Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Egypt: NCHR Symposium Supports Civil Rights of Baha'is

The National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) held its symposium yesterday in Cairo on Omitting Religion from ID Cards. Sixty-three agencies, four ministries, and 160 participants were present at the symposium. The ministries included the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry of Legal Affairs. Also present were representatives of the Egyptian Parliament, all members of the NCHR, and several Baha'is who were officially represented by Dr. Basma Mousa.

While some participants opposed the omission of religious classification from ID Cards many others strongly supported it. Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, NCHR President and former Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that "the three major religions (Islam, Christianity and Judaism) represent less than 50% of world religions, but other religions account for 51% of recognized religions." He also pointed out that "in the upcoming years Egypt will face further conflicts in religious relations, and newer religions will require recognition as they appear, so we should either approve and recognize all religions or eliminate religious classification from ID Cards."

Dr. Mustapha al-Faqi, President of External Affairs Committee of the Egyptian Parliament, indicated that "the elimination of religion from ID Cards is a pressing necessity that conforms to the spirit of the times and the evolution in history."

Dr. Hazem al-Harouni, representative of the Ministry of Interior said that "the Ministry neither supports nor opposes omitting religion from ID Cards since the Ministry is an executive branch of the government charged with executing the law, and that act would require a legislative amendment...."

Others indicated that "religious classification on ID Cards should remain because it deals with matters of marriage, divorce and inheritance. The society however will need to be tolerant, to promote freedoms and knowledge, and the elimination of ignorance and prejudice."

The well-known Egyptian writer Hussein Ahmed Amin elaborated on the injustice faced by the Baha'is and their long and respected history in Egypt.

Dr. Gamal el-Banna, an Islamic thinker and scholar, stated that "the case of religious belief is a personal matter, which has no connection to public order, and that no one should interfere with it. We should be examining the standards of ignorance and prejudice, as well as the publications that darken our lives," pointing out that "omitting religion from ID Cards would neither lead to progress nor regress."

Several Egyptian newspapers reported on the Symposium. These publications included: al-Wafd, al-Masry al-Youm and al-Gomhuria.

A day prior to the symposium the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) published an extensive commentary here, and the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information published more coverage here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your opinion is valuable. Please share your thoughts.