Saturday, December 16, 2006

World Press Coverage of Egypt's Baha'i Verdict

Among many news agencies, the Associated Press (AP), Reuters, the BBC, International Herald Tribune (1), International Herald Tribune (2), Guardian Unlimited, Agence France Presse (AFP), Copts United, Al Bawaba, All Headline News, The Daily Star, Arab News, The Washington Times-1, The Washington Times-2, al-Jazeera (Arabic), al-Jazeera (English), al-Arabiya, Middle East Online and Yahoo News have published Press Releases similar to the one below:

The verdict throws the status of Egypt's Bahai community into limbo

Egypt Bahais lose battle for recognition

Supreme administrative court describes Bahais as pro-Israeli apostates whose principles contradict Islam.

By Jailan Zayan – CAIRO

An Egyptian court denied Bahais Saturday the right to state their religion on official documents and described them as pro-Israeli apostates, in a landmark case condemned by rights organisations.

The appeal, seen as a test of religious freedom in the Arab world's most populated country, left Egypt's 2,000-string Bahai community suspended in a constitutional vacuum.

The supreme administrative court ruled against the right of Hossam Ezzat Mussa and his wife, Rania Enayat, to state their religion on official documents.

Judge Sayed Nofal, speaking after reading out the verdict, said "the constitution promotes freedom of belief for the three recognised heavenly religions and they are Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

"As for the Bahais, Islamic jurists have all agreed that the Bahai faith is not one of the three recognised religions," he said.

"Those who belong to this religion are apostates of Islam, because the faith's principles contradict the Islamic religion and all other religions."

The couple had filed the case in 2004. In April this year a lower court ruled in their favour.

In May, however, the decision was suspended by the Supreme Administrative Court pending an appeal by the interior ministry, and the couple's identity cards were confiscated.

Saturday's verdict throws the status of Egypt's Bahai community into limbo, in a country where carrying identity papers at all times is required by law and essential for access to employment, education, medical and financial services.

Without the official ID cards, Bahais cannot apply for jobs, buy property, open bank accounts or register their children in schools. They are also subject to arrest for not carrying valid identity papers.

Human rights organisations condemned the court's decision.

"It's a regrettable decision, but it's a crisis for the government more than for the Bahais," said Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, who has closely monitored the case.

"Now the government is forced to find a solution for the hundreds of citizens who have no papers," he said.

About 20 Bahais attended Saturday's court session with large ID cards hanging around their necks, with the word 'Bahai' written in large letters. [Correction: those demonstrating with signs were not Baha'is, but rather human rights activists supporting the Baha'is].

A handful of other people attended the session and broke out into the Islamic chants of "God is Greatest" and "There is no god but God" as soon as the verdict was read out.

Despite the fact that Bahais have been in Egypt for as long as the religion has existed -- 163 years -- most Egyptians had not heard of the religion until the April ruling.

The faith was founded in 19th-century Persia. It promotes the idea of progressive religious revelation, resulting in the acceptance of most of the world's religions.

Under the late president Gamal Abdel Nasser, Bahais were suspected of collaborating with Israel because the faith's highest governing institution is based in Haifa. In 1960, Bahai assemblies and institutions were dissolved.

The Judge in Saturday's hearings reiterated the accusation.

"One of the first goals of the Bahai movement is to maintain their relationship with the occupying powers, which embraces them and protects them," he said.

Of the faith's 12 principles, which include the unity of mankind, the elimination of all forms of prejudice, gender equality and independent investigation of truth, it is obedience to government that is most highlighted in Egypt.

Egyptian Bahais do not join political parties, take part in demonstrations or hold elections for their spiritual assemblies.

"We don't want to cause problems. We just want to exercise our rights as Egyptian citizens," Labib Hanna, professor of engineering at Cairo University recently said.


  1. It's very very strange that a group can be discriminated so much against. And what purpose does it serve? I cannot imagine how it can be in the interest of the Egyptian population that Bahá'ís are denied the right to register their newborns - which is one of the tings that happen when they are given the choice of lying about their religion and not receiving ID cards.

  2. It is quite irrational, but when did extremism have any rationale? I firmly believe that ultimately, the oppressed will become free and victorious!

  3. This is a call to all of us to do what we can while we are in this world to establish the best means for ensuring that one day intollerance will become only a small gulch in human society not a cloud dominating 65 million people,

    Edo River rising

  4. It takes enormous amount of work, but this needs to be systematic. Intolerance seems to be the source of most misery on this earth, and it is due to many causes. Without addressing these causes, intolerance will continue to prevail. As a physician, I always like to look for the cause of the illness...once it is identified, treatment becomes quite easy then. There is also nothing better than prevention...this requires us to be proactive.

  5. "Glory to Thee, O my God! But for the tribulations which are sustained in Thy path, how could Thy true lovers be recognized; and were it not for the trials which are borne for love of Thee, how could the station of such as yearn for Thee be revealed?... -Baha'u'llah"

  6. Dreamer,
    Thank you for this powerful quote....

  7. Although the symptoms differ, the main illness that the world suffers nowadays is one. When God’s teachings are no longer followed, all wrong doings are committed, leaving a trail of sufferings. The cure is available for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. For those who refuse it, death will eventually take over their souls.

    May God bless the Baha’is in Egypt and make His faith victorious!


  9. In addition, when this social illness prevails, people lose focus and their attention becomes diverted towards fallacy and ignorance. The real issues are swept aside and rarely resolved...ignorance and darkness become the law!

  10. Kianoosh,
    For the link you provided, please click here....


Your opinion is valuable. Please share your thoughts.