Sunday, December 17, 2006


It should be understood precisely what is at issue in this case. Egyptian Baha'is must have in hand the new National ID Card before the deadline of 31 December 2006, on which all Egyptian citizens must carry the new ID Card at all times. The application form requires the applicant to state his or her religion. It also requires the applicant to declare “that all details in this application are correct and real; I accept responsibility for consequences, with the full knowledge that providing any incorrect information in this application is considered forgery of official documents and is legally punishable according to the articles of the penal code”. This, of course, places the Baha’is in an untenable situation, since they have been told explicitly by government officials that they are not permitted to hold identification in which the space for religion specifies “other” and that they must “choose one of the three religions”

Here are the real issues and facts pertaining to this case:

1) This case is not about the Egyptian government’s accepting the divine origin of the Bahá’í Faith.

2) It is, rather, about how Egyptian Bahá’ís, who are under the same obligation as all other Egyptian citizens to obtain government-issued identification cards, can do so without being falsely identified on these documents.

3) The government has an application form for the identity card in which a person has to state his or her religion. That same application form requires the applicant to declare “that all details in this application are correct and real; I accept responsibility for consequences, with the full knowledge that providing any incorrect information in this application is considered forgery of official documents and is legally punishable according to the articles of the penal code.”

4) For a Bahá’í to declare his or her religion as something other than the Bahá’í Faith is both untruthful and unconscionable as a matter of Bahá’í principle; the foregoing statement on the application form also makes it an offence punishable by law, and yet Bahá’ís are being told by officials of the Egyptian government that they must declare themselves to be either Muslim, Christian or Jew (i.e., make a false statement and thereby commit a legally punishable act).

5) Bahá’ís have been told explicitly by government officials that they are not permitted to hold identification in which the space for religion specifies “other” and that they must “choose one of the three religions.”

6) Nevertheless, a few Bahá’ís have been issued identity cards in which their religion is specified as “other”, and, in at least one case, a death certificate with a dash in the space for religion, both of which are acceptable to the Bahá’ís. It is, therefore, possible to have this designation on the card, but government officials are refusing to allow for it and in at least one instance have stated that a card that has “other” written in the space for religion is illegal.

7) Unworkable suggestions, such as using a passport in place of the identity card, will not alleviate the daily practical problems faced by Bahá’ís. Such approaches also discriminate against the Bahá’ís, as all other Egyptian citizens are issued identification cards.

8) Since the identity card is essential for daily transactions and the leading of a normal life in Egypt, it follows that to receive the identity document is the civil right of all citizens. The government requires by law that all citizens carry such a document; therefore, it is wrong to make this a matter of religious fervor. Many Muslims live in countries where the majority of the people and religious institutions do not accept the divine origin of Islam but such Muslims rightfully expect to be granted their full civil and human rights, which is merely what the Bahá’ís are asking: to be granted their right as loyal citizens of Egypt to receive government-mandated identity documents that do not misrepresent their religious faith.

9) In view of the foregoing circumstances, the burden is on the government to define the procedures so that Bahá’ís can obtain official identity documents that do not misrepresent their religious affiliation. The government cannot deny civil rights to its citizens, who have demonstrated their obedience and good faith, simply because of their personal beliefs.

The English translation of the application form for the Identity Card is posted below. The original Arabic version is also posted as attached images. To read the form clearly, please click on each image:


[Translator’s notes appear in square brackets [ ].]

[Page 1]
Arab Republic of Egypt Total Cost: 15 E.G.
Ministry of Interior National Number [Project/Bill?]
Civil Affairs Section Application for Personal Identification Card
0371920327 According to Law 143 of 1994

1st time/replacing lost/replacing damaged/change in details

Personal Details
Name: 1st Name Father’s Full Name:
Date of Birth: Mother’s Full Name:
Place of Birth: Province Centre/Sector Village/Sheikhdom
Religion: Type [sect]: Social Status: Single/Married/Divorced/Widowed
• Where National Number is obtained: National Number:
• Where National Number not obtained:
• No. of current card: Personal/Family: Civil Register: Province:
• No. of Foreign Passport: Country Issued: Date of Issue:

Residential Details
Bldg. No.: Street:
Floor: Apartment: Tel.: Village/Estate/Farm/Lot:
Sheikhdom/Village: Sector/Centre: Province:

Employment Details
Employed: Unemployed:
Current Proven Employment: Date Started:
Address of Work Place:
Government: Public sector: Private sector: Other:
Commercial Register Office: File No:

Declaration by Applicant and Employer
I, ……., declare that all details in this application are correct and real; I accept responsibility for consequences, with full knowledge that providing any incorrect information in this application is considered forgery of official documents and is legally punishable according to the articles of the penal code.
Applicant’s signature:
All details above have been checked and are identical to employment file.
Name of Body:
Name of Responsible Person: Signature: Work Stamp:

[Page 2]
Educational Details
Highest qualification: PhD / MA / High Qualification / Above Average Qualification
High Sch. or Intermediary Diploma/Intermediary Sch/Primary Sch./Read &Write/
Name of qualification: Year Obtained:
University/Ministry: College/Institute/School:

Military Service Details
Armed forces / Police:
Status of conscription:
Temporary Exemption/ Permanent Exemption/ Have served/service postponed/ not called yet/position not yet decided.
Military Service card No.: Date of Application:

Voting Area Details
Citizen chooses his voting area from one of the following:
Birth Place: Place of Residence: Place of Work: Place of Family Residence:
Place of a business interest:
Province: Sector/Centre: Sheikhdom/ Village:

For Official Use Only
Place of Issue: Place of
Name of Applicant: Result of Application: Stamp or Signature:
I have perused supporting documents supplied by the citizen:
Proof of place of residence Commercial register
Personal Identification Document Educational Qualification
Marriage certificate Proof of profession or employment
Name of Person checking legal matters: Result: Signature:
Work Order No: / Photocopy: Signature:
Name of Person following up: Checker:
Production Order No:
Quality 1: Quality 2: Retain:
Reason for re-production:
Photocopying: Preparation: Follow-up: Revision: Quality: Citizen:
No. of order for re-production: Signature:

[Page 3]
Family Details
This section must be filled out for every marriage, current or ended which results in children.

Name of Wife/Husband:
If National No. has been obtained. National No:
If National No. has not been obtained:
No. of current card: Personal/Family: Civil Register: Province:
No. of Foreign passport: Country of Issue: Date of Issue:
No. of Marriage Certificate: Date of Marriage: Place of Marriage: Province:
Status of Marriage: Current: Ended by Divorce: Ended by Death:
Date of Divorce/ Death:

Children from this Marriage
*Date of death should be noted in the space for notes for deceased children
Name of son/daughter Date of Birth Place of Birth Type Notes Result
of search
Province Sector/Centre Sheikhdom/
[the information in this section is in a table format]

Arab Republic of Egypt
Ministry of Interior - Civil Affairs Section

Application for Personal Identification Document
Name: Date for receiving document:
1st Place for receiving document : 2nd Place:
In the case of applicant not arriving at 1st place for receipt of document, forward after 2 weeks to 2nd place.

[Page 4]
General Instructions
Documents Required:
- Copy of personal or family ID or any official document that can prove identity (authenticated copy)
- Copy of birth certificate, if available.
- For wives, bringing authenticated copies of marriage certificate or family ID or husband’s family ID.

Employment Documents:
- Signature of the relevant Union on the application for unionized professions (engineers, lawyers, journalists, etc.)
- Signature on application from government civil service, or work sector or educational authority.
- Signature from social works departments for those employed by others.
- Enclosing an authorized copy of educational qualification if required and not documented with previous ID.
- Signature from support agency (for those receiving benefits) if not part of previous ID documentation, or enclosing a statement of benefit income.

Place of Residence Documents:
- Address on application must be proven by personal or family ID; if to be changed, a recent electricity, water, gas or telephone receipt; or a confirmation from government employee or current rent payment, must be submitted.
- It is possible to change the place of residence for a relative if relative authorizes this in front of relevant officer.

General Instructions:
- Details must be carefully filled in clear handwriting for those who are 16 years and above, males and females.
- The citizen is responsible for expenses incurred for re-issuing ID in cases of incorrect or unclear details, as well as legal consequences.
- Please check all details on the issued document.
- In cases of multiple wives, additional family forms must be filled (free of charge) and enclosing copy of marriage or divorce certificates.
Arab Republic of Egypt 0371920327
Ministry of Interior – Civil Affairs Section
Application for Personal Identification Document
Keep this receipt and submit on the appointed day to receive your new ID.
Translated by: MW


  1. In countries with little or no separation between religion and state the laws oftentimes are based on the religious tenets of the majority of the population. The grave danger of this situation is that if the laws are written in a sacred book dictated by the hand of God, they cannot be changed easily and those in charge of applying the law will hand down blind and harsh punishments hiding behind that fact. Religious intolerance condoned by a government becomes a very cruel form of ostracism and leaves its victims to be nothing more than outlaws without rights in their own country with no recourse to unbiased justice.
    To a lesser degree, even in countries professing separation of religion and state, it is not unusual for people in authority belonging to a particular faith to hijack the “moral right” of the country and govern and legislate accordingly.
    Ruling a country in the name of God can indeed be a very dangerous proposition.
    Surprisingly and sadly enough, the root of religious intolerance - from a government or from individuals -is found in plain sight within the teaching of religion itself. Most holy books contain some form of it. The mention of it makes us squirm… we defend ourselves by citing a lack of understanding of the words, a line taken out of context, a misinterpretation, a poor translation, a word of mouth rather than a prophet’s real preaching, certainly not in “my” book… maybe in “theirs”… etc… and when we fail to convince, we say that all religious writing do contain some form of intolerance. It is unfortunately true and those words do not incite to kindness… It might be as simple as the mention of a difference of status between those who are fortunate enough to believe in the particular tenets and those who are not privy to it, but in some religions it does also escalate all the way to outright command of violence against the outsider who has a different belief. It is puzzling that tenets supposedly handed down from God would divide human beings into categories deeming some better than others (and more worthy of rewards) only due to the fact that they abide by a particular belief, then going on to recommend the shunning or destruction of the unbeliever. Unfortunately, people do not need incentives to judge and to condemn.
    Considering the basic principles of humility, kindness to others and sacrifice found anywhere else in the holy books one wonders if we are not one more time tested for our ability to use our wonderful gift of free will in deciding which part to abide by….

  2. However claudine,
    it is an artificial and frail wind-blown curtain that separates religion from the daily life of the political leader. Whatever beliefs or non-beliefs a human being anywhere has is of course part of their judgement system. You can't separate them in their eventual effect on all issues great and small the person has some influence on. I think we shouldn't be afraid of discussing our own biases in the hopes of reaching a conclusion that could be called just, and beneficial.

    The problem, as I see it isn't religion that has influenced civic life in Egypt, it is politics that has infected Islam, the desire for power and influence on the same scale as the political leaders, and there is no screening process for the ignorant are ignorant of their own ignorance, a very fine, self-satisfied place for them to be.

    By the way, "separation of church and state" was, originally, just a vague ambiguous quote lifted from the writings of Thomas Jefferson, by the US Supreme court, in the 1940's I think the time was, in the process of supporting their opinion with a well-known American. I don't even think they attributed the remark to him in their opinion.

    There is no standard of measurement for such an artificiality, except in each one's active imagination.

    Edo River rising

  3. I read in this article of the Middle East Times that Sheikh Ali Gomaa, Egypt's grand mufti, has said that Baha'is should call themselves Muslims since they believe in all three official religions, as do the Muslims, so presumably he would have Egyptian Baha'is fill in Religion as Islam and Sect as Baha'i. Is this a commonly held view as to how Baha'is should fill in their identity cards? Would the Interior Ministry be happy to see the Baha'i Faith listed as a sect of Islam? Of course, using Sheikh Ali Gomaa's very own logic, you could call Islam a sect of Christianity and Christianity a sect of Judaism, so they may as well only have Judaism as the one official religion of Egypt.
    My heart goes out to everyone affected by this confusion and the continuing problems that people face as a result of this unresolved injustice.

  4. James,
    In answer to your question, no...this is not a commonly held view that Baha'is should be listed as sect of Islam. As you well know, Egypt's judiciary (including al-Azhar to which Ali Goma’a belongs)) has declared the Baha'i Faith as an entirely independent religion back in the 1920s. You may refer to this post for details. Also, if the Ministry of Interior wants to force the Baha'is to list themselves as Muslims, this would be untruthful and a punishable violation of the law as stated in their application form for the ID card. Additionally it is unacceptable by the Baha'is as they would be betraying their own belief.

  5. Claudine,
    You raise very important issues and questions. History has shown us that humans--for a variety of reasons--have polluted the real essence of past religions to the extent that they are currently in conflict with the norms and expectations of society. Consequently the political system itself is at odds with these so called "religious teachings." Unfortunately, as a result, many insightful people confronted with this conflict end up skeptical and distrusting of any religion, while others with less insight will follow their religious dogma blindly and end up blocking out any sense of reason or normality—extremism and absolute intolerance would ensue then….

    This is one of the major challenges currently facing certain sectors of the Egyptian society and several other emerging fundamentalist societies around the world.

    The hope lies in the educated and enlightened masses, and by all indicators this seems to be on the rise.

    The answer, therefore, is education and forward-looking orientation, which requires deep understanding of the ills of ‘altered’ past religions…. If you work with computers much, you would know what the meaning of a corrupted file is! It began as a pure and perfect file, then through the actions of ignorant manipulation, viruses and/or interference, it become corrupted and unusable…you would then have to re-install the program with an intact and clean file, and your program would run just fine.

  6. Bilo, thank you for such a clear and helpful summary of what's at stake for the Baha'is in Egypt. It can be difficult for people in the West to see why this such a dangerous situation for the Baha'is unless the context and implications are set out like this.

  7. Barney,
    It is critical that focus is maintained. These points will need to be stressed and repeated on blogs and websites over and over again, so that the real issues are not lost among the excitement of the situation. It appears that it has been the court’s—and the responsible governmental agencies'—strategy to divert public opinion away from the substance of this matter in their attempts to inflame the masses about the legitimacy of the Baha'i Faith. In reality, this case is straightforward and quite is about civil status rights of law-abiding Egyptian citizens who happened to believe in the Baha'i Faith.

  8. It has struck me that there is a situation which some boundary between personal beliefs and the position to influence others has to have some check, and that is in the education of students below the age of 15, say. For example A teacher may believe that dinosaurs were brought onto Noah's ark in all sincerity, but sincerity of belief is only one test for truth.

    Edo River rising

  9. All this is too much sad.
    I thought Egypt by its glorious History could be free of this.
    Sothing else Qur'an talks also about Sabean Religion and Magos [Zorosatrians]. (I don't if the right word is Magos or something close).
    Like Jesus said to The Farisians (words like this) "Wouldn'n be Me wich will accuse you to the Father but Moses".

    From the wittings of the Guardian.
    “O people of the Qur’án,” Bahá’u’lláh, addressing the combined forces of Sunní and Shí’ih Islám, significantly affirms, “Verily, the Prophet of God, Muhammad, sheddeth tears at the sight of your cruelty. Ye have assuredly followed your evil and corrupt desires, and turned away your face from the light of guidance. Erelong will ye witness the result of your deeds; for the Lord, My God, lieth in wait and is watchful of your behavior… O concourse of Muslim divines! By your deeds the exalted station of the people hath been abased, the standard of Islám hath been reversed, and its mighty throne hath fallen.”

  10. 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.

  11. The question now is what is next?

    The deadline for all to hold the new ID card is nearing (less than two weeks). The Baha'is are not going anywhere else, and they will not leave the country…they are Egyptians, and they will remain so. They will not recant their religion, and they will need to live in their homeland just like any other citizens. They are free to worship whom they wish to worship and no one can ever interfere with that, as guaranteed by the Egyptian constitution and the universal declaration for human rights.

    Therefore, the government is left with no choice but to grant them Identity cards and allow them to obtain birth certificates for their children as well as all other official documents they are entitled to. These are civil status rights and have nothing to do with religion or the recognition of a religion. President Mubarak must make a decision...this does not belong in court any longer since the supreme court has already dodged the issue and addressed an entirely separate matter which was not being contested.

  12. Here is a comment written by an Egyptian on Noura Younis' blog. It is very telling as to how many Egyptians feel about the recent events:

    ربنا يكرمك جميعا..وعموما للاخوه البهائيون
    لو الحكومه المحترمه لم تعترف بكم…فان آلاف المصريون يشيولكم على الراس

    والحق اقول انا مش عارف ايه الحكمه من وضع خانه الديانه فى البطاقه غير التمييز والعنصريه..

    والحمد لله انى لا احمل لا بطاقه ولا بسبور مصرى

    "God bless you all...and in regards to the Baha'i brothers, if the respected government does not recognize you...then thousands of Egyptians will carry you on their heads [a sign of respect]. The truth is that I do not see the wisdom in having religion in the ID card except for the purpose of discrimination.... Thank God that I don't carry an ID card or an Egyptian passport. signed, Egyptian immigrant."


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