Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Egypt: TV Program On Religion & ID Cards (Part-2)

In today's post, the Dream-2 Channel program continues with interviews of 13 individuals randomly selected on the streets of Cairo, and with 2 members of the Baha'i Faith in Egypt. Again, for those who are not Arabic-speakers, the interviews are transcribed below in English.

Reporter: the space for religious classification on the personal ID Card is the latest story to stimulate debate in the Egyptian society lately. While some describe this [removing the religious classification from the ID] as a step towards secularism, and what was described as [eliminating] discrimination based on religious bases, others see it as an unnecessary step that will serve a religious minority like those adhering to the Baha'iyyah.

[Reporter asking first interviewee] Some people are asking that the section for religion be removed from the personal ID Card. Should it be removed or not?

Interviewee 1: no, it should not to be canceled. Assume someone needs to be known by others as Muslim or Christian. How could he be known if the religious classification is removed?

Interviewee 2: when someone is trying to get married, they have nothing to use other than the ID Card to prove their identity.

Interviewee 3: we are all Egyptians. There is no difference between Muslim and Christian. So, why do we need to write [our religion]? What is the value of doing that?

Interviewee 4: it is not possible at all to cancel it. Sometimes there are three or four Muslim names that match three or four Christian names. How is it possible to cancel it?

Interviewee 5: it [the religious classification] is not needed at all, whether I am today a Muslim or Christian. For example, when I go to a government agency, they don't care whether I am Muslim or Christian.

Interviewee 6: some people are kind of prejudiced--on both sides. When some see Christian on the ID Card, they complicate things for that person. When others see Muslim, they also complicate matters for that person. So, there is no need for this religious classification.

Interviewee 7: it is necessary that a person be known as Christian or Muslim, so he can be treated according to his own religion.

Interviewee 8: I prefer that the ID Card has no religious classification.

Interviewee 9: it is not conceivable to remove the religion from the ID Card.
It is necessary that when someone looks at the ID Card should know what the person's religion is; otherwise, it becomes a loose matter. No one would be able to know if it is this or that religion.

Interviewee 10: we are all one. There is no difference between this religion and that religion. Religions are all of God. If I am an Egyptian, I am truly not in need of anything else other than knowing that I am an Egyptian.

Interviewee 11: remove it? For what reason? It should remain in the ID Card.

Interviewee 12: I see that the section for religion [on ID Cards] in our country is a benefit enjoyed by Christian and Muslims of the same homeland. In my opinion, it won't make a difference if the religion is or is not written in the section for religion on the Card.

Interviewee 13: when I deal with you, I am supposed to know whether you are a Muslim or Christian. This is my right.

Dr. Basma Moussa: I am one of the Baha'is of Egypt. As far as we are concerned we have a big problem, the problem of the National [ID] Number. We at this time cannot obtain ID Cards, birth certificates or death certificates because we are Baha'is. After all, we are Egyptians first before being Muslim, Christian, Jewish or any other.

Dr. Labib Iskandar Hanna: [a Baha'i] we request from the Government not to force us to write-in any other religion. We cannot forge official documents when indicating religion. We can insert a line [dashes], omit religion on ID Cards, or write-in 'other', we have no objections to any of these solutions. Our problem is that we are being forced to choose another religion.

To be continued....

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