Sunday, July 16, 2006

Egypt: A Student's Struggle For Identity

A Baha'i high school student has been at the center of controversy over the recognition of the Baha'i Faith in Egypt. Two articles were published recently in a newspaper named "al-Ra'y" (The Opinion) regarding her case. The first one was published on 3 July 2006, and the second was published on 10 July 2006.

Students in the Egyptian educational system are required to attend religion classes and be examined on the subject, just as in any other component of their curriculum. Only Muslim and Christian classes are offered. If a student does not belong to either religion, then he or she will be required to attend an examination on the subject of "Morals".

This courageous student named, Sarah Maher, attending a high school in the city of al-Minya in Upper Egypt, had to register for the final examinations required for obtaining the high school diploma. These examinations are organized and administered on a national level by the Ministry of Education. Sarah had registered for this important examination as a Baha'i, and thus her certificate of admission was printed with "Baha'i" as the candidate's religion. This allowed her to be examined on the subject of "Morals" rather than on one of the two allowed religion subjects.

An issue brought to light by the newspaper was that the Ministry of Education had acknowledged Sarah's religion and had in fact recognized the Baha'i Faith as an independent religion "more than once." Consequently, the newspaper questioned the Minister of Education, Dr. Yousry al-Gamal, to divulge whether or not other students in city centers such as 'Mahala el-Kobra' and 'Shobein el-Koum' were taking "Morals" examinations instead of "Religion" examinations?

One would question: why should a young innocent student be exposed to such a controversy? Is it not enough for her to endure the stresses of such an important transition in her educational career? If she were not a Baha'i, this would have never been an issue. But this is just another clear example of what Baha'is have to endure in an intolerant system, regardless of their age or status. Extremism appears to surpass reason and reality!

It is encouraging, however, to witness the support provided by this newspaper to an innocent young student. This free journalism will ultimately open the doors for progress in a society that is quite capable of untold greatness.


  1. One point is that people who happen to be in the spotlight of public attention (in the right place at the right time;-) will have a small bank account of pubicity to us on issues they feel strongly about. Alot about her future ability to cope with the pressure depends on her family, This reminds me of the civil rights movement in the US South. There was a large "silent majority" of citizens who could see for themselves the reality of black Americans' lifes. But they were passive and in denial to confront the issue until voices were raised. This came about not through the leadership of any of the large segments of the white society, but through individuals linking or identifying with the cause of the black community.
    In Egypt as you mention in the previous post about the various and sizable religous groups, all containing educated people capable of phrasing their concerns in a way that larger numbers can identify with. I shouldn't be pessimistic.

  2. As you well know, the civil rights movement could not have gone as far as it did without those who became repugnant with the cruelty by which the blacks were treated. The impetus had to come from within the black community first, and then support came from free thinkers in the white community mostly from the North and to a lesser degree from the South. The movement itself was propelled by years of injustice and suffering.

    I agree--there was a silent majority.... Also, as you know, this did not eliminate the way many people still think, particularly in the south, and race continues to be the most challenging issue facing America.

    On another note, this young lady will gain so much strength and maturity that will go far beyond any education she is getting in her school now.

  3. By the way what do you do for fun on the weekend? :-)

  4. Climb mountains when I get a chance! :-)



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