Those that oppose removing religious classification claim that it is the only way to know who belongs to which religion so that laws of inheritance, marriage and divorce can be applied. They ignore the fact that religious identification can be easily accomplished through other means, such as separate documents issued by the religious authorities to their respective adherents. This option did not seem to appear in any of the debates, statements or reports emerging from these symposia. Those who support the removal of religious classification affirm that it would ensure equality in Egypt and would assist in the elimination of extremist views and divisiveness in a society so plagued with multiplicities of serious problems. They see it as one of the roads towards an improved and tolerant Egyptian society.
This workshop (symposium) was attended by several prominent figures representing all sections of society, governmental agencies and authorities that are in positions of decision-making and power. Representatives of the Egyptian Baha’i community (see link) were invited to speak at the workshop in order to express their needs and views. Additionally, Mr. Ahmed Ezzat, the independent documentary filmmaker was invited to show his film “Identity Crisis” regarding the Baha’is of Egypt.
The upshot of this development is that the NCHR is now proposing that religion should continue to be indicated on ID cards, but that all religious denominations (not only Islam, Christianity or Judaism) should be allowed to be entered in these documents, regardless of whether or not the State recognizes these religions. The council insists that this is a matter of citizenship. An individual must be entirely free to choose his or her own belief. All three major Christian Churches (Orthodox, Catholic & Engeleiah [Biblical]) in Egypt also refuse the elimination of religious classification, but stress that the matter of citizenship rights must be enforced. On the other hand, the Ministry of Interior and the Muslim Brotherhood movement oppose both the elimination of religious classification and any mention of religions other than Muslim Christian or Jewish.
News of this symposium were widely covered in prominent Egyptian media outlets, such as the attached Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper. The ruling party's Al-Watany Al-Youm newspaper showed a front page headline, on 11 September 2007, written by Ahmed Kamal Abul-Magd (see link) which stated "it is the right of the Baha'is to indicate their religion on ID Cards." The independent weekly Nahdet Misr newspaper also wrote, on the 11th of September, an extensive article reporting on the symposium, and clearly expressing the views that the government cannot interfere with citizen's freedom to choose their own religion or belief (see link). The entire coverage was extensive, objective and well balanced.