Sunday, July 23, 2006

Egypt: Another Strong Call In Support Of Religious Freedom

Egypt's 'Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies' had published a report entitled "Freedom of Belief in the Eyes of the Egyptian Press--the Baha'i Example." The report, dated 1 July 2006, discussed in great detail the Egyptian Press' coverage of the Baha'i Case in relation to the ID Card dilemma and all its accompanying implications. The report was critical of the bias against the Baha'is shown by some of the Egyptian press with its lack of properly-informed reporting. It also praised the press that was balanced and objective in its reporting.

Based on its research and findings, the Institute demanded the following:

1) the Institute renews its request for the omission of religious classification from ID Cards and Official Documents, 2) that the Press Union re-examines its professional ethical code and remind journalists of their duty to adhere the code of balanced journalistic reporting, 3) in cooperation between the Press Union and Human Rights Organizations, training should be provided to journalists on how to respect the principles of human rights during their journalistic work, 4) that newspapers representing political parties or movements must clearly declare in their reporting that their publications are forums for expressing the views of such parties or movements, and 5) that all Human Rights Organizations unite together in promoting freedom of belief in the Egyptian Society whether for Baha'is or for any others. The institute also affirms that this does not contradict Islamic teachings which state: "No compulsion in religion" and "One is free to believe or not to believe."

In regards to the qualities and responsibilities of the Press, Baha'u'llah, the founder of the Baha'i Faith revealed the following:

"In this Day the secrets of the earth are laid bare before the eyes of men. The pages of swiftly-appearing newspapers are indeed the mirror of the world. They reflect the deeds and the pursuits of divers peoples and kindreds. They both reflect them and make them known. They are a mirror endowed with hearing, sight and speech. This is an amazing and potent phenomenon. However, it behoveth the writers thereof to be purged from the promptings of evil passions and desires and to be attired with the raiment of justice and equity. They should enquire into situations as much as possible and ascertain the facts, then set them down in writing."

On its website, the Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies describes itself as:
"[In]dependent research institution setting out from the values of tolerance and equal citizenship, and aspiring to contribute to human resources development in Egyptian and Arab societies, the center is committed to the Declaration of Principles on Tolerance ( Proclaimed and signed by the Member States of "UNESCO" on 16 November 1995 ), besides all international documents, covenants, conventions, and declarations relevant to human rights."

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