[TRANSLATION FROM ARABIC]
[Translator’s notes appear in square brackets [ ].]
Al-Masry Al-Youm [independent Egyptian daily newspaper], 15 August 2008
Ali Eddin Hilal demands granting Bahá’ís full rights to practice their religion
By Huda As-Sa’ati, Alexandria
“What’s wrong with the presence of Bahá’ís in Egypt and giving them full rights to practice their religion?”… With these words, Dr. Ali Eddin Hilal, member of the policies committee of the Watani [National] Party [ruling Party in Egypt], began his address, yesterday, to the youth participating in a training course in the area of promoting the culture of human rights, organised by the Association for Building Human Rights and held at the Alexandria Library. He said, “Bahá’ís have been here in the country for the past thirty (30) years and no one paid them any attention.” He then asked, “If the one thousand (1000) Bahá’ís living in Egypt expressed their religion, in a peaceful manner and without proselytising, would this ruffle public serenity? And would this impinge on the strength of Islám?”
Hilal cited the Masonic religions that existed and were practiced in Alexandria and Cairo in the thirties. He maintained that in 1930 Ismail Adham published a book entitled Why I am an Atheist, yet no one demanded its confiscation and the author was not hanged—one of the Azhar sheikhs responded with a book entitled Why I am a Muslim. Hilal pointed out that this environment does not exist nowadays; if this book was published now it would be confiscated immediately. Hilal further asserted that a Christian becoming a Muslim, or vice versa, is not a problem—as the Islamic thinker, Mohamed Selim El-Awwa, has said: “If a Muslim converts to Christianity, to hell with him!” Likewise, building a church in a country which has a Muslim majority, and vice versa, is also not a problem, because the foundation of every society is “citizenship”.
This is yet another example of the many voices of moderation that are abundant in Egypt. It take a great degree of courage, independence and determination, however, for such prominent figures to publicly express these opinions in a charged environment that may not be as accepting of such enlightened views.