is of Iran - your nation's largest religious minority - included in these aspirations? Your explicitly stated determination to fulfill the provisions of the Iranian Constitution and to establish the rule of law gives us hope that the freedom of the Baha'i community in Iran openly to practice its religion will be guaranteed. May we not expect, in the light of your commitment to human dignity and freedom, that the United Nations General Assembly Resolution (A/RES/52/142), which calls for the emancipation of the Baha'i community of Iran, will now be implemented?
   The Baha'is of the United States
   Robert Calvin Henderson, Secretary