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The University of Haifa Lectures in Bahá’í Studies

Edited By Soli Shahvar

This volume brings together a selection of essays from the Lecture Series in Bahá’í studies at the University of Haifa. Each chapter explores an aspect of the Bahá’í religion, including its history, community, culture and theoretical perspectives on contemporary issues. The authors discuss topics including the family and descendants of the Báb (founder of the religion from which the Bahá’í Faith emerged), the influential role of Bahá’í schools in the modernization of education in Iran, the process of introducing the law of monogamy into the Iranian Bahá’í community, early connections between Swiss citizens and Bahá’ís in the Middle East, the rich and varied landscape of Persian Bahá’í poetry, and the role of African Americans in the development of the US Bahá’í community, particularly with regard to race relations and the principle of the oneness of humanity. Also presented in this volume are Bahá’í perspectives on contemporary topics including changing conceptions of work and work values, the role of apologetics in interfaith dialogue, and the issue of ‘defamation of religions’ in international human rights discourse. This book will be of interest to readers in various disciplines in the humanities and social sciences who want to become informed in more depth about a wider range of topics in the emerging field of Bahá’í studies.
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2. The Bahá’í Schools and the Modernization of Education in Iran

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From the end of the nineteenth century until the middle of the 1930s, in cities, towns and villages across Iran, dozens of schools were opened by the members of the Bahá’í Faith. Although these schools represented a significant contribution to the modernization of education in Iran, none of the studies on the topic of educational reform in Iran mentions a single Bahá’í school among the hundreds of schools that were established during the same period. While the studies discuss schools founded by other religious and cultural organizations, they are silent on the presence of the Bahá’í schools that existed throughout the country. Even when the names of a few are mentioned, they are not identified as Bahá’í schools.

Similarly, with respect to the wider subject of reform in Iran, few if any references to Bahá’í reformist ideas or to the Bahá’í community itself can be found in the literature, although the Bahá’ís were in effect the only sizeable community in the country that not only advocated social reform, modernization and constitutional democracy but that also practised these principles – not only by establishing modern schools as the basis for a modern society but also through the democratic methods used within its own community and its emphasis on the importance of education for girls. To understand the phenomenon of the Bahá’í schools in Iran – their establishment, development and distinctive characteristics – as well as the opposition to their existence and...

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