Saturday, March 21, 2009

What Can Be Expected After Egypt's Favourable Court Ruling?

Even though Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court has, on 16 March 2009, ruled in favor of the Baha'is allowing them to obtain identity documents with dashes [--] entered in place of religion, there remain many obstacles to the normalization of their status in Egypt. This can be easily perceived when reading the recent editorials and reports in several Egyptian newspaper articles.

Initially, following the recent court ruling, several of these articles limited their reporting to the facts about the verdict itself and its implications (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8). More recently, though, newspaper editorials have been busying themselves with eliciting public opinions regarding the Baha'i case from various factions (9, 10).

These opinions range from, those who adamantly oppose the Baha'is and who are bent on continuing their "war" against the Baha'is--calling them apostates who deserve the severest of penalties, to those who are supportive of the citizenship rights of the Baha'is (10, 11, 12, 13), to the extent of voicing their disappointment that the ruling did not go far enough to permit the Baha'is to enter their true religion on these identity documents.

The intent of some of the supporters appears to be not to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Baha'i Faith as an approved religion in Egypt, but rather they look at the matter as a human rights issue: that is the right of people to independent belief and to be identified correctly according to their own belief.

There remain, also, many others who do not understand what the fuss is all about and do not even acknowledge the existence of such a thing as "Baha'i," stating: "besides Islam and Christianity in Egypt, we only had Jews, and fortunately we have managed to get rid of them."

Furthermore, there are those who resort to using the well-known Egyptian sarcasm in order to make their point by calling the Baha'i Faith "Al-deen Abu-Sharta [the dashes religion]," referring to the ruling that allowed dashes to be entered in place of religion on identity documents.

Emad & Nancy Raouf Hindi in the courtroom on 16 March

This controversy, which cannot just vanish overnight simply because of a favorable court verdict, will likely continue for some time to come. Thus, the difficult task before the Baha'is of Egypt will likely go beyond the mere pursuit of their identity documents and the consequent acquisition of some of their citizenship rights.

It will require an extraordinary effort on their behalf to influence the public opinion as to the nature and the legitimacy of their belief. They will also need to help the Egyptian society learn the truth about their Faith and the desire of the Egyptian Baha'is, as obedient citizens and well-wishers of their homeland, to join hands with their fellow Egyptians in promoting their collective welfare.

It is a natural human reaction, particularly after such a long suffering and after so many legal battles, for all those affected by the ruling to be ecstatic with such a victory in their ongoing struggle for their rights. It is also obvious that many other minorities in Egypt will ultimately benefit from such a ruling that, at last, opened the door for them towards their civil rights without having to identify themselves as belonging to one of the three approved religions in Egypt. It is time, however, for the harder task to begin: that is for the Baha'is to intensify the projection of their well-acknowledged brilliant image on their beloved society and correct public perception of their true nature and intent.

A tough obstacle in their path, however, remains to be presidential decree (263) that, in 1960, outlawed the Baha'i Faith in Egypt. Without the reversal of this decree, the Baha'is of Egypt will continue to be the targets of all sorts of false accusations, attacks and ill-intentioned challenges by the extremist elements of the Egyptian society. Ultimately, in order for them to be treated equally in the true sense, it is essential for their status in Egypt be fully legitimized by removing all barriers to their standing as equal citizens of their beloved Egypt.


  1. as I suspected it was an empty victory....but a very small victory nevertheless

    However, I do agree that there remains that Presidential decree that needs to be reversed before the Bahai's can begin to live their lives as ordinary Egyptian Citizens...

  2. It is not an "empty victory," but rather an important step in the right direction. Much more is still needed.

  3. BTW, according to Ref. 13 in the post, the Ministry of Interior promised the Baha'is that they will be able to receive their identity documents (birth certificates, death certificates & ID cards) within 5 days.


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