Yesterday and today, all major world media outlets have published extensive articles on this deplorable situation facing the Egyptian Baha'is. By clicking on the headline tags posted with this article, one can read the full coverage provided in these publications.
The following is a description of the scene in this Cairo court as reported by one of those attending today's session:
"Today was the re-hearing of the two cases of Dr. Raouf Hindy and Hussein Hosni. They were both after each other--in order. Dr. Raouf was first; the judge asked him if he has something new to add. Dr. Raouf repeated the request for 'enabling us to say the truth and not deny our faith.' The judge's reply was a surprise to all who were present, he said 'it is well known that the Baha'is have Muslims and Christians among them, there are Muslim Baha'is and there are Christian Baha'is. Each should state his original religion.' Dr. Raouf stated that he is 'neither Muslim nor Christian,' and the lawyer for the Baha'is stated that 'this is a form of forcing Baha'is to convert,' the judge replied 'the Ministry of Interior is not forcing you to change your belief...forcing would mean to ask you to stop being a Baha'i and believe in something else in your heart. The Ministry only allows three religions to be stated in official documents, but you are free to believe in what you want.'
The judge then did not want to go on with the argument and asked if there are any new documents or memos that any of the parties would like to add but neither of the parties had anything to add. He said the decision will be announced at the end of the session.
He then called for Mr. Hosni, the father of Hussein and jokingly mocked him 'of course you're enjoying what Dr. Raouf is saying' and followed this by saying 'your case is the same, together you will hear about it at the end of the session.'
The attitude of the judge was very disappointing to everyone and it was clear what the verdict will be like.
However, at the end of the session, with the Baha'is sitting--waiting--in court until 5 PM, the judge revealed his decision that a verdict will be announced on 25 December 2007."
There are several issues that must be addressed here:
1) These cases concern real people whose rights are being violated and who continue to suffer on a daily basis. This is not a laughing matter that can be taken jokingly by a respected judge. It is not appropriate or ethical for a judge to mock these innocent and helpless victims.
2) Contrary to what the judge has said, Baha'is are neither Muslims nor Christians. They are Baha'is--many of whom have been so for several generations. If they falsely state another religion on government documents, then they would be in violation of the law, to which the judge is subservient and obligated to uphold and protect.
The application form required for obtaining ID cards states that any false statements will be punishable by imprisonment and monitory fines.
Since Egypt was invaded by Muslim conquerors from Arabia several generations ago, the judge's ancestors were possibly either Coptic Christians, Jews, or even followers of the Pharaoh, would this mean that he must state his religion as one of these three? How would the judge feel if someone forces him to do so?
3) If the Baha'is were forced to state their religion as Christian, Muslim or Jew, what would the judge do if one of these Baha'is, who would have been holding an ID card stating that he is a Muslim, marries the judge's daughter? Would that be acceptable to him then?
4) For a variety of reasons, it is becoming glaringly clear that the Egyptian courts are incapable of solving this identification crisis. The Egyptian government must now step in and produce a satisfactory resolution to the ID crisis facing the Baha'is and the other minorities in Egypt.
Even the Pravda, the preeminent Russian newspaper in its first time covering this crisis, showed its strong interest in this matter by publishing:
Human rights groups wish Egyptian authorities to change their policy of not allowing converts from Islam and members of the Bahai faith to register their religion in official documents.
In a report two years in the making, the New York-based Human Rights Watch and the local Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, or EIPR, described how Egyptians of religious persuasions authorities disapprove of are unable to get birth certificates and identification cards.
Joe Stork, the HRW Middle East deputy chief, said it was a systematic policy to deny documents to members of faiths other than Islam, Christianity and Judaism - the only three religions officially recognized by Egyptian authorities.
ID cards are mandatory here, but persons seeking to have "Bahai" listed as their faith on the card, for example, are denied the document, Stork told reporters in Cairo. Read more here....