Wednesday, June 21, 2006

French Catholic Press Follows Egyptian Baha'i Struggle

On 18 June 2006, a leading French Catholic newspaper "la-Croix" [the Cross] reported on the state of affairs of the Baha'is in Egypt. The report was based on a press release from "AFP" (Agence France Presse) which included several interviews. The following is a translation of the French language article. It was published before the scheduled Egyptian Supreme Court session of 19 June 2006. It should be noted that the following is simply a translation, and is not intended to attest to the accuracy of the original article's content:

Cairo, 18 June 2006 (AFP) – Judicial battle over the recognition of the Baha’is in Egypt.

A judicial battle will re-open Monday in Egypt in front of the Supreme Court over the small minority--religious and philosophical--community of the Baha’is that wants to be recognized as a religion--a right that is denied by the Islamic authorities.

The Baha’is, who have been present in Egypt for 150 years, deem the fight to obtain the new ID card crucial. It is an indispensable document, which forces the mention of the bearer’s religion.

The Baha’i Faith is a part philosophical, part religious movement and it descended from Bab'ism which was founded in Persia by Mirza-Ali Mohammad (1819-1850), whose tomb in Haifa (Israel) is the religion’s principal Holy site.

After having obtained, in April, a favorable judgement from an administrative tribunal in Cairo [sic], the judgement was suspended by the Supreme Administrative Court as the Government was pressured to [appeal] by Muslim extremists.

“According to the authorities, we do not exist. We simply ask to be treated like any other Egyptian citizen and want to be able to write our religion on our official documents” says Labib Hanna, Professor at Cairo University. (AP photo: M. Al-Sehety)

The fate of the Baha’is, about 2000 of them, threatens to turn into a nightmare with the arrival of these new ID cards that will become mandatory by the end of 2006, and will be needed for access to education, employment and healthcare.

On these ID cards only “Muslim”, “Christian” or “Jewish” is allowed.

"The Egyptian Constitution allows freedom of religious belief” underlines Gamal Abdel Aziz, director of an Egyptian NGO (The Arab Network for Human Rights) adding that “in a situation such as this, the Baha’is will be left with no identity”

“I cannot renounce my country or recant my religion. I cannot do either one” says Mr. Hanna.

Until now the Baha’is were able to obtain hand-written ID cards through some semi-official channels.

They meet privately to worship during their 19-day feast that marks the first day of each Baha’i month, which is celebrated within their community.

They were sometimes arrested in Egypt, but usually not as persecuted as in Iran since the institution of its Islamic Republic in 1979. Now the Bahai’s [in Egypt] have been attacked viciously since April.

They have been accused in the press of being a “deviant cult” as compared to Islam, of disturbing the public order, or also of being agents of Israel as their pilgrimage sites are in Israel.

“The government has to gather all its forces to fight and destroy the Baha’i rites and all its other evil and destructive doctrines” proclaims Gad el-Hak Ali, former Sheikh of al-Azhar, in a fatwa appearing in the Egyptian press recently.

A head of the Muslim Brotherhood, Abdel Moneim Fotouh declared: “we cannot allow believers of a non-recognized religion to write-in their religion’s name on an official document.”

During a stormy debate in the Egyptian Parliament in the spring, Maher Akl, a Representative of the Muslim Brotherhood, the principal opposition force, even called for "the liquidation [killing] of all the Baha’is," as is also stated on the Brotherhood’s internet site.

“All this is proof that religious tolerance is constantly degrading in Egypt” commented Mr. Hanna, “the campaign against us by the government and some religious authorities only serves to give more exposure to our rightful claim” he added.

P.S. On 19 June 2006, the same newspaper published a follow-up article on the outcome of the Supreme Court's session, indicating that its decision was tabled until 16 September 2006. The article was titled: "Report on the trial regarding the recognition of the Baha'i religion in Egypt."


  1. Hello, if just Islam just had a couple of more thousand believers like you, active and tolerant, it would not be so much attacked in the western counties like it is.

    The good men and women of Islam must rise up, to show themselves by example and words, to show the west that Islamic religion like all other main religions, which are divinely revealed are the source of enlighten and development of the human race

    Many thank for your blog and example.

    I'm a baha'i from Portugal.

  2. This requires willingness, and capacity for tolerance. Also, the media seems to have a huge influence on public opinion and direction, particularly in areas where people have been fed the same "party line" for so many generations. Proper, open and unbiased education may be the key for change in culture. This has been occurring in certain enlightened segments of society, not only now, but in the past as well. Crises will ultimately lead to significant change!


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