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United for Baha’i Human Rights (Video)

31 August, 2009

Another thought-provoking video from The Muslim Network For Baha’i Rights.

‘One Tribe’ – keeping music alive?

18 June, 2009

161/365 by liz joffe

'161/365' by liz joffe

“We are one people…” are the words spoken by repeatedly on The Black Eyed Pea’s forthcoming single titled ‘One Tribe’, this is a feel good unifying song reminiscent of their successful hit ‘Where is the love?’. Popular music increasingly tries to formulate universal messages into tracks, interestingly you can flick through a variety of songs from the same artist and find almost contradictory messages e.g. conflict alongside unity. This is pretty much true to situations in everyday life, and for me best understood as two forces that of ‘integration’ and ‘disintegration’.

Putting all my musical dislikes aside with artists promoting mixed messages,  instilling oneness in to music is a real eye-opener, and I firmly believe positivity can reach the same (if not more) listeners than the now well established ‘ring-tone rappers’. Hip-Hop luminary Jay-Z recently celebrated the death of Auto-Tune (a method for altering the pitch of vocals), it seems there is a call for a renaissance in Hip-Hop music from the current over saturated sound, to music which is ‘rawer’ and ‘purer’ (in a good way):

“I know we facing a recession/But the music y’all making gonna make it the great depression!”
(Jay-Z – D.O.A.)

Music remains a powerful medium to unite or divide ‘tribes’, the former being historically far reaching (John Lennon, Bob Marley etc.), and the latter in my opinion simply a product of a fundamentally unequal society. It may not be the great depression just yet for music, but in times of hardships songs of hope do not fall on deaf ears, regardless of  where they appear from.

‘Black Eyed Peas – One Tribe’

Geoffrey Cameron speaks on the denial of education

11 May, 2009

A short interview with Geoffrey Cameron from the Oxford University Baha’i Society on the denial of higher education for the Baha’is in Iran (Moving Pictures).

Little men, big protest

6 May, 2009
Little Man protest; War and Peace. Location Viaduct Harbour, Auckland City

Little Man protest; War and Peace. Location Viaduct Harbour, Auckland City

The world art collective (founded by Shahriar AZ ) returns with a new project which uses the power of inspirational words, while also making us all think about how we perceive public protests. Far more than just a political statement, this is universal art, combining the scope of Internet collaboration (through Facebook and Twitter) while adding some humour to public art sculptures:

Little man protest is about creating miniature style art in public spaces. In this instance they are tiny protesters commenting on the quote, “When a thought of War comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of Peace.” I used a quote of personal reflection with the aim of transforming daily thoughts of negativity into positive thoughts of social action and dialogue. The scale of the artwork has a humour element to it since they are tiny little red men. People viewing it may or may not take it seriously. But the message the artwork conveys with the quote is very real and that message is Peace…

So there you have it, a message of peace is coming to your streets via a peculiar medium, if you have your own ideas for phrases for these pieces feel free to message them to the WA Collectives’ Twitter or Facebook.

Beatbox in you community

10 March, 2009

Young people in London are often feared and associated with anti-social behaviour, so any project that’s working to give them a space for creativity deserves to be explored. How about making a little noise about this issue? How about a little beatboxing to build some bridges?

UK beatboxer Shlomo (of Foreign Beggars) feels that this urban art form can bring an element of social cohesion. In this short piece he talks about the Beatbox Academy Allstars, in which the participants seem inspired from their experiences in learning vocal percussion techniques. I guess the arts can be powerful in affecting the human spirit, a little less anxiety, a lot more hope for these guys certainly.

Pancakes and spirituality

9 March, 2009

After much anticipation Soul Pancake has officially launched, its a website created by Rainn Wilson the guy from the American version of The Office. SP is a social networking site designed for young people to talk about the big questions in life without feeling lame or odd for doing so. It encourages people to ask their burning questions using creative methods, while trying to build a worldwide community who wish to unravel such age old thoughts such as what is the meaning of life? When spirituality can often be such a taboo amongst youth and society at large.

Rainn was recently interviewed by the extremely popular talk show host Oprah on her web cast related to different faiths, its a great video where his Baha’i faith is explored in relation to his attitude to the arts and worship. They also discuss the hope America’s current breeze of change is experiencing with the role of service towards humanity becoming increasingly popular post-Obama inauguration, this is despite a global financial crisis which in many ways is making lots of people question morality and re-investigate the notion of religion.

Rainn on Oprah:

Exploring Spirituality

You may know him as Dwight from NBC’s The Office, but acting isn’t Rainn Wilson’s only passion. Oprah talks with Rainn about his Baha’i faith and his website that allows people to discuss life’s big questions.
Listen to an audio clip | Watch the webcast

Persecution – No laughing matter

26 February, 2009

Whenever a group of people are systematically targeted by a government, it is my view that whatever your occupation or background, you should try to  share the story of those facing hardships with who you can. One such case which is close to my heart is the trial of a group of  Baha’is in Iran, they are denied many liberties because of their religious conviction which differs from the Muslim majority. At present they face charges of espionage which could lead to their execution, even though it has been internationally viewed that they are being held without due process, and that this is all a part of an going persecution.

Now in the United Kingdom, there has been appeals by the government and some high ranked religious leaders, who have spoken out against the unjust trial, but would you believe it that the stand-up comedians have joined this spirit of goodwill? By signing an open letter in defence of the Baha’is published in The Times online, this mirrors a recent commentary from another public entertainment figure, actor Rainn Wilson.  Here is an extract of the article:

The prosecution of the leaders is the latest development in a 30-year-long systematic effort orchestrated by the government to eliminate the 300,000 member Bahá’í community in Iran, where the faith began in the mid-19th century. Documentary evidence has been provided by United Nations agencies on this campaign of religious persecution against Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious minority.The seven detained Bahá’ís had been looking after the basic needs of Iran’s 300,000-strong Bahá’í community after all Bahá’í institutions were banned by the Iranian government following the 1979 Islamic revolution. In the absence of any national governing council, the informal group of seven was formed with the full knowledge of the government who had routine dealings with them.

“As artists who strive to uplift the human spirit and enrich society through our work,” wrote the comedians, “we register our solidarity with all those in Iran who are being persecuted for promoting the best development of society – be it through the arts and media, the promotion of education, social and economic development, or adherence to moral principles.”

Most of the comedians who have signed this letter are ones that I enjoy watching on Live at the Apollo on the BBC, some of which do tackle serious issues such as Omid Djalili (although maybe in more of a comic way), certainly this time it is more of a sobering message of solidarity.  This essentially is  an issue which deals with the basic human right of freedom of belief, I believe this trial can be a thought-provoking talking point to all people who wish to maintain this fundamental principle.

UPDATE: Sky News covers story

Channel 4 News covers the Baha’i trial

18 February, 2009

Check out the closing segment at 18 minutes and 41 seconds in this evenings news piece, it aired on a major TV channel in the UK. It mentions the current persecution of the Baha’i community in Iran, in particular the recent trial concerning the detention of seven of its members.

The reporter interviews prominent human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi, who speaks of her own plight in Tehran and also of the hardships of those she courageously defends. Please visit here for the latest news on the situation concerning the Baha’is.

Update:  Channel 4 news article

Stop religious persecution in Iran

17 February, 2009

The spotlight is increasingly being pointed towards Iran in 2009 in various ways, it seems the world is wondering what their relationship with this somewhat mysterious country should be, and if there is any room for mutual understanding.  After all it is a youthful country (population wise) rich in; cultures, traditions, academics so what about human rights? This is undoubtedly one area where Iran has failed on all accounts, including its international obligations to freedom of belief and expression, take for instance how its religious minorities are systematically persecuted.

This is most apparent with the estimated 350,000 Bahá’ís of Iran, who were severely persecuted following the 1979 Islamic Revolution.  Through the turbulent years that past, this community have been tested in unspeakable ways, recent arrests of prominent Baha’is in Iran have sparked outrage,  after being held for many months without contact with the lawyer who wishes to take their case (Nobel Peace Prize winner) Shirin Ebadi. These seven Bahá’ís are facing charges including allegedly spying for Israel, among other baseless accusations. Nevertheless, these ‘crimes’ which if used to convict these men and women, are punishable by the death penalty in the Iranian Islamic state.

American actor Rainn Wilson added his thoughtful and concise comments on the matter, appearing in the online ‘World – Middle East’ section of  CNN:

Why write about all this now? Well, I’m glad you asked. You see there’s a ‘trial’ going on very soon for seven Baha’i national leaders in Iran.

They’ve been accused of all manner of things including being “spies for Israel,” “insulting religious sanctities” and “propaganda against the Islamic Republic.”

They’ve been held for a year in Evin Prison in Tehran without any access to their lawyer (the Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi) and with zero evidence of any of these charges.

When a similar thing happened in 1980, the national leadership of the Iranian Baha’i community disappeared. And this was repeated again in 1981.

In fact, since 1979, more than 200 Baha’is have been killed, holy places and cemeteries desecrated, homes burned, civil rights taken away and secret lists compiled of Baha’is (and even Muslims who associate with them) by government agencies.

Please blog if you can and contact your local government representative USA or UK.

Stay informed:

  • Baha’i World News Service (Link)
  • Amnesty International’s appeal (PDF)
  • British government’s appeal (Link)
  • American government’s resolution (Link)
  • European Union’s declaration (PDF)

Devon Gundry says “Get Off the Couch”

27 January, 2009

Here’s a great little video aimed at raising awareness of climate change,  it stars musician Devon Gundry ( singer in the ‘Armed’ music video), if you think it should win the Environmental Defense Action Fund’s (info) ‘Climate Activist’s Choice Award’ then vote now!