View Full Version : Egyptian court removes barriers to ID documents for Baha'is

03-16-2009, 06:52 PM
Source: http://news.bahai.org/story/703

Egyptian court removes barriers to ID documents for Baha'is
16 March 2009

GENEVA - A court in Egypt today removed any grounds for preventing Baha'is from receiving proper official identity documents, clearing the way for an end to years of deprivation for Egyptian Baha'is - and opening the door to a new level of respect for religious privacy in Egypt.

The Supreme Administrative Court dismissed an appeal by two Muslim lawyers that sought to prevent implementation of a lower court ruling last year that said Baha'is can leave blank the religious classification field on official documents, including all-important identity cards and birth certificates.

"We are pleased that the court has finally put this matter to rest, removing any possible excuse that would prevent the government from issuing official documents to Egyptian Baha'is," said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha'i International Community to the United Nations.

"Our expectation now is that the government will move swiftly to bring this ruling into practice and, at long last, grant Baha'is the essential right that all citizens have of possessing proper documents."

Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), said the ruling actually goes far beyond the issue of rights for Egyptian Baha'is.

"This is the first time that the Supreme Administrative Court has found that any Egyptian has the right to keep their religious convictions private, even if the state does not recognize their belief system," said Mr. Bahgat, whose organization handled legal representation for Baha'is in court.

"The final ruling is a major victory for all Egyptians fighting for a state where all citizens enjoy equal rights regardless of their religion or belief," he said.

Mr. Bahgat said that because the Supreme Administrative Court is the highest court on such matters, there can be no further appeal to this case - and that, therefore, there should be no delay in the government's implementation of the new policy.

"The government policy that justified mistreatment of Egyptian Baha'is has now been firmly and finally struck down," he said.

For nearly five years, since the government began introducing a computerized identity card system that locked out all religious classifications except Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, Baha'is have been unable to get documents essential to day-to-day life. Among other things, they have been blocked from obtaining education, financial services, and even health care in government hospitals.

In April 2006, a lower administrative court upheld the right of Baha'is to be explicitly identified on official documents. But in December that year, the Supreme Administrative Court reversed that decision.

In a compromise, Baha'is proposed using a dash or the word "other" on documents, instead of being forced to list themselves as Muslim, Christian, or Jewish, and, on 29 January 2008, a lower court again ruled in their favor. But then two Muslim lawyers, who oppose anything that might be seen as even tacit recognition of the Baha'i Faith, filed an appeal.

In response, government officials took a "go slow" attitude on implementing the lower court ruling, saying they wanted to wait until all legal issues were cleared up.

The ruling today came in the case of 14-year-old twins Imad and Nancy Rauf Hindi who have been deprived of birth certificates and were unable to legally attend school in Egypt.

In recent weeks, several other cases involving Baha'is have been likewise resolved in their favor. But the Rauf Hindi twins' case was the final case to be settled.

04-07-2009, 03:20 PM
Graphic Details on the Burning of Baha'i Homes in Egypt

Below is a video showing the burning of Baha'i homes in the village of Showranyiah in the province of Sohag in Upper Egypt (You can hear at the end of the video someone shouting for the person taking the video "el hokooma gaya" (The government [police] is coming):


The following is an account of the events surrounding the violence perpetrated against the Baha'is of Egypt and the burning of their homes in a southern village located in the province of Sohag. This information was related by a reliable source in Egypt:

This crisis began with a television program, named al-Haqiqah [The Truth], aired on Egypt's Dream-2 channel last Saturday, 28 March, from 7:30-8:30 PM, in which the extremist journalist, Gamal Abdel-Rahim, ferociously attacked the Baha'is, calling for their killing and for the killing of Dr. Basma Moussa who was also a participant in the same program. Another participant in this program was Mr. Ahmad El-Sayyid, an Egyptian Baha'i from the southern village of Showranyiah who indicated that there were many Baha'is living in his province of Sohag. The program was hosted by the well-known TV personality, Mr. Wael El-Ebrashy.

Shortly after the airing of this program on Saturday night, a mob went to the homes of the Baha'is in the village of Showraniyah, which is an island in the middle of the Nile consisting of two sub-villages named Nagh el-Kabir and Nagh el-Sa'aydah, in the southern province of Sohag. The mob began by shouting insults at the Baha'is, who were in their homes at the time, and chanted "No God but Allah" and "Baha'is are enemies of Allah," and began throwing bricks and rocks at these five homes.

Some of these Baha'is were able to contact the police and reported the attack. The police then interfered, dispersed the crowd, and took all the Baha'is to the police station and held them in protective custody until the police was able to negotiate with the mob and reach some sort of a truce. Subsequently, they released the Baha'is to return to their homes the next morning (Sunday) and provided police guards around the homes until Monday morning when the guards were pulled.

On Tuesday morning, 31 March, the journalist Gamal Abdel-Rahim wrote an inflammatory article, published in the government-owned al-Gomhoriyah [The Republic] newspaper, also posted on his blog, in which he stirred the emotions of the ignorant masses by slandering the Baha'is and calling for their killing. He also praised the villagers for their attacks on the Baha'is. That same day, when night fell, a mob attacked the homes of the Baha'is in Showraniyah (see video above), threw homemade Molotov cocktail bottles and fire bombs at the homes burning a total of 6 homes (according to the Egyptian media two homes did not belong to the Baha'is). They vandalized the homes and looted their property, some of which were electric appliances and other expensive items. Meanwhile, the Baha'i families and their children were desperate for a place to hide, some of whom were in the recesses of their homes and some were able to escape the fire and hide in alley corners in the dark.

In order to spread the fire, the mob cut-off the water supply to the homes and blocked access to the village so that fire trucks would be delayed in their response. Because the village is an island, fire trucks have to access the village by a ferry.

At last, the police interfered and arrested six villagers from the mob, and took the Baha'i families into protective custody again. They were able, then, to smuggle these families with their children and babies out of the village in the early dawn, Wednesday morning--only with their clothes on their backs--via the ferry and took them to several undisclosed distant locations in Egypt.

Today, 2 April 2009, six Egyptian Human Rights Organizations as well as Dr. Basma Moussa, the Egyptian Baha'i who was the target of death threats caused by Gamal Abdel-Rahim's calls for her murder, as well as several members of the Baha'i families from Sohag went to the offices of the State Council in Cairo. They met with Egypt's Attorney-General and filed formal complaints against Gamal Abdel-Rahim and the mob in the village of Showraniyah.

The Attorney-General referred Dr. Moussa's case to the Giza Attorney-General and referred the Baha'i villagers case to the Assyout (southern province) Attorney-General because it was felt that the Sohag office of the attorney might be biased against them. During that visit in Cairo, large crowds were present--many of whom were supportive--as well as riot police and security forces. Also present were several representatives from various media agencies, including al-Gazirah channel which has recorded interviews with those present. The media was not permitted to enter the building of the State Council [Maghlis al-Dawlah].

Several leading Egyptian newspapers have already reported on these events, some of which are linked to here (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). International news agencies have also picked up the story (AP-1, AP-2 & AFP, Reuters, Deutsche Presse-Agentur). . . .

Continue reading this news story: http://www.bahai-egypt.org/

05-01-2009, 05:45 PM
Persecutions intensify against Baha'is in Egypt

Two New Disturbing Reports from Egypt
April 29, 2009

Editor's Note: Even though Egypt is not within the scope of reporting of this site, Iran Press Watch decided to publish the following updates due to their significance.

1. April 29, 2009: "The Egyptian Parliament is Discussing a Bill to Declare All Baha'is Criminals": The Joint Commission on Defense, National Security, Arab Affairs and Religious Endowments has demanded that the Egyptian Parliament expedite the issuance of a new law criminalizing Baha'ism?The head of the commission, Dr. ?Umar Hashim, declares that Baha'is pose a greater threat to national security than extremists and terrorists because they are a product of Zionism?He adds that recent events in the village of Suhaj [in which the homes of several Baha'is were burned] has sounded the alarm?Representative Mr. Safwat ?Abd al-Karim accuses Baha'is of giving money to unemployed youth to entice them to join their group?Mr. ?Askar, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, emphasizes the absence of any authority in "this wayward and misguided group" and accuses Baha'is of corrupting Islam and distorting the Holy Qur'an. [Source: Moheet News and Masrawy News]

2. 28 April 2009: "They Permit the Two Sisters to Marry One Another and Allow a Woman to Marry Her Nephews?Baha'ism is in the Service of Zionism": Nabuls TV [based in the West Bank] reveals that a secret memo drafted by the Grand Imam of al-Azhar Mosque [and perhaps the highest religious authority among Sunni Muslims], Muhammad Sayyid Tuntawi, maintains that the Baha'i Faith is a sect bent on serving the interests of Zionism and western imperialism in the Islamic world through promoting moral decay and strife among Arabs and Muslims, in particular in the Middle East?The report states that Baha'ism commands its followers to destroy every single holy place including Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem, and the shrines of the Prophets and Muslim saints?It also forces Baha'is to pay a 19% tax to Baha'u'llah or his successor, permits two sisters to marry one another, declares prostitution and unlimited temporary marriages to be lawful, and allows a woman to marry her nephews. [Source: NablusTV]

05-21-2009, 08:13 AM

Apostasy and Baha'is as Apostates in Islam
May 16, 2009

Editor's Note: This is a translation of an editorial titled "What is apostasy, and are Baha'is apostates?" written by Mohammed Shebl, printed in an Egyptian newspaper "Al Qahirah" (Cairo) on May 5, 2009.

By Mohammad Shebl

The treatment of Baha'is has occupied my thoughts and has disturbed my peace. You might be surprised, but when I see tyranny and oppression inflicted on Baha'is, and increasing on a daily basis, I feel a heavy load on my shoulders.

On one hand, National Identification Cards for Baha'is have not commenced being issued yet; but on the other hand, there are discussions about passing a law in the Egyptian parliament categorizing Baha'is as criminals, and deciding on the charges to be levied against them for their alleged apostasy.

To date, I have not heard whether arson charges have been brought against those who set the homes of a few Baha'is on fire. I also do not know the fate of the Baha'is who had to flee from their burning homes.

God, should anyone who accepts a different religion be subjected to so much cruelty? Is this what has become of human beings who were created noble by their creator, a creator who sends messengers with heavenly books and has given his creatures the freedom to choose their own path, and only requires that they be responsible to their Lord?

What I see in the Qur'an is the glorious verse: "Let there be no compulsion in religion" [Qur'an 2:256]. What is clearly evident from this verse and from the entire Holy Qur'an is that neither entering Islam nor exiting from it, nor even following or not following its commandments is compulsory. However, there are ignorant clergy who believe that the freedom to choose is limited to entering Islam, while exiting is prohibited and punishable by the death penalty.

I consider it necessary to address a question that has been of utmost importance in recent days. The question is: "What is apostasy, and are Baha'is apostates?" I want you all to listen carefully with open minds to what is offered here. Even though this topic has been documented in scriptures for ages and ages and has been accessible to all, historically it has been overlooked.

Before starting the discussion, I should clarify that the verses in God's book are the first guideline for the establishment of laws. I would also like to share a tradition from Moaz Ibn Jabal who says that the Prophet Mohammad addressed him saying, "If you are asked to make a judgment, what would you base your judgment on?" He responded, "First I refer to God's Holy Book for guidance; if I cannot find a reference, I will refer to the Prophet's traditions; and if I still cannot find the answer, I will use my own judgment". The Prophet Mohammad praised him and said, "Praise be to God that you have succeeded in carrying out the will of God". Consequently, if the response to the question of apostasy was documented in the Holy Qur'an, there would be no need for referring to other sources of information.

Let us investigate God's commandment in the Qur'an in relation to apostasy. The law is cited in the verse: "Nor will they cease fighting you until they turn you back from your faith if they can. And if any of you turn back from their faith and die in unbelief, their works will bear no fruit in this life and in the Hereafter; they will be Companions of the Fire and will abide therein" [Qur'an 2:217].

Regarding the implications of these verses and the meaning of "fire", we read the interpretation of Shaykh Muhammad Rashid Reza (1865 -1925), pupil of Imam Muhammad Abduh: "at the time of weakness and fewness of Muslims, non-believers adhering to oppression and torture were forcing Muslims to recant their faith. This is how they made Emar Ibn Yaser and his family, Balal, Sahib, and others renounce Islam. When Muslims migrated from Mecca to Medina and their numbers increased, they initiated a war against non-believers, and God, praised be his name, revealed the verses stated above. The word "infidel" was mentioned when Muslims were declaring their belief through holy war, indicating that all the good deeds of those exiting Islam would be wiped out in this world and in the world to come, since turning away from religion is turning away from the three main tenets of the faith[1].

All messengers of God have confirmed these three principals. No one who has recognized and accepted these principals will cast them away, unless he is corrupt and filled with hatred. Such a person will have no abode but hell and will eternally remain therein.

Let us continue discussing our serious and important question: "Have Baha'is abandoned the three principals?" I leave this judgment to the readers. However, if you were to ask me, I would say that Baha'is believe in God and believe in the next world. With respect to good deeds and moral conduct, I should say among them are those who adorn themselves with goodly deeds and those who do not, just as with the followers of all the other religions.

In summary, based on the Qur'an, apostasy is conversion from the belief in God and of the Unity of God to disbelief. Only a person who changes his belief in God to denial and negation of God, and to disbelief in the continuation of life in the next world, can be labeled an apostate.

The Holy Qur'an clearly promises the Lord's reward to all those who believe and conduct their lives based on the three principals: "Those who believe (in the Qur'an) and those who follow the Jewish (Scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians, and who believe in Allah and the last day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve" [Qur'an 2:62].

In conclusion, we know that many label Baha'is as apostates. Even if we were to accept that accusation, the law of God concerning such individuals is that they are condemned to remain in hell eternally, but no tyranny and oppression should be inflicted on them in this world. We can only say: "Ye have your religion and I my religion" [Qur'an 109:06].


[1] The three principals are:

a: the world is created by a mighty and powerful Creator, and He is the only One Who should be worshiped,

b: belief in the next world and life after death,

c: practicing goodly deeds and seemly conduct that will benefit the individual himself and all the creation of God.

[Published on May 5, 2009 at: http://basmagm.wordpress.com/2009/05/05/%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%87%D9%89-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B1%D8%AF%D8%A9/. Translation by Iran Press Watch.]