Meeting of Baha"is Not Banned; Participation From Outside Community Refused

AKEED, Husam Assal

Media outlets reported over the weekend a decision by Amman Governor Saad Shihab on banning a ceremony by the Baha"i community on the 200th anniversary of the birth of the founder of Baha"ism under the rubric "Interfaith Harmony." Meanwhile, Baha"i sources said that the ceremony was not banned; however, the governor rejected inviting people from outside the community. 

The media handled the incident as a case of banning the ceremony. It highlighted this in its headlines and news content:

Ceremony by Followers of Baha"i Faith in Amman Banned

Shihab Bans Ceremony by Baha"is in Amman

Amman Governor Bans Ceremony for Baha"is on Birth of Baha"u"llah

Interior Ministry Prevents Bahai"is From Marking Anniversary of Sect Leader

The Jordanian Media Credibility Monitor (AKEED) contacted an informed Baha"i source, who preferred anonymity. The source said that the Baha"i community members submitted a request to the Amman governor for holding a ceremony under the motto "Inter-Faith Harmony" on the 200th anniversary of the birth of Baha"u"llah, founder of Baha"ism, on 28 October. However, the Amman governor told them orally, and not in writing, that inviting friends from outside the community to take part in the ceremony was not allowed. The source noted that "a number of Muslim and Christian clerics, as well as opinion leaders and enlightened persons, were invited to the event. The governor did not approve of this, but he did not ban the whole ceremony."

The source added that "the members of the community did not hold the ceremony, as was scheduled. They simply commemorated the occasion with their friends and neighbors. The ceremony was scheduled to be held at a Baha"i center that has long been known to the state, and not at a public venue."

One of the members of the Baha"i community told AKEED that the ceremony "was not held because its substance was stripped by the governor"s decision not to invite the friends that were to be invited," adding that the ceremony "was initially banned, and was then allowed without inviting friends."

The AKEED Monitor contacted Amman Governor Saad Shihab to inquire about the nature of the decision. However, he preferred not to answer, saying: "The subject of the ceremony is over."

The Baha"i source told AKEED that there were contacts with the media to correct the published mistake, but many media outlets withdrew the correction that was sent after publishing it.

One website published a headline that was clearer than other websites: "Shihab Bans Holding Open Public Ceremony for Baha"is in Amman, Confines Ceremony to Baha"is Only." However, the body of the news item stated that "it is common knowledge that Baha"is in Jordan are an unlicensed and illegal movement." This is incorrect because it is not a political movement or association that requires licensing; it is a religious community.

Some websites published the clarification that was sent by those overseeing the ceremony (Interfaith Harmony) without referring to the paragraph that talks about the Baha"i ceremony on this occasion, while some other websites referred to information about the content of the clarification, but kept the headlines that spoke about the governor banning the ceremony.