I’ve found something else to consider in the “punishment” of Dr. Houshang Ma’ani. Upon researching the Baha’i administrative rights, I have found something very interesting. The sanctions imposed upon a Baha’i when their administrative rights are removed can include the following: voting rights, participation in the Nineteen Day Feast (most similar to a weekly church attendance for those who don’t know), serving on assemblies (Local, National), serving on committees, representing the Baha’i Faith in public, and contributing to the Baha’i Faith Fund. There may be more that I am unaware of at this time, but those are the sanctions I was able to find reference to… from a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice.
First… what is the Universal House of Justice? It is the highest governing spiritual body in the Baha’i Faith. Simply put, it would be similar to the Pope… but with several members and not the kind of tyranny the Pope seems to dispense.
Second… one of the administrative rights that would be removed (when all are removed) is contributing money to the Baha’i Fund – money that the National Spiritual Assembly uses for whatever they feel is necessary to assist the Baha’i Faith. Dr. Ma’ani was a wealthy man and, undoubtedly, contributed quite a bit of money over the time of his life. It is also very likely, as he was known to be quite the philanthropist, that he willed money to the Baha’i Faith (as many Baha’is are said to do) – although, that is just idle imagining. Meaning, if Dr. Ma’ani died without his Baha’i administrative rights, he could not contribute even a dime to the Baha’i Faith through his will.
I am making no accusations. I am merely taking another look at the sequence of events and creating a personal hypothesis of what transpired during the last several months. Did the National Spiritual Assembly sell their souls (and mine) for money?
November 2011 – I reported the sexual assault to my Local Spiritual Assembly. They sought advice from an Auxiliary Board Member via her assistant. The advice given was to contact the National Spiritual Assembly about the matter.
November/December 2011 – The Local Spiritual Assembly procures two apologies from Dr. Ma’ani regarding my claims. Neither letter admitted any wrongdoing on his part… just an apology that I was upset about what happened.
Late December 2011 – The LSA met with me to reveal the apology letters and ask what I wanted to do from there. It was decided to contact the National Spiritual Assembly and forward requests I had in the matter (a proper apology, protection from backlash from the Baha’i community, acknowledgment of any other assaults he had perpetrated)
January 2012 – The Local Spiritual Assembly wrote a letter to the NSA explaining everything and including the letters from Dr. Ma’ani and me regarding the assault.
April 2012 – The National Spiritual Assembly hands down (to the LSA) their original decision to remove administrative rights.
May 1, 2012 – Dr. Ma’ani writes to the NSA to beg their forgiveness. It is unclear as to when the NSA actually read this letter.
May 11, 2012 – The Auxiliary Board Member meets with Dr. Ma’ani to explain his administrative rights have been revoked by the National Spiritual Assembly. She reports back to the NSA that he is gravely ill. (and from what I understand, his privileges were not revoked at this time)
May 16, 2012 – The NSA writes to the Local Spiritual Assembly again to reverse their previous decision. Two sanctions are placed on Dr. Ma’ani instead (not serving on a Baha’i institution, no unsupervised contact with minors at Baha’i activities.***)
June 18, 2012 – After finding out the decisions made by the NSA, I write to them to express my concerns with how they handled the issue.
August 10, 2012 – Many attempts at contact later… the NSA finally responds to me. Summed up, the letter reads as follows:
We read your letter. We’re sorry you were assaulted. We’re sorry we took a long time to contact you. We don’t like how you were treated 15 years ago and we’ve changed things. We’ve dealt with this case very swiftly and harshly despite Dr. Ma’ani’s ill health. Then, he apologized to us. All religions want us to be better people. So, when he said “sorry” and we knew he was dying, we reinstated his rights. If he hadn’t been dying, we would have left the punishment as acknowledgment of his crimes and to warn others not to do this. We thought telling the truth to the community was unnecessary as he would soon be dead. But, we meant to write to you before now. We know you are hurt and can’t forget, but please try to. You can be angry with Dr. Ma’ani, but remember God will do with him as He sees fit. The worst thing is, you didn’t participate in Baha’i functions [such as parties, spiritual meetings and contributing to the Fund.] We hope you will “redeem” those years by working extra hard in the Baha’i community. We’ll pray for you.
*** The restriction of no unsupervised contact with minors at Baha’i functions was pointless as Dr. Ma’ani was in hospice care at the time – which was made known to the NSA. The restrictions imposed were, at best, empty symbolism.
Let’s skip to today. Today, I see the letter, aside from being very dismissive, never alluding to many of the issues I had with them. It was much more of a “well, that’s our decision, so there! Oh, and yes, we feel sorry for you.” They made no comment, in the letter, about the other victims. They made no comment on whether Dr. Ma’ani ever actually accepted blame or apologized to his other victims. I was NOT offered any kind of protection throughout any of this… unless they count silencing me as protection. In fact, they never even really acknowledged that he assaulted me. They said they were sorry that I was haunted by “memories of sexual abuse”… I reported “an incident”… they called it “your [my] story“… they called the assault “reported events”… they said that Dr. Ma’ani “wronged” me with his “misconduct”. Sure, they toss in the occasional word to make it sound like they disagree with what he did: reprehensible, detrimental, transgressions (which is an odd word to use since the common connotation of that word is a lot less harsh than its actual definition.) This is how they handled an assault that included a confession – a confession stating that in his 60s, with a position of implied power, he touched a 16 year old sexually!
Something else that bothers me… he got to see my letter that included very personal information. It included my feelings about what he did… his grooming, his attack, even his attempt to continue a sexual relationship with me after the assault. He read that letter so that he knew what he needed to apologize for. But, when he supposedly apologized to the National Spiritual Assembly (I’m still trying to figure out why he needed to apologize to them,) I did not get a chance to see, or hear, what he wrote at all.
Dr. Houshang Ma’ani, despite his confession, was offered much more protection than I was. Over 20 years of freedom from blame and confrontation, a stellar reputation amongst both Baha’i and non-Baha’i communities, protection of his privacy (I couldn’t see his letter… I couldn’t talk about the assault as it was his life, not mine,) exoneration before his death so he could be at peace.
Which leads me to back to the beginning… why would they go to such great and speedy efforts to protect a dying child molester? Sure, there’s the reputation of the Baha’i Faith. They’re obviously very attached to their public persona… but even if this had been made public amongst Baha’is, this would not have been front page news. So, what else could be driving them? Perhaps it was the money. Perhaps, Dr. Ma’ani was able to rent me for sexual pleasure with the money he gave to the Baha’i fund – without any worry of consequences. If that’s true… that makes me an unwilling prostitute… with the National Spiritual Assembly as my pimps.