Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Egypt: National Council For Human Rights Launches Site

Egypt's National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) has just launched its new website. This elaborate site is quite comprehensive and contains all of the Council's activities and reports since its inception in 2003.

The site is worth the time needed to browse through its extensive content and it could be viewed in either English or Arabic.

It will also allow a person to post a complaint online (available in the Arabic version only).

This is another step that will help facilitate Egypt's progressive move towards transparency, attention to the human rights of all its citizens and accountability in governance.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Egypt: A Response To Mahmoud On Baha'i Faith

While browsing some of the Egyptian blogs, a very interesting discussion was found in a blog owned by an Egyptian Muslim who had written a daring and honest post regarding the Baha'i Faith, which resulted in a mature discussion that has clearly illustrated the degree of openness and tolerance shown by the young Egyptian generation. The blog can be found at this link.

One of the individuals commenting on the post, named Mahmoud, has raised several questions--many of which repeat the usual false accusations and misrepresentations that have been circulated by uninformed media sources and enemies of the Baha'i Faith. After responding to one of Mahmoud's posts, it appeared to be of possible interest to the wider readership if this response were to be published here as well, so here is the response below:

Dear Mahmoud,

Thank you for beginning this interesting dialogue and hopefully these few paragraphs will assist you in gaining better understanding of the truth regarding the Baha’i Faith.

Please excuse me for not responding to you in Arabic as, currently, I do not have the facility to publish in Arabic.

The holy Qur'an states that "Muhammad is the messenger of God and the seal of the prophets." It did not state that he is the seal of the messengers. Baha'is acknowledge that His Holiness Muhammad is the seal of the prophets. His Holiness Muhammad had sealed and completed a prophetic cycle which began with Adam. His Holiness Baha'u'llah began a new cycle with a vast revelation from God. He never claimed to be God, but like all other messengers of God, He reflected God’s image to humanity as His Manifestation, just like a mirror reflecting an image—say of the sun—you will see the sun in the mirror…this does not mean that the mirror is the sun, it is only an instrument. This applies to any messenger of God.

Baha’is believe that this new Baha’i cycle will last about 500,0000 years and God will continue to bless humanity with many Messengers under this new cycle...every 1000 years or so. God will never abandon or leave humanity alone and without guidance—just think about that—would you think that when your parents sent you to the elementary school they would have stopped right there and left you without any further education? Humanity is also like this example, it cannot stop learning as it matures and grows over thousands of years. Do you think that God would say: “well I have done enough for my creatures, and I will not send them any further guidance, and will just leave them for themselves to alter My teachings, continue to interpret my words, divide themselves into sects and arm themselves towards annihilation, spilling each other’s blood, and to have savage wars and conflicts until they exterminate each other....”? I do not think so…and any person who really cleanses his heart and opens his eyes to see the truth without any prejudice or attachment, will see the same.

The proof of the authenticity of a religion is in its teachings and in its influence on its followers and on humanity as a whole. Today, the Baha'i Faith is geographically the second-most widespread religion in the world after Christianity. How any religion could spread so wide and so fast, and have so many followers from all races, colors and backgrounds, if it were not of God?

Regarding your other point on the accusation that Baha'u'llah was a Russian agent: this has been one of the many false allegations that have been spread by His enemies. One fails to see the point of this clearly silly allegation. What interest did Russia—turning into a communist nation at the time—have in religion? One of its first acts was to ban all religions in its land.... Baha’u’llah was exiled from Persia and became a prisoner of the Ottoman Empire, being expelled from one city to another until he ended up in the dreaded prison of Acre (Akka). What interest would Russia have in such a prisoner? Is there any logic to this?

May I suggest again that you check the links in Arabic listed in my site? You will find answers to all your questions at these links, but please look at them with an open and detached heart…then, you will see for yourself.

Your frankness in asking these questions is greatly appreciated, and I pray that you will be guided to the truth....

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Egypt: Interview With Gamal El-Banna

This is the most recent media coverage in the Egyptian press on the status of the Baha'i Faith in that country. On 21 October 2006 al-Masry al-Youm newspaper published an interview with the Islamic scholar and prominent Egyptian liberal thinker Gamal el-Banna. The article was entitled "You ask and Gamal el-Banna answers on the truth of Baha'iyyah."

Gamal el-Banna is known in the Egyptian society as a progressive, moderate and liberal thinker who is also a scholar who has published several books and manuscripts on various aspects of reform of religion and Islam as it applies to the modern Egyptian society.

On several occasions, el-Banna has publicly defended the civil rights of Egyptian Baha'is, and their entitlement to recognition and equal treatment under the law.

His older brother Hassan el-Banna founded the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt's Suez Canal city of Ismailia in 1928. The movement was subsequently outlawed, its followers were incarcerated over the years, and its founder was assassinated in 1949.

In contrast to the moderate and reformist Gamal el-Banna, his brother Hassan had contributed greatly to the persecution of the Baha'is in Ismailia, and his movement has been the main source of opposition to the Baha'i Faith in Egypt since the movement's inception in Ismailia.

The newspaper journalist asked Gamal el-Banna several penetrating and insightful questions, the responses of el-Banna were guarded, but appropriate. However, some of his answers were not quite accurate, particularly when he mentioned that Baha'is worship the number nineteen. It is apparent that this particular answer was not based on independent investigation of the Baha'i Faith, but rather repetition of misinformation that has been circulated by enemies of the Baha'i Faith, In fact, having heard and seen some of the interviews with Gamal el-Banna, one would have no doubt that in time, and through independent study of the Baha'i Faith, he would be able to determine for himself the truth and facts regarding the principles and noble teachings of the Faith, and it would become clear to him that there is no such a thing as worshiping a mere number.

He said, "...but the freedom of belief forces us to leave them [Baha'is] to the choice they made for themselves, this is their right, and I believe that it is in their right that they are documented as Baha'is in the ID Card and official documents."

He later stated that "even though the idea of recognizing the three religions of Judaism, Islam and Christianity [in Egypt] is a sound one, yet in China and India there are as many believers [in other religions] as there are in the mentioned three religions. God [in the Qur'an] has said...you have your religion and I have mine...so he ruled that even the unbelievers have their own religion, at least in the eyes of those who believe in these words, and that [the unbelievers] have just the same rights as the believers."

Another interesting fact about this honorable man is that, even though he disagreed with and opposed his brother's teachings and inclinations, he continues to hold respect and love for his late older brother. This became clear when he was asked by the reporter about the plans for a film depicting the life of his brother. Gamal indicated that the fact that he is the brother of Hassan is irrelevant since Hassan was and is considered a public figure rather than just a family member.

For further reading (in Arabic) about this particular news item, please refer to a recently published post at this site.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Response To The Mufti Of Egypt (Part-4)

In this last segment of the interview with the Grand Mufti of Egypt, he continues his flawed theory using the number 19 to discredit the Baha'i Faith. This issue has been clearly addressed in this previous post.

The rest of the interview is full of confusing statements, misrepresentations and flight of ideas that are neither worthy of analysis nor deserve the time needed to elaborate on them.

It is quite clear from this whole interview that the Grand Mufti has been trying to discredit the Baha'i Faith using baseless theories and convoluted erroneous arguments that have no basis in either logic or fact. He resorts to prove his whole theory on the basis of his flawed interpretation of a number, and has completely neglected to address any of the teachings, principles and impact of the Baha'i Faith on its followers and the world as a whole. It should be obvious to all why he has to resort to that strategy! Since this subject was brought up by the Mufti, it must be clearly stated here that--contrary to the Mufti's claim--Baha'is neither "worship a number," nor "base their religion on a number."

The following is the write-up on the Grand Mufti of Egypt in Wikipedia:

"Shaikh Ali Gomaa (Arabic:علي جمعة) is the Grand Mufti of Egypt succeeding Muhammad Sayyid Tantawy. He is considered to be one of the most respected and qualified traditional Islamic scholars alive. He has mastery in numerous Islamic Sciences but particularly specializes in the science of the foundations of Islamic Law, viz Usul al-fiqh. He follows the Shafi`i school of Islamic juruspudence. He is famous in the Islamic world.

Shaikh Ali Gomaa is also the khateeb (the Orator) of the Sultan Hassan Mosque in Cairo and has authored around two dozen books on various highly specialized and complex subjects of Islam.

He is the Editor of the Encyclopaedia of Hadith, a sub-project of the greater Sunnah Project of the Thesaurus Islamicus Foundation, which aims at documenting and publishing all works related to Prophetic narrations or Hadith."

A description of the duties and functions of the Grand Mufti can be found at this link.

Friday, October 20, 2006

President Mubarak On Religious Tolerance

As a follow up on the previous post regarding the highly anticipated speech of Egypt's President Mr. Hosni Mubarak given on 19 October 2006, the following are excerpts from a report on the speech. For the full article on Reuters website, please click here.

To view a complete video recording of the speech, please click here.

Egypt's Mubarak blames Muslims for faith's bad image

By Alaa Shahine

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak questioned on Thursday whether Muslims had done enough to change the West's "wrong perceptions" about Islam, which he said was under "ferocious attack".

He also said Islam needed a fresh religious discourse to promote tolerance and uproot extremist views.

"The Muslim world is facing a ferocious attack, describing Islam wrongly and offending Muslims' sacred (symbols and figures) and beliefs," Mubarak said in a speech marking Lailat al-Qadr, the night Muslims believe God started the revelation of the Koran to Prophet Mohammed more than 1400 years ago.

"Don't we Muslims share part of the responsibility for the wrong perceptions about Islam? Have we done our duty in correcting the image of Islam and Muslims?" he said.

"Isn't it the time for a new religious discourse, that teaches people the correct things in their religion ... and promotes the values of tolerance against those of extremism and radicalism?" he said.

It was the most detailed remark yet by the president on the need to reform Islam's jurisprudence to accommodate more moderate views, although critics say the state's control of religious institutions in Egypt has harmed their credibility.

Egypt has been battling radical Islamists since before Mubarak took office. His predecessor Anwar Sadat was assassinated by Islamist militants.

Also, this Associated Press (AP) article regarding the speech was reported in the New York Times, and excerpted here: Muslims have strayed from the essence of Islam and need to return to its principles of "forgiveness, righteousness and reform," he said.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Egypt: Important Commentary On The Advisory Report

A commentary was received from one of the readers regarding the last post on Egypt's Commissioner's Advisory Report to the Supreme Administrative Court which was submitted in preparation for the Court's scheduled session of 20 November 2006. Because of the importance of the issue discussed, it seemed appropriate to publish this commentary in its entirety as a post.

Even though it is clearly known that Baha'is are strictly forbidden from participating in partisan politics, page 99 of Rose el-Yousef article refers to the commissioner's report which accused the Baha'is of "claiming divinity, and that they have exited the sphere of religious belief and entered the political arena opposing the Arab Nation, and in disregard of Islam and Muslims, they promoted in their books the Zionist proclamations announcing that the children of Israel will be returning to the Holy Land where the Jewish Nation--which was dispersed in the east, the west, the north and the south--will gather."

The following is the commentary responding to the above made claim:

Abdul- Abhá was not the only one who prophesized about the return of Jews to their land. The Qur'an states this clearly in Surat Al-Isra’a, verse 104.

Abdullah Yusuf Ali, in his new edition translation of the Holy Qur’an “The Meaning of The Holy Qur’an”, wrote in the footnotes about the verse 104 of Surat Al-Isra’a, page 703, that some commentators refer this verse to the Day of Judgement.

One understands from the above verse, that God, on the Day of Judgement, will gather the Children of Israel in mingled crowds. And this promise, according to Abdul-Abhá, “is clearly stated in all the Books of the Prophets.”

-In 1906 Abdul-Abhá prophesized that Jews will return to Palestine to establish their country. It is known that the Balfour Declaration was adopted in 1917. Here is the quote:

“One of the great events which is to occur in the Day of the manifestation of that Incomparable Branch (Bahá'u'lláh) is the hoisting of the Standard of God among all nations. By this is meant that all nations and kindreds will be gathered together under the shadow of this Divine Banner, which is no other than the Lordly Branch itself, and will become a single nation. Religious and sectarian antagonism, the hostility of races and peoples, and differences among nations, will be eliminated. All men will adhere to one religion, will have one common faith, will be blended into one race, and become a single people. All will dwell in one common fatherland, which is the planet itself. Universal peace and concord will be realized between all the nations, and that Incomparable Branch will gather together all Israel, signifying that in this cycle Israel will be gathered in the Holy Land, and that the Jewish people who are scattered to the East and West, South and North, will be assembled together.
Now see: these events did not take place in the Christian cycle, for the nations did not come under the One Standard which is the Divine Branch. But in this cycle of the Lord of Hosts all the nations and peoples will enter under the shadow of this Flag. In the same way, Israel, scattered all over the world, was not reassembled in the Holy Land in the Christian cycle; but in the beginning of the cycle of Bahá'u'lláh this divine promise, as is clearly stated in all the Books of the Prophets, has begun to be manifest. You can see that from all the parts of the world tribes of Jews are coming to the Holy Land; they live in villages and lands which they make their own, and day by day they are increasing to such an extent that all Palestine will become their home.”
(Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 65)

For more analysis (in Arabic/English), please click here.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Egypt: Commissioner's Advisory Report On Baha'is Released

In preparation for Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court session scheduled for 20 November 2006, the long-awaited government Commissioner's Advisory Report that was requested by the court was released on Thursday, 12 October 2006, and a summary of the report was published in Rose el-Yousef newspaper yesterday. The 24 page report, as expected, supported the opinions of the appellants, i.e. the Ministry of Interior and the other government agencies who had appealed the lower Administrative Court's ruling which granted the Baha'is their right to indicate their religion on government-issued official documents.

It is not surprising that this clearly biased and one-sided report repeats the exact same illogical and unjustified statements and conclusions that have been circulating among the Egyptian fundamentalist establishment for many years.

In brief, it concluded that since the Baha'i Faith is not recognized in Egypt as a "divine religion," therefore its followers in that land have no rights whatsoever and that they simply do not exist! Consequently, they concluded that Egypt's Constitutional guarantees of freedom of belief and religion do not apply to the Baha'is. That Egypt is not bound to its commitment as a cosignatory to the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and that the Baha'is, in Egypt, should not be under its protection--since, as far as they are concerned, Egypt should have no obligations towards them! That the Baha'i are apostates (whether or not they descended from an Islamic background). That they are a threat to the "general [public] order" of the State, and that all their marriages are null and void.... That "methods must be defined that would insure that Baha'is are identified, confronted and singled out so that they could be watched carefully, isolated and monitored in order to protect the rest of the population as well as Islam from their danger, influence and their teachings." The report also calls for the original plaintiffs (the Baha'i family that won the case) to be charged for all court costs!

The travesty of this report is that it identifies the Baha'is as a threat to the nation, isolates them in a corner, deprives them from every right to citizenship, strips them from all their civil rights, calls for their elimination and expulsion, declares their children as illegitimate and their men and women as cohabiting out-of-wedlock.... Above all, Rose el-Yousef newspaper made sure that this report got published expeditiously so that it would serve its own purposes and agenda in its propaganda campaign against the Baha'is.

If the Supreme Administrative Court accepts this report on its face, then we should wonder if any sense of decency or humanity can have a place in that country!

As most of us know, these allegations, misrepresentations, illogical and slanderous conclusions have no basis in fact and have no legal justification. It is inconceivable that a modern civilization in the 21st century could degenerate to this point of oppression of its minorities under the watchful eye of the rest of the world. One would certainly hope that, if in the remote possibility that such conclusions and judgements became contemplated for implementation by the court, the anticipated consequent outrage expressed by the world would be a deterrent to such possible outcome.

It is also prayerfully hoped and expected that the Supreme Administrative Court will stand for justice and for its duty to uphold the guarantee of human rights to its constituency, and that President Mubarak will stand for his noble calling and quest for justice for all his citizens when he addresses the nation this upcoming Thursday as was published in this previous post.

It is essential that when religious tolerance is promoted, it must also include tolerance towards religious beliefs other than Egypt’s "recognized three." Anything less than that would be a waste of time and of no use. We can't say that “we are tolerant to only the few we recognize, and anything else is not our concern.” This would not be tolerance.

The issue is not whether or not a religion is divine--this is a whole different matter--the issue is that any religious belief must be respected, regardless of its origin or legitimacy. This is how today's world functions and is what the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights has been based on. It is essential that this nation must provide the guarantee of equality and of civil rights to all Egyptian citizens, even those who happen to have a different religious belief. No law-abiding human being in this world expects any less than that. Egypt is no exception.

The Baha'is are not, and have never been, a threat to anyone or anything, and in particular "General [Public] Order" (al-Nezam el-Aam) as claimed by the many proclamations made by Egypt’s fundamentalist establishment as well as the biased sections of the media; all this rhetoric has been fabricated in order to defame the Baha'is...it is an excuse and a "catch phrase" that is intended to manipulate the masses and justify the injustices.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Response To The Mufti Of Egypt (Part-3)

This is a continuation of previous posts refuting the statements made on television by the Grand Mufti of Egypt on his opinion of the Baha'i Faith.

In this section, the learned Mufti states the following: "How many Baha’is are there in Egypt? The official statistics say sixty-four people, sixty-four people."


As a result of the 1960 Presidential decree that suspended the Baha'i administration in Egypt, there has been no way to register or document the number of Baha'is in Egypt. Where did the Mufti obtain his "official statistics" to make such a statement? If there is any truth to what he said in the previous segment that Mr. Hussein Bikar was the only person documented as a Baha'i in Egypt, then the "official statistics" would find that there has been only one Baha'i in Egypt!

He goes on to state: "If they had a place of worship in Abbasiyyah, what has become of it now? Now it is The Conservation of the Holy Qur'an Society. And why was it shut down in the 1960’s due to a governmental order? Because in the sixties, they discovered that the Baha'is communicated with the Israeli enemy. So, it started a war. The war started in '48 and was confirmed in '56 then the crisis of '67 occurred then '73. There was a state of war between Egypt and Israel before the peace agreement. So, in this year, they found a strange connection between these groups and Israel. So, they brought them and asked them: Why are you doing this? They said: Our religion, we have a religion called the religion of peace, and we should work towards peace and give this information to others in a way that leads to peace. So, they shut it down not because they are tightening the grip on beliefs but because, they [the Baha’is] were accused of association with the enemy during the war...I only want to clarify Egypt’s position. Per the Constitution Egypt respects...firstly, it recognizes three religions and does not recognize any other. Secondly, it also recognizes the freedom of belief; you can believe in anything you want. And it regulates the freedom of expression so that one does not harm others, so that one does not attack others, so that one does not steal the rights of others and so on."


There has never been any such communication between the Baha'is and the State of Israel. In fact, if such an occurrence had ever existed it is "no joke" in Egypt, as it is established that this is a crime of treason punishable by the death penalty. I should like to ask the Mufti this question: how many Baha'is have been found to commit this alleged crime? the answer is: none.... This statement by the Mufti is flagrantly slanderous and he should be held accountable for such declaration.

He later said: "I am so familiar with the Baha’i sources to the point that I have extensive knowledge on the Baha’iyyah with sources and information which they [Baha'is] never had....I asked them what they want. They said: Baha’u’llah is the truth. I told them: You folks do not know anything about your religion. Are you religious authorities? They said: no, we do not have religious authorities in our religion. We are all the same. I said: Okay, do you know this religion of yours, which you call a religion but we do not call it a religion but a view, is built on what? They said: no, we do not know. I told them that this is built on something called the Abjad System (Numerology) whereas each alphabet has a value according to the order of the Abjad letters, abjad hawwaz hutti kalamun sa'fas qarashat thakhadhun dazaghun. Layla Murad used to sing Abjad Hawwaz, so, people are familiar with it, but it has a continuation, abjad hawwaz hutti kalamun sa'fas qarashat thakhadhun dazaghun. And each one of these letters has a designated number. So, using these numbers they, for example, calculated the numerical value of "In the Name of God, the Compassionate the Merciful." Then they said: See, this is 19 letters whose value is divisible by 19; so the number 19 is a holy number. I told them: Folks, these are illusions, and I can give you a reason that could discredit all of the Baha’iyyah. They said: What is it? I told them that there is a disagreement between East and West about the way these alphabets are ordered. As Ibn Khaldun says in his introduction, westerners use a different order that differs starting from the letter Seen. Abjad hawwaz hutti kalamun sa'fas; the difference starts here. I showed them the order used by Ibn-Khaldun. Ibn-Khaldun is dead; he was around 600 years ago, before Al-Baha’iyyah and such."


Here, the respected and learned Mufti recounts a conversation he claims to have had with a couple of Baha'is years ago. Based on the history of all his previous statements, there is no way to know whether or not this conversation has ever occurred, but if we take it on its face value, he clearly shows that he is basing his whole argument to disprove the Baha'i Faith on an erroneous assumption:

As clarified by an authority on numerology, the Grand Mufti confounded his argument by stating that the number 19 derived from Abjad value of the letters of "Bismilláhi'r-Rahmáni'r-Rahím." In fact, the number derives from a straightforward numerical count of the letters of the Basmalah, and has nothing to do with their Abjad equivalents. The Abjad value of the Basmalah, by contrast, is 2 + 60 + 40 + 1 + 30 + 30 + 5 + 1 + 30 + 200 + 8 + 40 (+ 1) + 50 + 1 + 30 + 200 + 8 + 10 + 40 = 786(7). The number 19 has in fact been recognised within Islam as of prime importance in the Qur'án, but this is invariably on the basis of straightforward arithmetical counts. So the Grand Mufti's argument that the entire religion is undermined because of a discrepancy over the numerical value of the letters as between East and West is in this case invalid, since the importance of the number 19 in the Basmalah, and the Qur'án in general, is not based upon the Abjad system, but upon straightforward numerical counts.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Egypt: President Mubarak Speaks On Religious Tolerance

Al-Ahram newspaper published an article on 14 October 2006 announcing a scheduled speech by Egypt's President Mr. Hosni Mubarak next week on Thursday. In order to read the full article in Arabic, please click on the image to the right.

The evening celebration is hosted by the Ministry of Religious Endowment, and "the important speech will be addressed to the Arab world and the Islamic world."

The speech will focus on "the challenges currently facing the Egyptian Nation, whether from the outside world or from some of its sons [citizens], the duty of Muslims towards these challenges, and how Muslims should behave in a worthy appearance that displays and clarifies the image of Islam of enlightened forgiveness and uprightness shown in action and not only in words."

"The speech will also deal with the responsibility of those preaching and teaching religion towards behaving in accordance with the modern age, ensuring the benevolent respect of other beliefs and religions, and the avoidance of any interference with these beliefs. Emphasis will be placed on the application of the principle of accepting others through the channels of continuous dialogue between followers of all religions for the purpose of world peace and prosperity of humankind."

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Response To The Mufti Of Egypt (Part-2)

In the second segment of the televised interview with the Mufti of Egypt he used the following logic: "Jews recognize Moses only, Christians recognize Jesus and Moses only, and Muslims recognize Muhammad, Jesus and Moses only, therefore there are only three religions in Egypt, and there is no place for anyone to come after that and refuse to recognize any of the previous religions...Baha'is, just as Muslims, believe in all three religions and therefore should be listed as Muslims, not Baha'is."

Baha'is do recognize all previous religions including Judaism, Christianity and Islam, but that fact does not automatically make them Muslims as he wants to force them to become. The same applies to Muslims having recognized Christianity and Judaism does not automatically make them Christians.

Later he indicated: "Muslims had to struggle for a long time to be recognized in Austria Holland and Belgium and finally were able to obtain their full rights there, but we will never allow the Baha'is to be recognized or obtain their rights in Egypt."

It is difficult to decipher his logic or the meaning of his statement! Aren't the Egyptian Baha'is humans as well, who deserve their right to be recognized and treated equally in their own homeland?

Another blatant fabrication is when he said that "the late Mr. Hussein Bikar, a famous Egyptian Baha'i national treasure, was the only one to have had his ID card issued with Baha'i indicated on it because he bribed an official to obtain the card, and that there was a court case because of that and he was arrested for it."

Mr. Hussein Bikar is personally known to this blogger, he never obtained the ID card--let alone having his religion indicated on it. He died without an ID card and there was never a court case because of this issue nor was he put in prison because of bribing anyone for an ID card. The Mufti should be ashamed of himself for defaming an innocent soul who had served his country with absolute devotion, nobility, humility and dignity. For his contributions to the arts and culture of Egypt, and before his death, Mr. Bikar was awarded by President Mubarak the highest prize in the land in recognition of his accomplishments and his exemplary citizenship despite the fact that he was well-known to belong to a persecuted religious minority in Egypt, as was described in this post.

Incidentally, Mr. Bikar had donated the whole sum of his "Mubarak Prize" to Egypt's Children's National Cancer Fund....

The Mufti also added that "no Baha'is had ever had their religion indicated on any official documents." Wrong again.... For many years--before the current ID card crisis--several Baha'is had their correct religion entered on official documents under the specified section for religious classification; this included birth certificates, death certificates, property purchases, old (now expired) ID cards, etc....

The Mufti, considering his status in society, must ensure the accuracy of his information before making such statements on television. Anything less than that would be irresponsible.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Is The World In Need Of A New Religion?

This very interesting and informative article was just authored by an individual Egyptian Baha'i in Cairo, and it is published here for the benefit of Arabic-speaking readers. To read the complete article please click HERE.

Author (with permission): Randa Shoghi el-Hamamsy

?هل العالم بحاجة الى دين جديد

إن الاضطراب الذى يهز البشرية الآن لم يسبق له مثيل، وكثيراً ما ينتج عنه دمار كبير، والمخاطر التى لم يعرف لها التاريخ شبيهاً تحدق ببشرية تائهة غافلة حيرى من كل صوب. إن أكبر خطأ يمكن أن يرتكبه قادة العالم فى هذا المنعطف هو أن يسمحوا للأزمات بأن تلقى بظلال الشك على النتائج الحتمية لما يجرى الآن. عالم يمضى وآخر جديد يناضل من أجل أن يولد. إن المؤسسات و العادات والأفكار التى تراكمت عبر القرون تمر الآن باختبارات ضرورية بل ولا مفر منها لتقدم البشرية. والمطلوب الآن من شعوب العالم هو قدر من الإيمان والعزيمة تتلاءم مع الطاقات الهائلة التى وهبها خالق كل الأشياء للجنس البشرى فى موسم الربيع الروحانى .
في بداية الكلام يجب ان نتحدث عن مدى الدمار والخراب الذي اورده الانسان على نفسه في هذه الفترة من التاريخ. في هذا القرن وصل قتل البشر الى درجة يفوق الاحصاء، وكذلك ما حصل من تفكك أسس النظم الاجتماعية، وسلب شرف الإنسان حتى الاعتداء على الموازين الاخلاقية وخيانة للحياة الفكرية والمعنوية للانسان واستسلامهم للشعارات غير الصحيحة والخاوية، واختراع الاسلحة المهيبة التي تدمر البشرية، انهزام الملل واصابة الناس بالفقر والفاقة، تلوث البيئة والكرة الارضية، ليس هذا الا قائمة من الفجائع المحيرة التي لم يتصورها البشر حتى في احلك العصور الماضية .
في هذا الزمان أحاط العالم طوفان عظيم ، قوته لم يسبق لها مثيل، ومسيرته غيرمعلومه، تأثيراته اللحظية محيره ونتائجه النهائية في غاية العظمة والجلال ، وتتزايد سرعة قوته المحركة بصورة لا ترحم وتزداد شدة قوته التطهيرية يوما بعد يوم. أسر العالم في قبضة قدرته المخربة وابتلى بمظاهر قهاريته التي لا تقاوم. لا يعرف منشأه ولا مبدأه ولا يعرف اهميته ولا خبر له عن نتائجه. لهذا بقى العالم حيرانا ومتأوها ومتشردا ناظرا الى صرصر القهر الالهي هذا ، كيف انه وصل الى ابعد وأعمر نقطه في الكرة الارضية وزلزل بنيانه واختل توازنه....

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Response To The Mufti Of Egypt (Part-1)

Some of the commentators on this blog have contributed valuable responses to the fabrications made up by the Mufti of Egypt in his television interview. Even though their comments are easily accessible in that specified section of the blog, it was felt that posting them to the main body of the blog would be quite useful, particularly to syndicated readers and feeds. The blue print in this post is added by the blog's owner.

The first segment of the television interview is posted below and followed by the comments related to it. If more comments pertaining to this segment are received, they will be also added to the post.

Hissam stated the following:

I have not yet had enough time to listen to the full interview, yet I am appalled, by the logic, or rather lack of, in this supposedly learned 'man of the cloth.'

The Mufti is saying that the Baha'i Faith is not a religion because it doesn't have clergy or a mechanism of interpretation like that of theological expounding in Islam (Fiqh), and his logic is that since Baha'is don't have a hierarchy of authority, they end up with a hodgepodge of different opinions and ideas (sort of an "everything goes" system) rather than a belief system.

He forgets that this system of interpretation he is talking about, has no basis in the Qur'an (nor in other sacred books). On the contrary, the Qur'an has a verse (ayeh) which clearly forbids interpretation [75:16-19], where God reserves that right to Himself.

The end result is that after 160 years since its inception, a researcher will find that there is only one Baha'i Faith, while the Mufti's "system of interpretation" has resulted in numerous sects often cursing each other and sometimes calling the rest "unbelievers." (For an example, another colleague of his from al-Azhar, shaikh Samak was saying on television a couple of months ago that Sunnis should not marry Shiites).

In the Baha'i Faith, believers are free to study and investigate for themselves without influencing others, or providing official opinions and interpretations. Only the appointed successors of Baha'u'llah (Abdu'l-Baha & the Guardian, Shoghi Effendi) were empowered to interpret the revelation of Baha'u'llah. Thus, the Faith remained united and free of baseless interpretations, which is exactly the opposite of what the Mufti has indicated in his statement by saying "they end up with a hodgepodge of different opinions and ideas (sort of an "everything goes" system) rather than a belief system." In fact, this is exactly what happened in Islam since every so-called Shaikh, Imam, Mullah or other have taken the liberty to interpret the Qur'an resulting in "a hodgepodge of different opinions and ideas...everything goes."

The Baha'i Faith has no clergy, but has elected ruling Institutions, such as the Universal House of Justice, the National Spiritual Assemblies and the Local Spiritual Assemblies. These Institutions have the authority and the power to administer the affairs of the Baha'i Faith, but cannot interpret the writings. The Universal House of Justice, the only current Infallible Institution in the Baha'i Faith, can also legislate on matters not specifically revealed in the Most Holy Book (al-Kitab al-Aqdas) . Another branch of the Baha'i administration is the appointed Institution of the Learned, these are individual Baha'is who assist, guide and collaborate with the elected Institutions of the Rulers, but are not given power or authority over the administration of the Faith--these respected and learned individuals are under the direction of the Universal House of Justice through the International Teaching Centre. They are the Hands of the Cause of God (who were appointed by the Central Figures of the Baha'i Faith) succeeded by the Institution of the Counsellors which carries the work of the Hands of the Cause of protection and propagation of the Baha'i Faith into the future. The Continental Counsellors appoint Auxiliary Board Members to work at the regional level, who in turn appoint Assistants to help them in the discharge of their duties at the local level.

The other point which attracted my attention in the short segment I watched was that, contrary to what has been said on Egyptian television for decades about there being only three 'heavenly' religions, and in order to support his argument about why the Baha'i Faith is different from other "religions," he mentions the Buddhists having their "Book," and the Hindus and their "Book," etc...so in essence he is admitting that there are religions other than the THREE (...but, of course, not Baha'i).

As to whether the Baha'i Faith is a religion or not, there are a couple of pages written about that in Arabic that may be of interest to the Egyptian (and other Arabic speaking) readers at this LINK.

The Mufti also stated that the Supreme Court had reversed the lower court's ruling which allowed the Egyptian Baha'is to indicate their religion on ID Cards and all other official documents, and he stated that "this matter is done with and is now closed." Well...he is wrong again.... The Supreme Court did not reverse the decision, but rather suspended the implementation of the lower court's ruling until the government presents its case in the appeal. The decision has been postponed for the third time on 16 September 2006, and it was tabled for the court's session of 20 November 2006 as was posted in this LINK.

EdoRiver wrote:

Hissam, thanks for these cogent comments.

Since I am on the outside, it is easy for me to try to think kindly of the Mufti. No doubt I would have a different opinion if I were within the threat of his enthusiastic followers.

It is a real shame that the leaders will disavow any intentions of violence while allowing their more ignorant less tolerant followers to express their loyalty to him (or her?) by attacking the innocent.

Two of my students in my adult English class are very surprised that such a tiny number of Baha'is in Egypt can cause such turmoil. They want to know how this is possible?????

The answer to your students is that, if not for the Baha'i Faith's authenticity as a major divinely-ordained world religion, "such turmoil" would not have occurred. The Islamic clergy perceives that its own power and influence are threatened--down to their core. This reaction is not surprising at all.

Egyptian Baha'i wrote:

I had started posting a reply to what I think is an offensive ignorant interview. But then there was more.... I don't know if I'm in for more of this nonsense!

Egyptian Baha'i:
You should not stop responding to the "nonsense" even though it could be a painful exercise....

Response in Arabic can be viewed HERE.

To be continued....

Friday, October 06, 2006

Egypt: Response To The Mufti On The Baha'i Faith

There are four video segments of the television interview referred to in the last post. They are currently being translated and responses that will refute all the fabrications made up by the Mufti of Egypt will also be published. Meanwhile, until the transcripts and responses are ready for posting, for those who are eager to view the complete set, the four video clips can be seen at the following links:

Segment One
Segment Two
Segment Three
Segment Four

After viewing these segments, one will immediately realize that while the Mufti is attempting to present himself as a wise, knowledgeable and convincing authority on the Baha'i Faith, he proves without any doubt his complete ignorance and bias.

Response in Arabic can be viewed HERE.

Mark Twain once said: "It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt."

On Baha'is: Mufti Of Egypt Spreads Ignorance And Shames Islam

In Egypt's official al-Akhbar (The News) government-owned newspaper, an article was published on 4 October 2006 announcing a highly intrusive and divisive television series intended to "explain important cases" concerning Egyptian Islamic thought.

The program is called "Islam: an open book." It is being aired on el-Mehwar Egyptian channel daily at 5 PM until the end of Ramadan.

This program is intended to tell "the truth about Baha'i, and why the Mufti refuses to allow Baha'i religion on ID Cards and passports." Also it will tell the "truth" about Shi'a Islam, as well as the "truth" about everything else the Mufti tends to dislike, including "whether or not women can pray to God in the same location as men do!" This is the same Mufti who justifies wife-beating according to his own interpretation of Islam as stated by him in this other interview.

The Mufti of Egypt, Ali Goumha'a, uses television to spread hate and ignorance. He shames a respected world religion such as Islam with malicious fabrications about the Baha'i Faith as well as all religions other than the "three recognized religions in Egypt." It is painfully appalling to listen to a so called "Islamic leader" in Egypt who has the absolute authority to produce "fatwas" and official pronouncements. Incidentally, he is also the final word on death penalty cases before their execution!

Starting today, and every late afternoon until the end of Ramadan, he will spend his precious time attacking the Baha'i Faith on television as a tribute to the spirit of Ramadan, so that some fasting Muslims--who might believe his words--would be infused and force-fed with disinformation, distortions, fabrications, and hate just before breaking their fast (both spiritual & physical) as the program begins daily at 5 PM, and ends in time for the cannon-blast announcing sunset and the time to break the fast. Is this the spirit of Ramadan, so prized, and valued by many?

Shall we weep for those innocent people that are driven to such intellectual manipulation and deprivation from truth? One can only hope that these people could be inspired by Divine Power and reason to see through such murky ideology and poisonous thought.

These interviews clearly--and unfortunately--illustrate that the Mufti of Egypt has definitely plunged into the abyss of ignorance....

In the following few days, you will have the unfortunate opportunity to view these Egyptian television programs on this site.

Here is a sample for those who understand Arabic. Translations will follow....

Response in Arabic can be viewed HERE.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Egypt: Baha'is File A Complaint With President Mubarak

In response to the recent offensive by Dr. Khaled Abdel-Halim el-Sayouty, professor of Islamic studies at al-Azhar University and the author of a book calling for killing the Baha'is, a formal complaint was just filed with President Mubarak by the Egyptian Baha'is accusing the book's author of fabrication and forgery. The report of this action was published in "Nahdat Misr" (Rise & Renaissance of Egypt) on 2 October 2006, linked here.

Dr. Khaled Abdel-Halim el-Sayouty, under the authority and direction of the Ministry of Religious Endowment and the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs in Egypt, authored a book entitled, "Baha'ism - its Beliefs and Colonial Goals." It included statements clearly calling for the killing of Baha'is, and was sold for a bargain price of one Egyptian Pound. It was dated June 2006 and consisted of 104 pages. The author of the book has recently hired an attorney and filed a complaint with Egypt's Attorney General alleging that he was defamed and that his reputation with the country's National Security Agency and the Presidency of the Republic has been damaged as he was presumed to promote hatred and terrorism.

In this book, its author wrote:

"[For] this Baha'i 'sect' and its likes of other deadly plagues of thought, the government should recruit all the powers it can muster, in order to stand against it and destroy it. That is because protecting the Islamic faith should rank no less [in its importance] than protecting the bodily ailments (physical sicknesses) that the government so promptly and readily rushes to remedy. Rather, protecting the faith is more important because in faith that is [still] healthy, lies purity of life, and the worship of God. If a nation loses its Faith, it loses its very identity and is overcome by its enemies. Egypt must remember that now and always it has protected Islam and the land of the Muslims since the time it [Egypt] entered the faith of Islam, and it had in the past recaptured Jerusalem and liberated Palestine in the name of Islam, and let us remember that Egypt fought in Ramadan of 1393H – October 1973 under the call of Islam "Allah'u'Akbar" and with this Call and under its banner, it prevailed, and it has to [now] cleanse and purify its land from this 'filth' and throw out this malady so that its affairs come to [the] right order, and so that it remains in the name of Islam, a leader and a rising nation."

He then added:

"al-Azhar urges those in authority in the Arab Republic of Egypt to stand firm against this wrongful congregation which is against the Faith of God and the public order of this society. The judgement of God must be executed against it, the law it deserves must be enforced and must be interred with the dust [dirt] heaped over it together with its teachings. This is protection for all citizens from its apostasy, and its beliefs that are deviant from God's straight path. Those who have committed crimes against the truth [rights] of Islam and their nation, must disappear from life so they will not dare estrange themselves from Islam."

The newspaper reported that according to an acquired copy of the formal complaint to the President of Egypt, Dr. Nabil Mustapha, an Egyptian Baha'i residing in London, stated that al-Azhar's book contains false quotations that violate reality and are inconsistent with the actual Baha'i teachings and writings.

Nabil added that the "Fatawis" pronounced by el-Sayouty in his book (mentioned in the above quotations), promote a state of chaos and anarchy and violate their constitutional guarantees of freedom of belief in the Baha'i Faith as an independent and free-standing religion. This also leads to violation of the legal rights of minorities. He described the statements made by al-Azhar's Islamic Research Council as baseless and devoid of honesty in research and unbiased investigation of the true essence of the principles and goals of the Baha'i Faith. Dr. Nabil Mustapha added that there is insistence on the part of the authors of these "Fatawis" to consider the Baha'is as Muslims [implying apostasy]. He indicated that the majority of Baha'is in the world comes from non-Muslim origins.

In this complaint, the Baha'is invited el-Sayouty to produce another book that would correct the falsities which were promoted in his current book, and to use appropriate and responsible sources.

The newspaper went on to report the response of Mamdouh Ismail, the attorney for the Islamic organizations sponsoring el-Sayouty's case. He is attempting to deny the published statements in the mentioned book and is calling the Baha'is liars!

How could the Baha'is lie about reality that is already in print, and about such ominous statements and "fatwas" calling for the elimination of Baha'is, particularly when such material has been already published and distributed by these individuals, organizations and learned institutions? Is there any logic to this?

In a way, this response is quite typical of such "learned" groups: instead of correcting their actions, investigating the merits of the case and following the path towards truth and justice, they simply resort to calling innocent and honest people "liars!"

Monday, October 02, 2006

Canada's Romeo Dallaire Expresses Deep Concern For Iran Baha'is

Baha'i World News Service - Romeo Dallaire, expert on genocide, expresses concern for Baha'i community in Iran

Below is an introduction to the article. To read the full report, please click the link above, or click HERE.

OTTAWA, 29 September 2006 (BWNS) -- Romeo Dallaire, a Canadian senator and retired general who commanded the UN peacekeeping mission to Rwanda at the height of the genocide there, has issued a statement saying that the international community should be prepared to act to protect Iranian Baha'is from possible atrocities.... Read more....

Link to: Hotel Rwanda