Wednesday, April 01, 2009

A Mob Burns Baha'i Homes in a Southern Egyptian Village

al-Ahram article (burning of 5 homes), dated 1 April 2009

Even though there have been glimpses of hope for peaceful resolution to the struggle of the Baha'is of Egypt, supported by the judiciary as well as the government, a sickening undercurrent of activity is being propagated and stirred by an Egyptian journalist, named Gamal Abdel Rahim, who writes for Egypt's Al-Gomhoryiah [the Republic] newspaper. His activities can easily be regarded as plots that are leading to sedition, intended to entice public unrest and disrupt "public order."

This journalist has been one of the most vocal opponents of the Baha'is in Egypt. His rhetoric is cloaked with hatred and disgust. He advocates pronouncing all Baha'is as apostates and urges their killing. As a consequence to his urging, during a recent television program (posted below), a mob attacked and assaulted the Baha'is in the village of Showranyiah (island in the center of the Nile) in the southern Egyptian province of Sohag on 31 March 2009 at 8 PM. The mob, reportedly, burned their homes and expelled the Baha'i families from the village.

This story was reported in a comment by the leader of that mob on Gamal Abdel Rahim's blog, which has been dedicated to attacks on Baha'is. This mob leader, who claimed responsibility for the attack, is named Mohammad Youssry Mohammad. He identifies himself as the secretary of the youth committee of the village's National Party (al- Hezb al-Watany) and a teacher in the religious institute of the village. He describes the village to have a population of 16,751 with a surface area of approximately 1,567 feddans [acres]. It has 17 mosques, 3 churches, 16 elementary schools, 2 preparatory schools and 1 secondary "commerce" school. He also reports that the Baha'is, who were expelled from the village following the burning of their homes, consist of 15 individuals from three families, among them children and nursing babies.

Latest developments on Copts United

A television program, aired on 28 March 2009, provided a forum for discussion between a representative of the Baha'i community of Egypt, Dr. Basma Moussa, the journalist Gamal Abdel Rahim and a Baha'i from the village of Showranyiah, Ahmad El-Sayyid. The host was Wael El-Ebrashy of Dream Channel. This recent attack was triggered by the hateful comments made by the journalist Gamal Abdel Rahim against the Baha'is during the TV program (see videos below).

Although this is regarded as an outrageous and heinous act against an innocent Baha'i population of an Egyptian village, it should be emphasized that this is not a normal occurrence in Egypt and does only represent the reaction of an ill-informed number of individuals who are driven by hatred and ignorance. There are many Egyptians who have been supportive of the Baha'is and of their rights. Among them are leaders of society, such as journalists, academics, politicians, artists, human rights activists and jurists.

The Egyptian authorities must take action against the perpetrators of these acts and must hold responsible those who have caused them. The rule of law has to prevail over such irresponsible terror and has to halt this state of unbridled anarchy. Egypt cannot afford to tolerate such a state of lawlessness.

Update (2 April 2009 Egypt-time):
Human rights activists and Egyptians Against Religious Discrimination are holding a demonstration at the office of Egypt's Attorney-General and are requesting that Gamal Abdel Rahim be charged and prosecuted (see report here).

Below is the TV program that apparently has triggered the current violence. The program was intended to discuss the Nowruz feast celebrated by the Baha'is in a Cairo public park on the 21st of March:







  1. No Justice

    No Peace

    end of story...

  2. to call Mr. Gamal Abdel Rahim a journalist would be an extremely liberaluse of the term.

    Furthermore, Mr. Gamal Abdel Rahim's reaction is similar to that of a spoiled 3-year old child who throws a temper tantrum because he did not get his way...

    in this extreme case I would apply some form of corporeal punishment to the spoiled child and send him to his room with only bread and water....

  3. In my opinion, these things can be dealt with in a manner consistent with the true principles and teachings of one's Faith and not by lowering oneself to the perpetrator's level. Engaging such people can only legitimize their absurdity. Taking the high road hardly ever fails. For example, one wonders what was the use of such a televised confrontation!

  4. Even if one does not understand Arabic, it is easy to see that Mr. Gamal Abdel Rahim subscribes to a method of discourse seen in "interviews" with Baha'is carried out on certain religious TV programs or the kinds of "discussion" carried out on the "news" programs of a certain popular American cable news network: speak loudly, interrupt, and insult those with whom you disagree.

    One day Mr. Gamal Abdel Rahim will stand in shame before God and answer for his libels and defamation.

  5. If you can only understand Arabic, you would be absolutely shocked to hear his words! Unfortunately it is too long to translate. Perhaps one of the able readers can do that!

  6. Apparently FOX NEWS has an outlet in Cairo... Are we sure that's not Bill O'Reilly? Each day I am astonished at God's mercy and forbearance.

  7. My prayers go out to the families on the receiving end of this hate, and as their homes burn with the fires set by their neighbours, I know their souls will be ablaze with the spiritual gift of forebearance and fortitude in trials, as they learn to forgive their kin.

    As for the TV program, seeing it troubled me. As Baha'is we need to understand as we struggle to get our rights in countries that refuse to acknowledge our existance, we need to cling unto our Messenger's moreal teachings - namely, the use of wisdom, humility, patience, and knowing that words should be used sparingly to a receptive audience, at the right time.

  8. Neda,
    Thank you for your comment. You may be referring to this quote: "Not everything that a man knoweth can be disclosed, nor can everything that he can disclose be regarded as timely, nor can every timely utterance be considered as suited to the capacity of those who hear it."

  9. Yes Bilo, that is exactly what quote I was thinking of :) Just the other day I wondered if it was translated into English, and here you are quoting it. Perfect!!

    I think to publicly represent the Bahai community in the media, needs administration and education on how to handle local media and people... and ensure at all times the safety of the believers. I am not saying we lay down low and not be heared, am simply noting that disclosure of certain individuals and facts perhaps, should have been edited.

  10. Neda,
    As you may well know, the Baha'is in Egypt have been under unusual and exceptional pressures and challenges. They also had no administration since 1960 after the infamous presidential decree. I am quite sure that they are trying anything they can to refute the lies brought against them and defend their rights. They have suffered so much and continue to do so. It has been a long road for them and, at times, they have been subjected to impossible situations under the watchful public eye. They are desperate!

  11. If you can read Arabic, please see more news reports on this blog.

  12. This is ALL the work of Iranian intelligence and Iranian encouragement of Arabs in the world. Iran is the root of it all

  13. Sometimes it might be best not to provoke someone whose ideas we cannot change because we have no control over what his rage can do to innocent people.

  14. Agree if we know for sure that the person's ideas cannot indeed be changed. Do we ever know?! I submit that you must have seen people whom you thought were hopeless and who managed to turn around 180 degrees.

  15. We've posted a translation of the "Al Gomhuria" article on the attacks.

    We had explored whether it would be possible to translate the TV show, but unfortunately it would be an extremely time-consuming process.

    I await to see how Islamic scholars will react to the tragic events, as much depends on their response

  16. Thank you Kawthar for posting the translation. There will also be another post later today on this blog with updates. Meanwhile, please see the press release by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) here.

  17. They just got the right to be citizens of their own country, now let's take away their right to live!

  18. I really hope you take this shame of a journalist to court for his hateful speech and encouragement of crimes of hate.
    I really blame the journalist and the media in general as well as the government and the puppet sheiks who know the truth that Islam does not allow what happened in Sohag and does not allow the authorities to deny freedoms to citizens who made the choice to follow another faith. All this talk about killing someone who changed his/her religion is clearly against several Quranic verses teaching that forced coversion or belife is not the way to go for Muslims.
    Its also about time that those running the country realize that Egyptians no longer follow only one of the 3 religions and that is their constitutional right.

    I am wondering whether things were better for Bahaais before Egypt turned into a Republic. Are we Egyptians (all of us) again reaping the socital division carefully planted by Nasser?

    Finally, could you please post the Al Quahera Al Youm episode on the incident.

    A muslim Egyptian who believes all Egyptians have equal rights

  19. Anonymous,
    Thank you for expressing your concerns about these unfortunate events. Baha'is realize worldwide that this is the doing of the misguided few. Could you please provide me with the date and title of the article you are referring to? Also, is it in Al-Masry El-Youm?
    Thank you again....

  20. Anonymous,
    This must be the episode (TV program) on Al-Qahera El-Youm you are referring to. This program is a must see! A young teenager describing in great details the attacks, the entire burning episode and what happened afterwords. Other participants include Mr. Hossam Bahgat who provides a detailed account as well. Please click here....


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