Thursday, May 10, 2007

Bahá’ís in Egypt Pay Taxes—But Are Deprived of Civil Rights

On 9 may 2007, Al-Ahaly Egyptian newspaper published an interview with Dr. Basma Moussa, a professor at Cairo University’s Faculty of Dentistry and an Egyptian Baha’i.

Instead of translating the article, the following are my conclusions based on the information provided in that interview:

There must be separation between citizenship and belief—they cannot be interconnected. Each Egyptian citizen must be entitled to ALL citizenship rights. Presently, all Egyptian Bahá’ís are deprived of their citizenship rights simply because of their belief. They are denied government-issued ID cards which are a necessity in order to continue to live in Egypt as a human being. Nothing in normal daily living can be accomplished without these ID cards.

Egyptian Bahá’ís have always served their country and fellow citizens with absolute loyalty and sincerity. As law-abiding citizens, they have always had contributed to their society in professions, sciences, commerce and fine arts. One of the members of the community, Mr. Hussein Bikar has been recognized as a national treasure and awarded the highest prize in the land: President Mubarak’s Prize in Fine Arts.

In Egypt, it appears to be perfectly acceptable for the government to force the Bahá’ís to pay taxes like all other citizens, but seems to have no hesitation in depriving them of all their civil rights and all services due to them. The authorities cannot demand taxation from Bahá’ís with nothing in return. Is there any justice in this? This fact alone raises a very big question! One would expect that ID cards (and the national ID number) must be used in order to pay taxes!

Meanwhile, a misguided Human Rights Committee of the Egyptian Parliament just announced the outcome of its deliberations regarding the ID card issue. In an article published in the front page of Al-Dostour Al-Youmy Egyptian newspaper on 8 May 2007, the decision of that committee of the parliament was revealed, announcing that it has denied the entry of any religion on ID cards other than the three recognized “divine” religions in Egypt, i.e. Islam, Christianity & Judaism. It also refused to eliminate religious classification from Egyptian ID cards, quoting the usual baseless reservations and rhetoric regarding personal status laws (addressed in the previous post dated 9 May 2007). Thus affirming the denial of ID cards to the Bahá’ís and any other “unrecognized” religious groups in Egypt.

Here again, is another blow to human and civil rights in Egypt, disrupting hopes for progress and tolerance and depriving Egypt from a stable, more humane and progressive society.

It is worth noting that one’s religion is only in one’s heart and is the individual’s private and personal affair. Simply stating the religion of a person on a piece of paper or a plastic card cannot truly reflect the person’s true feelings, conscience or beliefs. On the other hand, no one should ever be placed in a position to have to lie about his or her own belief or religion in order to satisfy some arcane laws that dictate the religions which can be the only ones entered in ID cards and official documents.


  1. Bilo, you wrote:

    "There must be separation between citizenship and belief—they cannot be interconnected." and "religion is only in one’s heart and is the individual’s private and personal affair."

    I agree entirely. So does Baha'u'llah. In his Kitab al-Aqdas he told the worldly rulers:

    "Arise, and serve Him Who is the Desire of all nations, Who hath created you through a word from Him, and ordained you to be, for all time, the emblems of His sovereignty. By the righteousness of God! It is not Our wish to lay hands on your kingdoms. Our mission is to seize and possess the hearts of men. Upon them the eyes of Baha are fastened."

    the Arabic text is at:

    The book is the first item on the page, this text is at sections 82 and 83 of the book: search on 82 in Roman numbers to find it.

  2. It is amazing in the Twenty First Century that a human rights committee of the Egyptian People's Assembly could deny the civil rights of law abiding citizens based on their religious beliefs.

    Let us suppose that all Baha'is register themselves as Jews. Since there are only very few Jews in Egypt then a Jew in Egypt would most likely be a Baha'i. This will increase the number of registered Jews in Egypt, would be consistent with current interpretations of Egyptian law, and Egyptian authorities would not have to deal with the ID crisis anymore.

    What would be required then are assurances that:

    a. Citizens cannot be prosecuted for lying in official documents.

    b. Baha'is, whose great grandparents of six or so generations ago embraced the Baha'i Faith, cannot be assigned another religion arbitrarily according to their family name as has been the recent practice in Egypt.

    c. As "official Jews" but "unofficial Baha'is" they will not be harassed for not being Muslim or Christian.

    Of course the Baha'is will not accept this proposal as it requires them to be dishonest with their own government and with themselves.

    Here are the implicit assumptions of the governments stance:

    a. Put pressure on the Baha'is and they will become Muslim or Christian and the problem will disappear. WRONG!

    b. What people believe is either simple to change (not engraved in one's heart but only engraved on official documents). WRONG!

    c. Baha'is under pressure will falsify and misrepresent themselves in order to get their official documents. WRONG here again!

    And the plot goes as follows: if they remain truthful, no IDs! If they falsify official documents then they can be charged with falsifying official documents.

    I am surprised that Mr. Gali (Junior) endorsed such an outcome of the Human Rights Committee of the legislator.

  3. Interesting! The second article in the post relating to the Human Rights Committee of the Egyptian Parliament mentions that the chair of the committee being quoted in the article is Edward Ghali. I do not know whether or not he is related to Boutros-Boutros Ghali who is currently the president of Egypt's National Council for Human Rights and former Secretary General of the United Nations. Boutros Ghali has been supportive of either recognizing ALL religions or eliminating religion from ID cards and official documents altogether. His position has been VERY clear, as shown in several past posts on this blog like this one....

  4. Here in the United States the American Citizens over threw a government back in 1776 over Taxation without representation now fast foward 231 years later there are still governments who are so repressive that they force citizens their Bahai citizens AT GUNPOINT to pay their taxes with out the rights of citizenship...

    I see the Egyptian government actions as defacto terrorists against the Bahai citizens...

    this is alarming at the very least

    I call on the UN to aleviate this problem ASAP and the Egyptian government cease and desist at once!!


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