Friday, November 10, 2006

An Egyptian Baha'i: In Search Of Recognition (Cont. 4)

It is time to continue Mustapha's story and his struggle with the Egyptian government in his attempts to receive his entitlement as an employee of the Egyptians Railways for cost-of-living adjustments, based on his marriage and then the birth of his son, as was told in four previous posts. The story begins at the post linked here. The next episodes can be seen here, here, and here. This struggle began in 1947 shortly after his marriage and continued until his untimely death in 1968.

His lawsuit continued in the Egyptian courts until June 1952, when the panel of judges dismissed the case and ordered him to pay the costs incurred by the the government's attorneys, amounting to 300 piasters. He was refused the requested salary adjustments for the cost of living allowance guaranteed to all employees when they get married, as well as the additional allowance he was entitled to for the birth of his son.

However, the court failed to prevail in its attempt to implement its proclamations to execute him on the grounds of alleged apostasy, to formally annul his marriage and imprison his wife, or to deny his son's legitimacy and execute him as the son of an apostate.

As will be told in future posts, Mustapha never gave up on his rights, and he spent the rest of his earthly life challenging his government employer for the entitlements owed to him. Even following his death, his widow and three children, who were still students, had to fight for his death allowance and their pension when they were left with no income after his sudden death, at a relatively young age, as he was the only bread winner of the family.

The interesting fact remains that his marriage and the birth of his son were initially recognized in the official birth certificate of his son. The court was unable to invalidate it, and the document remains to this day as an evidence of one of the several cases proving Egypt's official recognition of the Baha'i Faith as a religion. A copy of this document and an English translation are shown in this post. (removed)

As can be seen in this document, the certificate was issued in Ismailia, a town in the Suez Canal region well known for its extreme opposition to the Baha'is since the birth of Muslim Brotherhood, founded by Hassan el-Banna in 1928, and resulting in what is known now as a worldwide Islamist extremism and fundamentalism movement, that was in constant opposition to the Baha'is in Egypt.

However, Ismailia was also known to have been blessed by frequent visits from Abdu'l-Baha, the son of Baha'u'llah the founder of the Baha'i Faith. He was the interpreter of Baha'u'llah's writings and the head of the Baha'i Faith after the passing of his father. As a result of Abdu'l-Baha's visits to that city, many people from various religious backgrounds--attracted by his message, his presence, his wisdom, his knowledge and his teachings--embraced the Baha'i Faith.

The Baha'i community in that city suffered at the hands of extremists for many years until 1960 when the Baha'i Centre was the first one to be raided and shut down by the police after President Nasser's decree outlawing the Baha'i Faith in Egypt. This was also when the first wave of arrests, interrogations and imprisonment of Baha'is in Egypt was carried out, and subsequently repeated over the ensuing years--the last of which was five years ago.

To be continued....


  1. Bilo, this is a wonderfully told story, deeply moving and inspiring. I think it is really helpful for the friends to understand what the distinguished Egyptian believers have gone through and are still going through.

  2. Barney,
    As has been quite evident, the current crisis in Egypt has been instrumental in bringing to the surface all these historical milestones experienced by Egyptian Baha'is. The impetus to pay attention to this particular story was triggered when an Egyptian newspaper had published a long article, on 4 June of this year, about the case in its attempt to alter its actual facts and use it in its attack on the Baha'i Faith. As you know, this is typical of the many crises that have led to victories since the birth of this Faith.

  3. Afri. A nickname. I am baha'i. My first reaction at the decision was disappointment and sorrow for our courageous friends in Egypt.

    I have had a hot debate with a friend who questionned why a few hundreds of people seek desperately to draw attention on them and challenge what seems to be a national consensus? Is it reasonable to expect the State to put at risk the social peace (already much strained by other issues) in order to meet the demands of a group with true motives not understood, revolutionary if not simply harmful for themselves and the public at large?

    Apparently, the reasonning behind the court decision is terribly simple and correct: You are not a religion and your claim to be one does not necessarily make it true that you are a religion. Therefore, you are anything else, hence granting you special treatment opens the door to many other claims that our society is not obliged to welcome (say - after you, a gay movement will certainly come on the basis of valid points of generally accepted human rights to claim freedom of exercise!)

    On another point, commentators of the court decision fingered what they believe to be a self-defeating baha'i principle: the obedience to Government and its laws. They expect Baha'is to abide by all Government rules apparently including those against their religious rights and likes!

    What I have done here is to wear the other party's shoes to feel how they stand. It is my courteous appeal to them to wear our shoes as well and lucidly and without prejudice, examine our claims with our eyes! As it may not be noticed, Egypt once again made landmark in the Baha'i history. We should be gratefull to all actors, foremost the admirable and tenacious non-baha'i human right activitists and thinkers in Egypt, yet counting the countless sufferings of our sisters and brothers like elsewhere and in other periods. That is another story.


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