Tuesday, December 26, 2006

To the Baha'is of Egypt: From the Universal House of Justice

The Universal House of Justice, the highest governing body of the Baha'i Faith has just released its message addressed to the Baha'is of Egypt in response to the recent developments affecting the Egyptian Baha'is in their homeland. The original text of the three page letter can be accessed here in English and here in Arabic.

Images of the letter are published here and accompanied by some comments and relevant illustrations. In order to see each page clearly, please click on each image.

In the first paragraph, the Universal House of Justice refers to the recent unjust ruling of Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court, the disappointment it has produced, and the need for the Egyptian Baha'is to stand firm in their quest for their rights, thus not to deprive the Egyptian authorities from the opportunity before them to "correct a wrong which has implications for many others."

The letter then addresses the brave efforts made by the many members and agencies of the Egyptian society that stood in support of their Baha'i brothers and sisters when it stated "Moreover, to relent would be to disregard the moral courage of these organizations, media, and persons of goodwill who have joined their voices to yours in the quest for a just solution to a serious inequity."

In the second paragraph, the letter addresses the issue at hand, and that the presiding judge in his statements "misses the essence, obscures the issue" of the case before the court, which is the necessity for Egyptian Baha'is to "...simply wish to be free to carry out the requirement of civil law that you [they] must obtain identification cards without making false statement about your [their] religious beliefs."

It also comments on the court's misuse of the validity of the other "three of the divine religions" in its attempt to discredit the Baha'i Faith and to "justify the exclusion of certain citizens from exercising their civil rights..." amounting to "a misuse of the authority of these Faiths to perpetrate an injustice that offends the high standard of justice to which they hold their adherents...."

It then states "The ruling was unreasonable not only because it is contrary to prescriptions set forth in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Egypt is a signatory, but more especially because the sacred scriptures of Islam extol tolerance as a precept of social stability."

The third paragraph addresses the landmark decision of 1925 in which a southern Egyptian [Beba] religious court in its attempt to denounce the Baha'i Faith and annulling the marriages of three men because of becoming Baha'is has "arrived at the accurate conclusion that the Baha'i Faith was a new religion, entirely independent, with beliefs, principles and laws of its own." And that "verdict was sanctioned at the time by Egypt's highest ecclesiastical authorities." For further reading regarding that historic event, one can refer to this previous post.

Baha'i women and girls in an Egyptian prison in Tanta in 1972 (93 Baha'is were arrested then)

In the fourth paragraph, the Universal House of Justice refers to the history of the Baha'i Faith in Egypt when it took root during the lifetime of Baha'u'llah. It spoke of the freedoms enjoined by the Baha'is and their Institutions, particularly when the National Spiritual Assembly was incorporated as early as 1934, and until "...suddenly in 1960, without forewarning, Presidential Decree no. 263 was issued, banning your national and local institutions and confiscating your properties and other assets." It then spoke of the five decades of "humiliation of all kinds, including the harassment of police surveillance and false arrests." The letter then addressed the misinformation being propagated in the Egyptian society in attempts to prove the unworthiness of Baha'is of the public's trust, while there has been much to confirm the noteworthy contributions by Egyptian Baha'is "towards fostering the spiritual, intellectual, and cultural character of the Egyptian people."

A clear representation of this has been the example of their "late Baha'i compatriot Hussein Bikar, who, despite having received a presidential award honoring his outstanding achievements as an artist, was denied an Egyptian identification card up until the time of his death." Mr. Bikar, for his exceptional talent was recognized by all Egyptians as a National Treasure. A tribute to his life and works of art can be viewed at this previous post.

The next three paragraphs reflect on "the broad context in which the recent action of the Supreme Administrative Court occurred, that from it you [Egyptian Baha'is] may derive an ever-larger sense of meaning and purpose." Here, the Universal House of Justice demonstrates how the Egyptian Baha'is have been put into a position, not only to defend their rights in their homeland, but also to uphold justice and defend the rights of minorities everywhere else. The letter speaks of the widespread presence of injustice throughout the world afflicting "every department of life whether in the home, at the workplace, or in the public sphere as a consequence of the ill conduct of individuals, groups, or governments." It also speaks of the current crisis taken in the context of "global connotation" and the responsibility placed on Egyptian Baha'is to strive, "...guided by the principles of the Faith and in collaboration with others whenever possible, to combat injustice, for the common good."

Labib Mu'awad and several other attorneys defending the 93 arrested Egyptian Baha'is in 1972 (some of whom were under-aged girls)

In its last paragraph, the Universal House of Justice addresses the various groups in Egypt who have shown their staunch support for the rights of the Baha'is. The whole paragraph is quoted here:

"Those groups supporting you in your current encounter are of a world-embracing vision and are themselves prepared to withstand the harsh resistance to their selfless occupation, sustaining blows of injustice in the process. As the rise of justice ensures the appearance of unity in the world, all who take on the formidable challenges of struggling for it have indeed captured the spirit of the age epitomized in the principle of oneness."

Bloggers and Human Rights Activists Supporting the Baha'is at the Supreme Court on 16 December 2006

"To the extent that the fight for justice contributes to the establishment of a single global standard of human rights, the organizations in Egypt so engaged are working towards achieving the unification of their nation's peoples. They are thus committing themselves in large measure to the vital task of reconciling the tensions that bedevil their society and delay the attainment of its unity. Such reconciliation should not be impossible to Egypt's people, who can take pride in the celebrated enlightenment that in a glorious past ensured their unity in a flourishing society. Undoubtedly, Egypt will rise to participate, as befits its stature, in the fruition of that destiny of world peace and prosperity of which all nations dream."

The letter concludes by offering prayers in the Holy Shrines, not only for each and every one of the members of the Egyptian Baha'i community, but also for all their compatriots "in that land of ancient splendor."

Relevant and Subsequent Development

Today, President Hosni Mubarak gave an important speech (Arabic Version) to a joint session of the Egyptian Parliament and to the nation regarding his plans to amend 34 articles of the Egyptian constitution. Here are some quotes from his truly enlightened speech:
(read complete English version here)

"Today, as we take this historic step towards developing our democracy, and as we recall our past progress and what we managed to achieve in the face of internal, regional and international challenges, I thank God, and am proud of this nation. And my confidence in our future progress is multifold"

"I had a clear vision of future of the country that won the confidence of the people and their support last year. I have vision of a modern Egyptian society which preserves freedom, elevates the value of citizenship and strengthens the role of citizens in the political process; A modern and developed society that lays the foundations of democracy and supports its day to day practice."

"The people entrusted and supported me in their first competitive presidential elections on Egyptian soil. As president of all Egyptians, I am responsible before the people; bearing the burdens of leadership and protecting the interest of the nation and her citizens. In fulfillment of the pledge I made last year, and of my responsibility as President, and exercising my competencies under Article 189 of the Constitution, I call upon the People's representatives to amend 34 articles of the Constitution, with the aim of bringing about a tangible leap that will open new horizons for our democracy."

"My request is meant to assert the idea, value and principle of citizenship. We are all Egyptians. We are all citizens of this homeland and we are all equal in rights and duties before the law without discrimination based on creed or religion [in the Arabic version (on Radio) he used the words Aqyida, Ta'effah & Deen; meaning belief, congregation & religion]. Over the course of our history, we have never been exposed to religious or sectarian division."

"Being aware of this and as I follow the sectarian and confessional divisions that the region is witnessing, I am determined to protect our society, Muslims and Copts, and confront practices that seek to circumvent the law and undermine the cultural heritage of the Egyptian people; practices that mix religion with politics and politics with religion, which spread discord and extremism, and which seek conflict between the two wings of our nation."

"Yes, I am responsible for all this before the people, as I am responsible before history. I speak to you and behind me lie long years I have spent in the service of the nation, protecting its skies, territory and sovereignty, preserving her independence and self determination, and fulfilling the responsibilities with which I have been entrusted."


  1. Thank for posting this on Mubarak's speech. I noticed on Portuguese TV they mention President Mubarak announced several Constitutional reforms and wonder what was that about.

    Let's wait and see.

  2. Marco,
    By chance, while in the middle of writing this post, I was listening to Egypt's radio station on the internet when they broadcast his speech…otherwise I would not have known about it for a while. The full speech is available on the site linked to the post. There were few more words in his oral speech regarding religious tolerance that were not transcribed in the script itself. Also his tone of voice was very telling…he is quite determined to enforce reforms.

  3. An interesting cartoon on the situation:


  4. "Say: Tribulation is a horizon unto My Revelation. The day star of grace shineth above it, and sheddeht a light which neither the clouds of men's idle fancy nor the vain imaginations of the aggressor can obscure." Gleanings XVII

    Edo River rising

  5. It sounds that President Muburak will have the MORAL CURAGE to do the right thing and reverse this travesty of justice... may the blessings and peace of God be with him always

  6. Look thou around the world of existence: A little worldly transaction cannot be brought about except through surmounting many an obstacle. How much more important are the objects of the Supreme World! Certainly there existeth troubles, trials, afflictions, persecution, censure and contempt. When thou didst occupy thy time in the past to give out religious exhortations and advices, thou experienced some persecutions and trouble. But thou canst not realize in this present moment what great ordeals are in store and what unbearable calamities, affliction and adversity exist, and that to give up life is the easiest of all those calamities. But the end of all these is bliss, overflowing joy, everlasting exultation, happiness and supreme contentment. It is eternal life, never ending glory, a lordly gift and divine sovereignty!

    (Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha v3, p. 547)

  7. dear bilo,
    long time since my mother entered Tanta
    prison & at that time me, my sisters & young brother were
    left alone for 40 days because my father at that time
    was defending our beloved Egypt beside the Egyptian army in
    his work with the army. I want to tell you how 5
    children left alone without their parents. They were hard
    days…that you let me today come back to Tanta & how these
    days left us much more stronger.

  8. Smile Rose,
    The account of your ordeal is very touching and clearly illustrates the unnecessary human suffering brought about on the Egyptian Baha’i community. This example is exactly what the Universal House of Justice has referred to in its letter by stating: "For nearly five decades now the members of your community have been subjected to humiliation of all kinds, including the harassment of police surveillance and false arrests."

  9. Anonymous,
    Judging by President Mubarak's words and tone of voice in his speech, he shows unwavering determination to right the wrongs for his citizens...he indicated that he is directly responsible to his citizens (having used the words: ALL sons [children] of Egypt), and he pointed also to his direct responsibility to history.

  10. In future it will more difficult to be in touch with you - not because of my ID.
    But I desire from my heart all of best to the Egyptian Bahá'ís.


  11. Dear Joao,
    Please clarify your comment (first two sentences)!

  12. Honorable President Mubarak:

    The Constitution can be amended. But the articles in the Constitution as it stands cover freedom of worship. This means that no citizen be deprived of his or her inalienable rights of Egyptian citizenship solely due to his or her beliefs. The Baha'is in Egypt have suffered long enough. Instead of obtaining their basic, fundamental human rights, they now are not allowed to carry the new mandatory ID cards without having to lie in official documents about their Faith. Without these cards, they are unable to obtain birth, marriage, or death certificates. They are denied access to bank accounts, pensions, admission to schools. They cannot clarify their military service status, obtain employment or enter into business transactions.
    I would like to bring to your attention the plight of these sincere and loyal citizens who are forbidden from engaging in politics. The Egyptian Press has not done them justice by fabricating the history of their Faith, defaming them and their honor, and promoting lies about them and about their Faith. The Baha'is are not asking that anyone would confess to the truth or falsity of their Faith. All they are asking is not to be deprived of the rights that any of their Egyptian brethren has solely due to their Faith.
    Please, Mr. President! The Baha'is need justice. Their rights are protected by the Constitution, by the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights to which Egypt is a proud signatory, and by the compassionate spirit of Islam.

  13. It's weird to see my mom, aunts and faces I recognize among those Baha'i women in jail and court. The history of Baha'is in Egypt has is so wealthy.

  14. EB,
    Their suffering has not gone in vain, and history will always pay tribute to them....


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