A Brief History of Douglas Martin, Member, Universal House of Justice

by Juan Cole, one of his victims

31 January 2000

Doug Martin told John Walbridge and several other Baha'is in the early 1980s that he viewed me as a covenant breaker. I was at the time a Baha'i in good standing, a former pioneer in Lebanon and Jordan, a travel teacher, studying at UCLA with the son of a Hand of the Cause. It is absolutely outrageous that he was making such charges then, but this is the way he has behaved all along. I presume that he confuses thinking creatively or academically with breaking the Baha'i covenant, an attitude that I think qualifies him as a fundamentalist, or perhaps even a cultist.

This was at a time when he was powerful in the Association for Baha'i Studies and had read some of the materials I submitted to it, as well as corresponding with me about a particular issue. He gave a talk in Canada about the faith in which he advocated Israeli control of Jerusalem. Unbeknownst to him, this talk was taped by the conference organizers, who assumed it was his conference paper submission, and they typed it up and printed it in a book published in India. I discovered the book and wrote him a protest that he was involving the faith in politics in a big way. (The status of Jerusalem is still undetermined in international law). He explained that he had not intended for his remarks to be published. I now realize that he must have been petrified that I might use this incident to discredit him, since of course behind the scenes that is the way he himself has behaved throughout his entire Baha'i career. In fact, I let it go. He nursed a grudge against me thereafter. This Jerusalem talk was typical of the kind of fundamentalist "Zionism" he espouses, along with a lot of other wacky ideas like the world changing dramatically in the year 2000. (How will he backpedal about *that*?) There isn't much difference between his discourse and that of someone like Jerry Falwell. Note that like the rightwing "Christian Zionists," Martin actually does not mean the Jewish people particularly well, since he just wants to convert them to his religion. His "Zionism" is a use of them for his own, fundamentalist and apocalyptic purposes.

In fact, putting the Canadian clique of Martin, Hatcher and Danesh in charge of the Association for Baha'i Studies in the late 70s and through the 80s was clearly a strategic move on the part of some conservative House members of the time. That clique had no academic credentials in the humanities or social sciences and they so mismanaged the organization that they alienated from it most of the real academics and intellectuals. They provoked the resignation of the California regional committee of the ABS in the mid-80s, and when John Walbridge protested their policies Martin had him fired from the ABS board. When [Gerald] travelled around Europe and made up a directory of Baha'i scholars in Europe, he showed it to Martin, who harshly criticized him for taking the initiative and so hurt his feelings that he left the faith for ten years.

Martin also wrote fierce editorials in the Canadian Baha'i newsletter in the mid-1980s viciously attacking Kalimat Press's Circle series of intellectual explorations of peace, gender equality, etc., for daring suggest that these were "Baha'i" views. As big Honcho in ABS he often rejected paper submissions for being insufficiently fundamentalist, and this happened to a number of bona fide Baha'i academics. He saw ABS as a way of *controlling* rather than nurturing "Baha'i Scholarship." In the late 1980s he had Abbas Amanat out to speak at an ABS convention in Canada. He was very pleasant to Abbas's face. But when Abbas left he conducted a kvetching session with the rightwing Baha'i fundamentalists in the audience who had been enraged by Abbas's academic talk. There is a Hindi-Urdu proverb that someone has a dagger hidden under their arm but keeps chanting the name of Ram in public. (Baghal men~ churi, mun~ men~ Ram Ram.)

In 1990 or '91 Martin was brought to Haifa by his buddies on the UHJ to be a publicist for it, and this was read by the NSA members as a signal that the UHJ viewed him as electable to that body. He was also in a prominent position to subtly lobby NSAs. We heard from a Polish Baha'i that their NSA beseeched him for a reply to a Christian critique of the faith in the early '90s and he obliged. There was 9 votes, right there. The NSA members dutifully put him on in 1993, along with Farzam Arbab, who had been brought to the ITC. A shift occurred after 1983 in UHJ elections whereby only appointees of the House were thereafter elected, rather than the members coming from NSAs as had earlier been the practice. I cannot explain this shift except to say that as a social scientist it strikes me as likely to have been engineered behind the scenes rather than being an accident. Since most of the people appointed by the UHJ have been hardliners, this change has allowed arch-conservatives to capture the UHJ.

In 1994-96 when talisman@indiana.edu started up, Martin, Arbab and Semple were constituted as a subcommittee of the UHJ charged with monitoring talisman and the Western Baha'i academics. In fact, of course, there was nothing in the slightest wrong with having a Baha'i discussion list or posting email messages on it. They viewed this as a *crime* in the making! They early on wanted to crack down on us, but were cautious about the possible backlash. By spring of 1996 they had decided to have us accused behind the scenes of breaking the covenant (which was, as they knew very well, ridiculous). Since this had been Martin's line since the early 1980s, it is likely to have been his idea. It was, of course, a disaster for the intellectual development of the faith, though since we really have the faith's best interests at heart it hasn't been as much a disaster as it could have been.

The 1997 expulsion of Michael McKenny from the Canadian Baha'i community (apparently for the crime of holding enlightened views and speaking them on email) is almost certainly also the work of Martin, who has the Canada portfolio on the UHJ.

So, behind the scenes, this man has played a very sinister role in making the administration of the faith inhospitable to intellectual and spiritual exploration of the sort Baha'u'llah clearly desired for us. He has taken what should have been an open-minded faith and made it a crucible for inquisition. Martin doesn't know a word of Arabic or Persian, and has a limited intellectual range. He has by his charisma managed to rise to a number of high offices and has employed double dealing, smear campaigns, behind the scenes threats, and blackballing to shape Baha'i culture in his own misshapen image.

Now, of course, I regret, as a Baha'i, having to speak this way about a fellow Baha'i, but his behavior over 20 years has been so egregious as to leave me, in the end, no choice. However, I will say that he is not beyond redemption, as none of us are. It is not too late for him to reconsider, to repent, to begin *actually* playing the sort of positive role in Baha'i thinking that he has *pretended* in public to play for so long. His actions have profoundly damaged the Cause of Baha'u'llah. It can survive him, but does he really want that to be his epitaph? And my hand of friendship is waiting to be outstretched toward him, should I see that he has genuinely re-thought his past actions and wishes to make amends. It is his choice.

cheers Juan

[P.S. I attach some emails about Martin's activities that I have received through the years. A typical Baha'i apparatchik, stabbing people in the back and gathering power in his hands through subterfuge. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

To: "Juan Cole" <jrcole@umich.edu>

Subject: RE: infallibility

Date: Fri, 29 May 1998 21:20:45

Dear Juan,

Yes, the thought that Doug Martin [is infallible] would lead you to uncontrollable fits of laughter is understandable.

What astounds me is the Zen-like humor of the Godhead. When the gentleman in question went from being the secretary of the Canadian NSA to the International Teaching committee, I thought that it was a question of "up and out". Boy, was I wrong!

At one point I was informed that the only way to get anything on the agenda of the Canadian NSA was to go though Doug, I realized how screwed up things were. He effectively ran the Canadian Bahai community. His biases formed the policy of the Canadian NSA, whether the other members of the NSA were aware of it or not. Assemblies learned to approach him via assemblies that were for some odd reason, in favor. It was a subtle dynamic. However if an assembly really needed something done they had to approach an individual on certain other assemblies in order for these ideas to eventually be seen by Doug.

Take care,

 

 

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At 04:14 PM 3/16/98 +0500, John Walbridge wrote:

. . . Back in about 1982, [Gerald] was a young scholarship groupie . . . I remember doing Sufi dancing with among others him and Steve Scholl on the lawn of Green Acre. Anyway, he wanted to be involved with ABS scholarly activities. He went to Europe, traveled around, met all the aspiring scholars there, and wrote a very detailed report on Baha'i scholarly activity in Europe, telling what everybody was up to. I thought it was rather useful myself; it was the days before the European and American Baha'i academics had had very much contact. I still have a copy of it somewhere.

He presented this thing to the ABS board, hoping for some thanks and I think seeing himself as a sort of contact person between the Europeans and Americans. Doug hit the roof, complaining loudly that no one had asked him to do that and making it clear that he should not speak until spoken too. There was some administrative principle at stake, although what it might have been, God only knows. I think a letter to that effect was probably sent to [Gerald]. It seemed churlish to me, since the report struck me as useful. Even if it wasn't, a politely hypocritical letter wouldn't have cost us anything. [Gerald] seems to have slunk away and soon after left the Faith for a good many years. He seems to have returned chastened . . .

 

 

 

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Date: Sun, 22 Mar 1998 21:42:08 -0700

Subject: Re: Files

 

Yes, your reporter's [account] seems to be what I recall. I did not know all the details about who at ABS flipped out over his report. Danesh, Hatcher and Martin often seemed to be one-in-the-spirit and they loved to knock down any of us young upstarts who tried to do anything at all. My first Bahai interrogation came at their hands, when the NSA/ABS sent Hatcher to "chat" with me when I was at McGill.

But, as I mentioned, I think [Gerald's] exodus was more complicated than just being upset with ABS. After all, he still had supporters among his peers who would have given him a clearing space to vent and be welcomed. . . . I suspect, but have no inside knowledge, that he felt that his academic prowess was suspect as well and so he left Baha'i studies circles for several years to focus on his music career. This led him to his marriage to a non-Baha'i and it seems that he only returned to Bahai after this marriage ended.

 

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Date: Thu, 20 Jun 1996 22:33:40 -0500 (EST)

From: jwalbrid <jwalbrid@indiana.edu>

Subject: Re: Status Quo Ante Hardly

I think I wrote up the events for my own benefit at the time, but I don't know where they are. What happened is this, to the best of my memory.

I was appointed to the Board of ABS in 1980 as the first US representative. There were a number of problems with people in California, [T] notable among them. At any rate, the Board eventually decided to seize the nettle and set up a California committee consisting of {BP], [T], and the [B's]. The California committee then wanted to do a conference on Baha'i history, a touchy topic in the aftermath of the West LA Deepening Class and the defection of MacEoin.

This caused a great deal of debate on the Board. What is worse, [BP] wanted to have an anti-nuclear peace conference--in effect, thinking up the Peace Message two years before the House of Justice did. The ABS Board was terrified of losing control in California--at least the Canadians were; I didn't much care. I made two trips to California, the second one at least with Doug Martin, to try to iron things out.

After the second trip, we had a very tense Board meeting at which we ironed out a complicated compromise on how to handle the situation. At that time, I was living in Upper Michigan and had to take this grueling six-leg plane trips to get to and from the meetings in Ottawa, usually involving lost luggage, late or missed flights, or both. The meetings usually petered out on Sunday morning, so for once I decided I would leave at lunch. After lunch, Doug and Bill Hatcher decided to reopen the issue, and the decision was changed after I left in ways that everybody knew I would not have agreed with. I heard about it a couple of days later when I called the ABS office about something else. I was livid and demanded that the issue--whatever exactly it was--be reopened since such a decision should not have been made without consulting me. I heard nothing more, and called [the secretary] back a week or two later. "Oh," she said, "Doug talked to Firuz, and your NSA agrees with him." In fact, this was not true, but it was too late to do anything about it. The California regional committee was dissolved.

There was an aftermath too. I called [the secretary] a month or two later about some routine item of business and asked her when the next Board meeting was scheduled for. "Don't you know?" she asked. "Your NSA has replaced you." I called Firuz, who was the secretary that year, and he said, "I'm very sorry. I had been meaning to call and tell you."

When Hossain Danesh made his annual report to the ABS meeting that year, there was no mention of the California events or of me, for that matter . . .

john

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Date: Sat, 22 Jun 1996

Subject: Re: ABS California Committee Redux

As I recall, the ABS Ex. Bd. was not satisfied with disbanding the committee. After the History Conference went forward under the aegis of the LA Assembly, they went to the US NSA and asked them to suppress the conference. The NSA, primarily I suspect out of a sense of territoriality (and also because there was no love lost between Doug Martin and Firuz Kazemzadeh), refused, saying that they saw no reason to intervene in the affairs of an LSA. Still, Firuz Kazemadeh declined an invitation to attend himself, while Danesh and Martin actively and publicly campagined against the conference.

I believe that the "Central Committee," as I liked to call it, planned all of the regional conference for the first few years until the local committees had proven themselves. But they still might intervene to change the program. When I was invited to speak at a conference in the Northwest region in the 1980's, someone on the committee called me one day before the conference to say that my paper had been cancelled because of a reference to "Babi uprisings" in the introduction--I was informed in no uncertain terms that there were no Babi uprisings. Someone on the committee, it turned out, had complained to friends in Ottowa after the invitation (with a promise of airfare and accomodations) had been issued. Never mind that the term was not even in the shortened version of the paper that I planned to deliver there--somehow, because I would harbor such an idea, my ideas were tainted and therefore I shouldn't be allowed (let alone invited) to speak. After that I didn't see much point in participating in ABS, which I presume is precisely what the Central Committee wanted.

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Date: Tue, 17 Dec 1996 09:36:50 +0800 (HKT)

Subject: Re: jilted and scorned

On Mon, 16 Dec 1996, X wrote:

> The publishing thing seems to be a particularly ingrained bee in the bonnet
>for the US NSA. When George Ronald was founded (with Shoghi Effendi's
>'connivance') the US NSA wrote to the British NSA and lectured them in very
> sharp terms about the unwisdom of permitting this and how they would
>never permit any publication of Baha'i materials that was not under their direct control.

More than "connivance," GR was started with SE's encouragement and personal financial support--primarily, I gather, because the BPT was totally incompetent. The former manager of the BPT use to delight in tellling about how the US NSA tried to suppress GR at a time when Shoghi Effendi was so supportive of the endeavor.

It is true that the publishing issue has been almost an obsession with the NSA, though I am not sure why. When a Baha'i in Oregon reprinted the Song Celestial in the 1960's he was told by the NSA that he could not distribute the book within the Baha'i community, although it had passed review. And the US NSA has made numerous attempts to control the distribution of Kalimat (and, I think 1 or 2 GR) books that they did not like, as did the Canadian NSA under Doug Martin.

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On Tuesday, 18 Feb 1997 I received a message reporting that on a BBC broadcast, Douglas Martin said that the proof of the truth or falsity of the Bahaíis faith would be that universal peace would arrive by the year 2000. It was pointed out that since Martinís faith seems to rest on such matters, he might be forced into apostasy by the next war. J

 

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Date: Tue, 1 Apr 1997

Re: Danesh resigns over sex charges

On Tue, 1 Apr 1997, X wrote:

>Martin must have arranged the cushy Landegg position to get Danesh out >of the hot seat in Canada . . . The old boy network forgives anything >but sass.

I was not aware there were *three* patients involved in this complaint; I thought there was only one (who was a Baha'i). Danesh was actually given an opportunity to give his version of these events at the Canadian Baha'i National Convention; his accuser received no such opportunity.

[I have heard of an alleged] instance in which Danesh leaked confidential information gleaned from therapy sessions with a patient to the Baha'i World Centre personnel office (as a member of the NSA), which itself is a serious violation of professional ethics.

 

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Date: 01 Apr 97 11:48:39 BST

Subject: Re: mischief

 

There is little doubt that Martin set up Danesh with the Landegg job. You may also note that the UHJ have written letters in support of Danesh's crap *Applied Spirituality* course there. The problem is Landegg's programme. Notwithstanding the fact that he (and usually a family member) speak at EVERY course, there seem to be a liberal sprinking of NSA members invited to speak . . there were NSA members flown in from Brazil, America, Canada. He invited the whole of the UK NSA there a few months ago for a seminar on consultation. People less cynical than me may say that he is campaigning.

Clever he is - to ingratiate himself further with Haifa, he invites family members . . .

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Date: Tue, 27 Aug 96

Subject: house members

 

I think Bill Hatcher is another one that was highlighted for membership [on the UHJ], but for the same reasons, delegates refused him. During the time of the peace statement, it became widely known that Hatcher, Martin and Kazemzadeh were the 3 persons who wrote that statement -- of course this info was leaked by Haifa itself.

Hatcher is young enough that he might still make it, though its also widely known that he has heart problems.

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Date: Sat, 27 Apr 1996

Subject: Impact of Talisman

I don't think that there is any doubt that Talisman is having an impact. When X was in Haifa a few months ago, she questioned by two different House (Peter Kahn and Douglas Martin) about Talisman, and they particularly wanted to know how *she* and her twenty-something Baha'i peers viewed it . . . it is more of an indication about the state of the Baha'i Community than about the nature of the discussions. Talisman should not be a such a big issue, but the fact is it is.

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Date: 23 Aug 96

Subject: Snooping around

[Iíve heard that] someone on the House has asked Hussein Danesh to find out what you guys are up to, and in particular what the discussions on the Birkland matter were leading to on IRFAN.

 






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