Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Egyptian Baha'i Rights: "ID Cards" and "Race Laws"

On May 4, 2006, the primary topic debated in the Egyptian Parliament was the right of the Baha'is to be recognized on official documents. The ruling party and the opposition, in a historical first, were in agreement to appeal the court's decision granting Baha'is the right to indicate their religion on all official documents, including ID cards. My previous post titled "Egyptian Baha'is and ID Cards" addresses this question in some detail.

Considering the heated, hateful and angry debate that occurred on that day--which was aggressively orchestrated and conducted by several fundamentalists--the most ominous and frightening statement was made by a Ruling Party Member, Dr. Zainab Abdel-Magid Radwan, a highly educated leader. She is a Professor at the Faculty of Science at Cairo University, Member of the Egyptian National Council for Women, Member of the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights and former Dean of the Faculty of Islamic Studies at Fayoom University.

Dr. Radwan favored allowing the Baha'is to be recognized on official documents and ID cards for one important reason! She stated: "There is an interest in them being known rather than being unknown so that they do not succeed in infiltrating the ranks of society and spreading their extremist and deviant ideology."

Doesn't this remind us of the Nuremberg Race Laws announced in 1935 in Nazi Germany? All Germans were required to carry ID cards. The government added a special identifying mark on ID cards carried by the Jews with a red "J" clearly stamped on their cards. They even forced those with names that were not recognized as clearly Jewish to insert a middle name: "Israel" for a man, and "Sara" for a woman.

Credit: USHMM # 03098

To one's horror, Dr. Radwan went further and stated that "Baha'is have names that are similar to ours and could not be identifiable as Baha'is, therefore we must indicate their religion on their ID cards so we can know who they are." Alternatively, it was also recommended that "Baha'i" would be indicated on the ID cards, but not under the religion section, so that Baha'is could be identified, but not recognized as followers of a religion!

How clearer could their intentions be?

The real question is: why, in today's society, any Nation would want to classify its citizens according to their religion? What is the real reason for this? And what is next?

We only need to look back in history!

"Those who do not remember the past are condemned to relive it."
--George Santayana (1863-1952)


  1. Thank you for bringing this issue to light. Your website is informative and I wish all Egyptians have access to it to counter the misguided attacks against a peaceful minority of Baha'is in Egypt.

    Dr. Zainab Radwan, an accomplished citizen and leader, unfortunately committed what in any other country would be considered a hate crime against an innocent minority. A country that is reluctant to protect its minorities from the tyranny of some members of its leadership and from a wave of fundamentalism; or worse yet, a country that encourages attacks against a peaceful minority is not only transgressing the fundamental right of freedom of belief and freedom of religion but is also allowing itself to be complicit in overstepping rather than promoting justice, tolerance, and understanding, and compassion.

    May Egypt's leadership reverse their stance and promote all those values that Islam stands for: Justice, Toleracne, Understanding, and Compassion!


  2. Dr. Radwan's argument is, unfortunately, not new. In 1983, a ruling by the supreme administrative court in the Maglis al-Dawla stated that Baha'is should be allowed to enter their true religious affiliation into their personal documents because the state should have the right to know its citizens true religion and thus be able to identify each Baha'i... The implications are obvious, but could possibly only be avoided if religion was omitted from those documents altogether - which is inconceivable in Egypt at the present time.

  3. Instead of moving forward, and becoming more humane and civilized, it is sad to see such actions taken in this century. The world should become aware of such backward thinking, there is no tolerance for these kinds of actions.

  4. I am stunned that such a seemingly educated and progressive minded and internationally experienced person such as Dr Radwan would have such true personal opinion. There must be more the to the story about her conclusions. and their reasons, but I may never know.

  5. One would hope so. It is always possible that these are not her true personal feelings!

  6. A history of building pyramidss in the past does not justify the destruction of human identity or existence in the present. The members of the Baha'i Faith have proven themselves capable of building a global community composed of people from all religious, social, racial, and economic backgrounds functioning as a unified whole in a non-political manner. I fail to see the harm in this to any government. Perhaps others could consult them on their methods.

  7. Regarding Johanna's comment, does that mean discrimination was sanctioned by the supreme administrative court of Egypt? Why do they need to identify Baha'is, or anyone else for that matter?

  8. Egypt is going now through events very similar to those preciding the July 23, 1952 Revolution; but, unlike1952, things will get much worse over there before they get better. Meanwhile I hope and pray that the peace loving Bahai Community of Egypt would outlive those coming events and would finally obtain its long overdue legitimate rights.

  9. It is always possible that a light would illumine the way for reason, understanding and justice. Let us hope and pray that those in control would be guided towards a fair and just outcome. There is no justification for any less.

  10. I am totally shocked and dismayed at Dr. Radwan's comments. Coming from a woman of her caliber is really upsetting. You think an educated woman like her would do her research to know the truth before she can express such an opinion that will affect hundrends of people's lives.
    Why must any document in Egypt carry a religious section to it? I remember buying windows for our apartment and on the sales receipt it stated religion of Buyer? Is it really necessary to know this kind of information on a sales receipt?
    A beautiful country like Egypt should move forward and join the rest of the world in respecting the basic human rights of its citizens.
    - Felicity

  11. This is the meat of the matter! Several excuses are being given by the authorities for indicating one's religion on all sorts of documents. Meanwhile the free world seems to do quite well with no mention of religion anywhere, except--perhaps--in hospitals just in case a person dies or needs some sort of spiritual support.


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