Not all forms of prejudice and zeal can be considered bad. For instance, national prejudice and zeal, in times of foreign intervention, is by no means detestable, rather it is necessary. Bahā’u’llāh even detests national prejudice and pride:
“There is no pride in loving ones country, rather [there is only pride] in loving the whole world.”
Reference: Bahā’u’llāh, Ishrāqāt wa chand lauḥ dīgar, pp. 20–21.
`Abdu’l-Bahā further advocates this belief:
“We title every fenced patch [of land] homeland and fancifully call it mother[land], whilst planet Earth is everybody’s mother[land], not this fenced patch. We live a few days on this earth and will finally be buried in it. It is our eternal grave. Is it reasonable to shed blood over this eternal grave and rip each-other apart? Of course not! Neither God is satisfied with nor does any rational person admit [such a thing]. Pay attention to the blessed animals which have no territorial disputes and have complete friendship with one-another and live in groups. For instance, if an eastern pigeon, a western pigeon, a northern pigeon, and a southern pigeon, come together at a single location, they immediately show affection to each other. All blessed animals and birds are like this too. As for predatory animals, as soon as they see each other, they attack and tear one another apart. It is impossible for them to live in a unit land.”
Reference: `Abdu’l-Bahā, Makātīb (Egypt), vol. 3, pp. 105–106.
Are our mother lands just a patch of fenced off earth that we shouldn’t care about?
Should we only care about the earth as a whole?
If a foreign force invades us what do we do?
Should we lay down our arms, and allow them to invade, just like what `Abdu’l-Bahā did when the British invaded Palestine?
History shows that this attitude is not limited to laying down arms and in extreme cases results in serving the enemy. It was because of this attitude that `Abdu’l-Bahā was awarded the title of Knighthood for his service to the invading forces. The same invading forces who in a few years, would lay the foundations for a nation whose very foundations were based on national and tribal prejudice: A Jewish country for a Jewish people. Is this how prejudice is removed?
Baha’is relate `Abdu’l-Bahā’s Knighthood to humanitarian services. This title is given to a person who serves the British Empire, not to someone who provides humanitarian services to people being oppressed under an invading army. What is more ironic, is the fact that the title of knighthood is provided by the invading forces, not the defenders.
This attitude was not only limited to `Abdu’l-Bahā’. During the Russian wars with Persia, Bahā’u’llāh was imprisoned for his alleged role in plotting to kill Nāṣir al-Dīn Shah. In a series of events, whose reason was never revealed, the Russian government exerted pressure on the Iranian government to free Bahā’u’llāh from prison. These efforts bore fruit and Bahā’u’llāh was released after four months. A tablet was revealed by Bahā’u’llāh to thank the Russian government:
“In the days when this Wronged One was sore-afflicted in prison, the minister of the highly esteemed government (of Russia)—may God, glorified and exalted be He, assist him! exerted his utmost endeavor to compass My deliverance. Several times permission for My release was granted. Some of the `ulamās of the city, however, would prevent it. Finally, My freedom was gained through the solicitude and the endeavor of His Excellency the Minister . . . His Imperial Majesty, the Most Great Emperor—may God, exalted and glorified be He, assist him!—extended to Me for the sake of God his protection—a protection which has excited the envy and enmity of the foolish ones of the earth.”
Reference: Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 106
Pay attention to Bahā’u’llāh’s prayers for the Russian government. He asks God, twice, to “assist” the government whose country is invading his homeland! Why? Only because they secured his release from prison. Bahā’u’llāh doesn’t even care that this government is the same government who is responsible for the deaths of thousands of people in his homeland in their bid to conquer it and take over its natural resources. It seems that the only thing he cares about is his own freedom.
Bahā’u’llāh claims that the Russians extended their protection for him “for the sake of God.” One wonders if the Russians truly offered protection for the followers of a group who were inciting civil war in a country that they were at war with, merely “for the sake of God”.
This does not mean that prejudice and zeal are justified in every case. Extreme neutrality is just as problematic as extreme prejudice. Defending one’s country, family, or tribe during certain times of danger does not mean that one should defend every unjust action that happens in it. Clearly this is not a case of black and white.
Should we not have prejudice towards the truth?
Are truth and falsehood the same?
Are the oppressed and the oppressor the same?
When the Nazi’s invaded France in World War II, should the French have laid down their arms and ignored the situation, because the entire earth is their homeland, not just France?
This is a clear example of the classic situation in which, in an attempt to remedy one extreme, someone has fallen into the opposite extreme.
It is up to you to draw your own conclusions!
Courtesy: Twelve Principles – A Comprehensive Investigation on the Bahai Teachings