Monday, July 10, 2006

An Egyptian Baha'i: In Search Of Recognition

An article was published in the Egyptian magazine "October Weekly" on 4 June 2006 titled: "Baha'ism, the Constitution, and Human Rights." The article told the story of an Egyptian Government employee, a Baha'i, who in the late 1940s, had sued the government for recognition of his marriage as well as the birth of his son. The attached article was clearly slanted, representing the interpretations of the case and the following court rulings, by leading Muslim clergy, biased judges, and the media. It did not provide the readers with any views of those who were directly involved in these events.

The following narrative is based on facts that are directly reported by the family members involved in that case:

Mustapha Kamel Ali Abdalla (1912-1968) was born in Egypt's delta region. When he was a young teenager, his father and uncle converted from Islam to the Baha'i Faith. This conversion was not revealed to their family, but Mustapha became curious when he witnessed the change in his father. He would secretly borrow Baha'i books from his father's room, read them one after the other, and without his father's knowledge, return them to where they belonged. Not before long, he became convinced that this newly found Faith was right for him. He then, after some trepidation and fear, declared to his father his wish to become a Baha'i as well. This was in the early 1920s. In the following years he became a very active member of his Faith and was elected to numerous positions and functions in its administrative bodies.

In 1947 he was married, in a ceremony under the auspices of the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Ismailia. His bride, Bahiga Khalil Ayad (1929-1979) was born to a Baha'i family in a town named Ismailia, near the shores of the Suez Canal. During that time Mustapha was employed in an administrative position by the Egyptian Railways, which was a governmental agency under the Ministry of Transportation.

Following his wedding, he applied to his employer for a marriage family allowance, to which he was entitled. This would have provided him with a modest raise in his salary. As requested, he submitted his marriage certificate to the government. In response to his request, the government denied him the raise stating that it did not recognize the Baha'i marriage certificate.

A year later, on the first of January, Mustapha and Bahouga had a son. Mustapha submitted a second request for a family allowance and for an additional allowance for his son, as he was entitled to. Again, after the submission of the Baha'i Marriage certificate and his son's birth certificate stating that his son was born as a Baha’i, the request was denied.

In response to this flagrant injustice, Mustapha hired two attorneys and sued the government agency. His attorneys were Saba Habashy Pasha, former Egypt's Minister of Justice, and Mr. Saad el-Fishaawy. The defendant, the government's Ministry of Transportation was represented by Mr. Galal el-Deen Abd el-Hamid. The judges were Justice Abd el-Magid al-Tohamy, Justice Ali Ali Mansour, and Justice Abd el-Aziz al-Beblaawy. The constitutional court was headed by Chief Justice Badawy Hamoudah.

To be continued....

7 comments:

  1. Thanks! Looking forward to part 2.
    I liked your previous format (dark blue was very effective), but this is also fine.....more interested in the content which has been excellent and very insightful.

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  2. This is fascinating! Thank you for providing us with historical facts. Providing the names of individuals and parties involved adds validity and credibility to the information that you are sharing.

    I look forward to the rest of the story, and hope that this excellent reporting will be picked up soon by the media, and we can see your story on the pages of some of the major American newspapers!

    You mentioned that you are living in the United States, I assume, you are a Bahá’í. In your view, how aware are the American people, in general, of the situation of the Bahá’ís as a persecuted religious minority, in both Iran and Egypt?

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  3. Based on my current knowledge, very few people around the world are aware of the strife of Baha'is living in Egypt. The size of the Baha'i community in Egypt is not well known, but what is clearly known is that it had been drastically reduced since its systematic dismantling by the authorities that began in 1960. The Baha'i population in Iran has been systematically reduced by the government, since the revolution, to approximately 300,000. There appears to be more awareness of the situation in Iran.

    The current media coverage, however, is providing more awareness as well as concern. The most common comment I hear is: “I can’t believe this could be still happening in today’s world!”

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  4. This could happen almost ...any where, at any time. I wonder about the ripple from what is happening now between Iran and Israel, what will the effects be felt in Egypt be? I suspect it can only become worse before the light of freedom dawns and the bats of the night are driven from the skies...to the point that at least they can't fly around in broad daylight like they can now.

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  5. Hello,im ali ,i am a bahai guy from Egypt, i really like this site,,it talks about many cases really.and i hope that we leave in peace.

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  6. Dear Ali,
    I hope so too that all in Egypt live in peace together. Thank you for your comment....

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