Friday, August 31, 2007

The Muslim Network for Baha’i Rights Corrects Egypt's Al-Masry Al-Youm Article

The Muslim Network for Baha'i Rights has just published a post correcting an error in the title of an article published in Al-Masry Al-Youm Egyptian newspaper which unintentionally indicated that the Egyptian tourism ad video, linked here, was produced by the Baha'is. Surely this misrepresentation was simply an error by the newspaper and hopefully the newspaper will correct it in its upcoming edition.

The Network's post states: "The article notes that the “Muslim Network for Baha’i Rights” publicized the video however the title implies that the network is composed of or contributed by Baha’is. We’d just like to assure the journalist that this project is by independent Muslim activists."

Below is the post published on the Muslim Network for Baha'i Rights:

The Muslim Network for Baha’i Rights » Al Masry Al Youm covers Egyptian tourism ad video

The Network also stated the following in Arabic for the benefit of Arabic-speaking readers:

Just a further comment to encourage support from our fellow Muslim readers:

نحن طلاب عرب و مسلمين, بدأنا ألعمل في هاذا الموقع لأننا نؤمن بحقوق الإنسان الذي يستحقه جميع أفراد مجتمعنا. البهائيون دائما يدافعون عننا و يساعدوننا في الحفاظة على سمعة الإسلام في العالم فلماذا لا نساندهم و نهتم في امورهم هل لاننا لا نؤمن بنفس الديانة؟ هاذا لا يخالف فكلنا بشر من نفس التراب فيا اخواننا المسلمين يجب ان نتوحد لكي نظمن للبهائيون حقوقهم البشرية

يا جماعة الخير فعملنا في هاذا الموقع مهم جدأ فيجب ان نتعاون بشكل جميل من اجل مجتمع اقوى و اكبر و احسن و من اجل ديننا ايظا فالاسلام يشجع بلتعاون و المحبة

... بارك الله فيكم جميعا

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Egypt: Media Coverage on Showing of Film on Baha'i Rights

The Egyptian newspaper el-Badeel, in its 28 August 2007 edition, published an article about the recent documentary film made by the independent film maker Mr. Ahmed Ezzat. The article is authored by Khaled Abdel-Rasoul and Sarah El-Masry and is entitled "First Film on the Baha'i Quagmire in Egypt."

The film, titled "My Belief or My Country [Identity Crisis]," was shown at Egypt's Cinematic Cultural Centre upon the invitation of the Egyptian Film Critics Association on 26 August. Previously, this film was invited for showing at the last Alexandria Film Festival, but was banned by Egypt's security and censorship agencies. The documentary is 34 minutes long, and required approximately 35 hours of filming and 300 hours of montage.

The film's director, Ahmed Ezzat, stated that "the principal reason for him to handle the Baha'i case was for the cause of justice and not religion, because human rights cannot be partial, but should be applicable to all." He also added that "the film was produced entirely at his own expense." It is of note that Ahmed Ezzat is an Egyptian Muslim.

Following the film's showing, a heated discussion ensued at the exhibition hall, which was crowded with human rights activists, film makers and critics, thinkers, members of the Baha'i community and the general public. The discussion focused on the issues raised by the film as well as those facing Egypt, such as citizenship, freedom of belief, religious classification on ID cards, and freedom related litigation cases in general.

The film's promotional piece is posted below. The film, in its entirety, will soon be available for viewing. When such time arrives, an announcement will be made on this site.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Egypt: ID Cards Vs. Ancient Civilization!

This video clip, entitled "Egypt Tourism Ad" was just published by the Muslim Network for Baha'i Rights on YouTube. It depicts the dilemma of certain citizens of Egypt, such as Baha'is, who are denied their ID cards because of their religious affiliation. Egypt will only allow the entry of one of three religions on the mandated computerized ID card forms, namely: Muslim, Christian or Jewish. If anyone belongs to any other Faith than these three, then the person is denied the ID card. The application form also clearly states that the entry of any false statements will lead to imprisonment and heavy fines. A citizen of Egypt without ID card is considered non-existent and cannot have any rights in his or her own country. All essential services in Egypt mandates the use of ID cards. The lack of such documents in Egypt amounts to Civil Death.

Also see Egyptian identification card controversy at Wikipedia.

The Muslim Network for Baha'i Rights describes itself as follows:

The Muslim network for Baha’i rights is developed by a group of Muslim interfaith activists who believe in tolerance, coexistence and freedom. We created this site to promote human rights, religious freedom and respect within the Arab and Muslim world. We strongly believe that such values should apply it to all people equally regardless of their faith, cultural differences, political stance or nationality. We are making this effort not only as believers of freedom, but also for the sake of a better and more productive society.

In this network, there are a few things that readers should keep in mind:
. The authors are Muslim interfaith activists who are deeply concerned with the treatment of Baha’is within the Middle East.
. We don’t believe in the Baha’i faith, yet we respect those who do. There are minorities within our societies who are practicing Baha’is and for that, their rights are very rarely recognized, simply because of their religious differences. We do not approve of this.
. We created this site to demand that the rights of Baha’i minorities is recognized by not only people, but by law.
. We respectfully demand that all governments within the Arab and Muslim world allow Baha’i citizens to have equal opportunities in all fields and to practice their faith freely without facing any threats or discrimination whatsoever.
. We would like to make the general public of the region be aware of Baha’i human rights abuses in order to take effective action against it. We can only successfully achieve the goals of this website if we move our citizens towards real action, no matter what our religious differences are.
. We are all civilians in need of basic rights, and thus we should join forces regardless of our differences and unite in a celebration of our diversity. Join us in this worthy struggle and make our goals a greater possibility in the name of freedom.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Is There Any Religious Freedom in Egypt?

This article, published on Compass Direct News illustrates a very interesting dilemma. It is the story of an Egyptian man who had decided to convert from Islam to Christianity only to find himself in a very precarious position--he cannot obtain an ID card stating that he is indeed a Christian. Consequently, he had to resort to the courts in order to obtain his rights.

Thus far, Egypt has always used the excuse of not recognizing the Baha'i Faith in order to deny the Baha'is their civil rights. Egypt has clearly stated that it only recognizes three religions as divine, namely: Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Officially it will grant anyone who is a follower of any of these religions his or her full citizenship rights.

Now, this case involves a man who supposedly belongs to one of the three recognized religions in Egypt, but apparently because he had converted from Islam to Christianity, he is being denied his rights. However, legal conversion from Christianity to Islam occurs regularly in Egypt, and those who convert have no difficulty whatsoever in obtaining ID documents stating that they are Muslims.

Here is his story:

Tuesday August 07, 2007


Christian's attorney facing death threats from Egyptian security police.

ISTANBUL, August 6 (Compass Direct News) – A Muslim convert to Christianity filed suit against Egypt last week for refusing to legally recognize his change of religion, sparking a reactionary lawsuit by Muslim clerics and death threats against his lawyer.

Mohammed Ahmed Hegazy, 24, brought a case against Egypt’s interior ministry on Thursday (August 2) for rejecting his application to replace Islam with Christianity on his personal identification papers.

“I think it is my natural right, to embrace the religion I believe and not to have to have a double personality for me as well as for my wife and my expected baby,” said Hegazy, who converted to Christianity when he was 16.

Though Egyptian law does not forbid conversion from Islam to Christianity, it provides no legal means to make the change. Converts to Christianity usually hide their identity to avoid torture and forced recantation at the hands of family members and security police.

Hegazy, whose wife Zeinab is four months pregnant, said that he wants his child to be born with Christian papers. The couple, who were forced to hold an Islamic wedding ceremony because of their legal status as Muslims, know that a Christian ID card will allow their child to take Christian religion classes in school, marry in a church and even openly attend services without fear of harassment. Read the rest here....

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Egypt Begins Soon Exclusive Use of New ID Document

Egypt's leading daily newspaper Al-Ahram published an article on 8 August 2007, in which it describes plans for the exclusive use of the new computerised national ID number/card and the total abandonment of the older paper ID documents.

Thus far, Baha'is remain prevented by the government from being issued the new ID cards, and are only in possession of the old paper documents. The only option given to them, as instructed by the Ministry of Interior, is that they must lie on the application form regarding their religious affiliation in order to obtain ID documents. They are given only three choices (Muslim Christian or Jew). The application form clearly states that any false statements made by the applicant will be punishable by imprisonment and heavy fines. The ID card system does not allow for any other options, such as leaving the space for religion blank.

The newspaper article indicates that it was decided that the new ID card will be "an essential element in all transactions." This was decided by Prime Minister Dr. Ahmed Nazeef in a meeting on 7 August 2007 with the Minister of Interior as well as some other ministers.

The Prime Minister requested "a deadline" by which the use of the old paper ID card will stop. This will be accomplished very soon when nearly 90% of the population have been issued the new cards.

It was also reported in this article that according to a spokesperson of the Assembly of Ministries that the new ID system will be applied to "all services used by Egyptian citizens within the country." This includes all government transactions. Currently several ministries have been exclusively accepting the new ID card. These ministries are: Interior, Defense, Health and Justice.

"In preparation for this, it is expected that the Ministry of Interior will announce soon the complete cessation of the use of the old paper ID document."

The implications of this announcement are quite ominous. Soon the Baha'is and other religious minorities (except Muslims, Christians and Jews) will not be able to have any rights in their own society. It implies large-scale job firings and dismissals from universities. Already, Baha'is are unable to obtain health care and children cannot get vaccination in public institutions. In other words, Baha'is and any other religious minorities--if they exist--will suffer "civil death."

Additionally, Egyptian Baha'i university students have been expelled because they were unable to produce the required military draft postponement document, which requires the new ID card for it to be granted. One student was expelled just before graduation from his university. Another student, after passing his first year examination, was prevented from being promoted to the second year and was suspended from the university until he can produce his military draft document.