Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Egypt: Commissioner's Advisory Report Revisited

Last October, Egypt's State Council's Commissioner released his report in preparation for the November and then the final 16 December 2006 Supreme Administrative Court session which was to decide on the fate of the Baha'is of Egypt.

In order to provide some background information and in light of the recently posted article published in the Daily Journal by John E. Noyes, it may be timely to revisit the October post which addressed the Commissioner's report. It is interesting indeed to reflect back on that report as it might help us understand how the Supreme Administrative Court had reached its decision.

More recently, a French lawyer writing for a legal blog named New Legal World Order published a three part article analysing Egypt's Supreme Court's decision regarding the Egyptian Baha'is. The posts can be seen here, here and here. Of note, the Egyptian legal system is based on the French system, and the State's Commissioner position and duties are quite similar in both countries, except that--based on the analysis of this case--Egypt's Commissioner did not appear to act independently and without bias as he is supposed to, and as mandated by French jurisprudence.

To be brief, it is clear that Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court accepted the State Commissioner's report on its face and had based its entire case and arguments on that report. It dismissed most procedural arguments from the plaintiff (government appellant) and entirely ignored the defendants' (Baha'is) legal arguments. It simply repeated word for word the commissioner's report which was essentially a verbatim reproduction of opinions from previous court cases involving the Baha'is over the preceding decades.

The following is a re-publication of the October post, with added comments (in red) pointing to how the case had panned out:

In preparation for Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court session scheduled for 20 November 2006, the long-awaited government Commissioner's Advisory Report that was requested by the court was released on Thursday, 12 October 2006, and a summary of the report was published in Rose el-Yousef newspaper yesterday. The 24 page report, as expected, supported the opinions of the appellants, i.e. the Ministry of Interior and the other government agencies who had appealed the lower Administrative Court's ruling which granted the Baha'is their right to indicate their religion on government-issued official documents.

It is not surprising that this clearly biased and one-sided report repeats the exact same illogical and unjustified statements and conclusions that have been circulating among the Egyptian fundamentalist establishment for many years.

In brief, it concluded that since the Baha'i Faith is not recognized in Egypt as a "divine religion," therefore its followers in that land have no rights whatsoever and that they simply do not exist! Consequently, they concluded that Egypt's Constitutional guarantees of freedom of belief and religion do not apply to the Baha'is. That Egypt is not bound to its commitment as a cosignatory to the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and that the Baha'is, in Egypt, should not be under its protection--since, as far as they are concerned, Egypt should have no obligations towards them! That the Baha'i are apostates (whether or not they descended from an Islamic background). That they are a threat to the "general [public] order" of the State, and that all their marriages are null and void.... That "methods must be defined that would insure that Baha'is are identified, confronted and singled out so that they could be watched carefully, isolated and monitored in order to protect the rest of the population as well as Islam from their danger, influence and their teachings." The report also calls for the original plaintiffs (the Baha'i family that won the case) to be charged for all court costs!

The travesty of this report is that it identifies the Baha'is as a threat to the nation, isolates them in a corner, deprives them from every right to citizenship, strips them from all their civil rights, calls for their elimination and expulsion, declares their children as illegitimate and their men and women as cohabiting out-of-wedlock.... Above all, Rose el-Yousef newspaper made sure that this report got published expeditiously so that it would serve its own purposes and agenda in its propaganda campaign against the Baha'is.

If the Supreme Administrative Court accepts this report on its face, then we should wonder if any sense of decency or humanity can have a place in that country!

--It did accept it on its face as reflected in its 16 December 2006 decision.

As most of us know, these allegations, misrepresentations, illogical and slanderous conclusions have no basis in fact and have no legal justification. It is inconceivable that a modern civilization in the 21st century could degenerate to this point of oppression of its minorities under the watchful eye of the rest of the world. One would certainly hope that, if in the remote possibility that such conclusions and judgements became contemplated for implementation by the court, the anticipated consequent outrage expressed by the world would be a deterrent to such possible outcome.

--There was and continues to be an outrage, but this did not act as a deterrent to the court.

It is also prayerfully hoped and expected that the Supreme Administrative Court will stand for justice and for its duty to uphold the guarantee of human rights to its constituency, and that President Mubarak will stand for his noble calling and quest for justice for all his citizens when he addresses the nation this upcoming Thursday as was published in this previous post.

--The court did not "stand for justice" or for "its duty to uphold the guarantee of human rights to its constituency." President Mubarak's action, specific to this case, remains to be seen.

It is essential that when religious tolerance is promoted, it must also include tolerance towards religious beliefs other than Egypt’s "recognized three." Anything less than that would be a waste of time and of no use. We can't say that “we are tolerant to only the few we recognize, and anything else is not our concern.” This would not be tolerance.

--Egypt continues to state that it only accepts the "recognized three" religions. It insists on refusing to accept the legitimacy of any other denominations, thus denying them their civil rights.

The issue is not whether or not a religion is divine--this is a whole different matter--the issue is that any religious belief must be respected, regardless of its origin or legitimacy. This is how today's world functions and is what the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights has been based on. It is essential that this nation must provide the guarantee of equality and of civil rights to all Egyptian citizens, even those who happen to have a different religious belief. No law-abiding human being in this world expects any less than that. Egypt is no exception.

The Baha'is are not, and have never been, a threat to anyone or anything, and in particular "General [Public] Order" (al-Nezam el-Aam) as claimed by the many proclamations made by Egypt’s fundamentalist establishment as well as the biased sections of the media; all this rhetoric has been fabricated in order to defame the Baha' is an excuse and a "catch phrase" that is intended to manipulate the masses and justify the injustices.


  1. I'm still waiting for some rational person to explain to me a single aspect of the Baha'i Faith that is a "threat to general public order."

  2. Phillipe,
    As a matter of fact, I have never heard or seen anything explaining what they mean by saying that Baha'is are a "threat to public order."

  3. Dear Bilo,
    A blogger this morning -- -- is attributing the prayer on your homepage as "chanted" by Shoghi Effendi instead of "written" by him.


    "I have no idea where he got it, but Bilo at the Baha'i Faith in Egypt has audio of Shoghi Effendi chanting a prayer in Arabic. People, you have to listen to this."


    I think a lot of western Baha'is are not aware that Shoghi Effendi wrote prayers and therefore would jump to this kind of conclusion. I would suggest that before this confuses a lot more people you might just indicate on the audio player something like "Prayer written by Shoghi Effendi -- Chanted in 2006"

    ...or something like that ; )

  4. Thank you so much for alerting me to this.

  5. Christine & Brian,
    I left acomment with clarification on Phillipe's blog.

    Shoghi Effendi wrote some prayers in Arabic and Persian but did not encourage their translation at the time. The prayer posted on the blog is a recent recording by an Arab Baha'i.

    Here is some information on this subject:

    11 December 1994
    Dear Bahá'í Friend,

    At the request of the Universal House of Justice, the Research Department has provided the enclosed response to your email message of 12 November 1994, in which you inquire about the reason that the prayers of the Guardian are not translated into English.

    With loving Bahá'í greetings,
    For Department of the Secretariat


    Prayers of Shoghi Effendi

    In her email letter of 12 November 1994 to the Universal House of Justice, xxxx enquires about the prayers written in Persian and Arabic by Shoghi Effendi. She wishes to know why these prayers have not been translated into the English language.

    The following two extracts from letters written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice provide information which pertains to Miss xxxx's query:

    Even though the beloved Guardian wrote some prayers in his letters to the eastern friends, he did not encourage their translation into the western languages. In a letter written on his behalf to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States on 23 February 1957, his secretary stated:

    He sees no necessity for translating prayers that he has written in Persian into English. The Bahá'ís have a great many wonderful prayers already translated, and he feels that now is not the time to spend money on these things.
    (4 December 1985 to an individual believer)

    In response to your Email message of 6 November 1986 regarding the possibility of publishing a selection of the prayers of Shoghi Effendi translated into English, the Universal House of Justice instructs us to advise that it does not feel that the time has come for this to be done. We are to convey its further comments.

    There is no doubt that one day the general messages of the beloved Guardian addressed to the friends in the East, particularly to the friends in Iran and written in Arabic and Persian, will be translated for the benefit of the English-speaking world. In the context of such a project, the prayers of Shoghi Effendi, which usually form part of these communications, will of course be translated and made available to the friends.
    (23 November 1986 to a Bahá'í Publishing Trust)

  6. It is inappropriate that the apparent implication understood to be the violation of "public order" is applied to Baha'is in Egypt while the newly declared constitution directly addresses terrorism and proposes the expansion of authority to intelligence and national security forces. If the constitution is passed, which it surely will despite the majority of those opposed to its ratification, security forces can at any time, and without warrant or warning, enter and search any household or property and detain citizens without restriction. Such measures, in addition to those already in place, are clearly positioned to deter organized fundamentalist forces who are the main threat to the authority of the ruling government. National security checkpoints, located at all major throughways, stop, search and detain any persons bearing a beard, a common mark of the "Sunni", or fundamentalist Muslim. In some tourist districts, Sunni Muslims are not allowed entrance. If this long recognized threat is obviously acknowledged, why are such individuals granted citizenship and freedom of movement while the peaceful and law-abiding Baha'i citizens denied all civil status and disinherited by their own country? The forces that mean to disrupt public order are within the ranks of the Muslim community, unless the government can prove otherwise. The voice of moderation and reason is still to be found.

  7. You know the answer to that! Don't grow a full beard if you live in Egypt.... Sorry I didn't mean to be sarcastic, but this is really true.

    Unfortunately, Egypt needs to deal with the growing fundamentalist and extremist trend which is the real threat to its “public order” and to its security—Egypt, a nation which has been known for its moderate nature. This, relatively modern, disease is spreading fast and is quite contagious...this state of affairs may explain the extreme measures needed to control the spread of this ominous disease, and hopefully might ultimately cure it.

    The Baha'i issue is an entirely different matter, and everyone knows that Baha'is in Egypt and everywhere else are peaceful and never a threat to anything. The concern with the expected check points you describe is that the Baha'is are currently refused the issue of ID cards by their government, and that puts them at great danger.

    You mentioned "If the constitution is passed, which it surely will despite the majority of those opposed to its ratification, security forces can at any time, and without warrant or warning, enter and search any household or property and detain citizens without restriction." Well, this has been happening already in Egypt for several decades, so I don't see why it would be any different if the constitution is amended! Do you know otherwise?

  8. jIt has been common practice that security forces detain any individuals regardless of the new amendments to the constitution. Legal practice - previous to the new articles of the proposed constitution - required that the security forces serve notice (issued by the general prosecutors office) before gaining admittance to search and detain individuals. Once again, what is law and what is actually practiced are two different matters. The interesting thing, however, is that this is tantamount to a confession that there are threats to "public order", and that those targetted are not members of the Baha'i community, but forces within the majority Islamic population.

  9. R.A., Thank you for your comment.

    One evening, on 6 June 1967, I was sitting with my grandparents in their living room when we heard a knock at the door. The security man walked in and asked my grandfather to accompany him to the Alexandria State Security facility. My grandfather asked if he should bring his suitcase along--which was always stocked and ready, based on his previous experiences--the man said, need...we just need to talk to you. My grandfather walked out with him...he was dropped at our doorsteps six months later after a period of untold physical and mental torture in Egypt's most notorious prisons near Cairo...all that was done to him simply because of being a Baha'i who would not recant his faith. To this day I hold the Egyptian government entirely responsible for its crimes against my grandfather.

    My father was sent to exile in the desert regularly whenever Nasser came to Alexandria...simply because of being a Baha’i who was seen as a threat to "public order!" This directly contributed to his untimely sudden death at the age of 56 after a massive heart attack. Again, to this day I hold the Egyptian government entirely responsible for its crimes against my father.

    I also have many other reasons, personally, to hold the Egyptian government entirely responsible for its crimes against me simply because I am a Baha’i. One day I may get to elaborate on this.

  10. bilo,

    I was touched by your comments about your grandfather and your father! Most Egyptian Baha'is have painful memories of their treatment at the hands of government officials. As Egypt officially moves more towards democracy, the trend seems to be sliding backwards in an unprecedented fashion!

    You said, "someday I will elaborate on this". In addition to some memoirs of now deceased Egyptian Baha'is, it would be good to collect memoirs of living Egyptian
    Baha'is in Egypt and abroad. It would be a shame to deprive future generations of learning about the sacrifices Baha'is suffered and continue to suffer daily in Egypt!

  11. Nabil,
    You bring up an interesting idea. Why not begin this by sending me in an email your experiences while encouraging others to do the same. I can then publish them as posts on the blog.

  12. Bilo,

    What you propose is excellent.

    Because I left Egypt two years before the first wave of arrests of Baha'is in 1965, my experiences are probably less relevant than of those who lived in Egypt throughout the persistent persecutions, arrests, bails, trials, and after-midnight knocks on the door by the secret police!

    To do it justice, it will take me sometime to write down my own experiences. I would encourage Baha'is in Egypt (of all ages) to write down their own experiences being assured of anonymity!


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