Monday, December 11, 2006

Egypt: Is It Time to Return to Its Known Civility?

Another article appeared in "al-Masri al-Youm" Egyptian newspaper on 9 December 2006 reviewing the upcoming Supreme Court Case.

The article is entitled "The Supreme Administrative [Court] determines the fate of Baha'i-yyah [Baha'i Faith] this coming Saturday." It is subtitled "Report of the State's Commissioners and Islamic Scholars concurred that it is not a recognized religion [in Egypt]."

It opens with:

The Supreme Administrative Court of the State Assembly will determine in its session, that will convene this coming Saturday, the fate of Baha'i-yyah in Egypt...specifically in regards to its recognition by official and governmental agencies as a religion, and whether or not it can be written in official papers and documents such as identification cards, birth certificates and passports.

The Supreme Administrative Court (first circuit) will produce its judgement on the "matter" of the appeal submitted by the Ministry of Interior, the Civil Affairs Agency, and the Passport and Immigration Agency regarding the judgement of the Administrative Court issued this past 4th of April, in which it ruled to cancel the decision of the Minister of Interior forbidding the entrance of the word "Baha'i" in the religion section of official documents. The court also ruled to enforce the right of the [Baha'i] plaintiffs to obtain official documents with Baha'i written in the religion section.

The lawsuit was initially filed in the Administrative Court on 10 June 2004, and in which Hessam Ezzat Muhammad Moussa and his wife Ranya Enayat Abd'el-Rahman Rushdi have stated that, as subjects of the Arab Republic of Egypt who are in possession of Egyptian citizenship, when they requested the Passports and Immigration Agency to include the names of their daughters in their two passports, the president of the agency confiscated their identification cards without any legal cause. That religion was the reason given for the refusal of registering their daughters in the passports, this in violation of the State's laws and the Egyptian Constitution which guarantees freedom of belief. And that this--illegal--refusal causes their daughters to be deprived of freedom of movement [travel] accorded to them by law. They demanded at the end of their lawsuit the cancellation of the administrative agency's ruling that forbids documenting "Baha'i" in the religion section of these official documents which were requested to be issued.

The rest of the newspaper article described the State Commissioners' report (previously posted here) and included the names of the eight judges involved in writing the commissioners' report opinion. Three of whom pictured in the article are: president of the State's assembly Justice Say'id Nofa'l, member of the assembly Justice Essam el-Din Abd el-Aziz and the State's commissioner Justice Abd el-Qader Qandil.

This newspaper report neglected to discuss the real substance of this landmark case. The essential crux of this case which must be dealt with is the right of any legal citizen of Egypt to obtain official documents, including ID Cards, birth certificates, death certificates, marriage certificates, passports, etc.... This case is not about whether or not Egypt should recognize the Baha'i Faith as an independent religion--it has already done so in the 1920s--this case is about the rights to citizenship. The Baha'is were asked by the governmental agencies to lie about their religion in order to obtain any documents they wish to obtain, forcing them to violate the law and commit a felony in doing so just to obtain their constitutionally guaranteed rights. Furthermore, lying on official documents would violate their own personal convictions and moral dictates.

Now it is up to the Supreme Court to uphold the lower court's ruling to grant the Egyptian Baha'is their rights to citizenship as written in the Constitution.... Is it time for Egypt to return to its tolerant, just and civil society it had been known for?

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