Saturday, November 24, 2007

Egypt: A “Journalist” Grabbing at Straws in Desperate Attempt to Deny Rights of Baha’is!

In an article published today in Egypt's semi-official newspaper Al-Ahram, the writer Muhammad Dunya attempted to refute the recent report that was jointly produced by Human Rights Watch and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights referred to in this previous post.

This writer presents deeply flawed arguments that are clearly illogical and based on false assumptions which cannot be backed by the exact same sources used by that same writer in his justification for his statements.

He begins the article by pointing to statements in the report which are critical of Egypt's treatment of its Baha'i minority population.

He then accuses the report of making "gross errors" in its conclusions. He tries to refute these facts by indicating that Egypt guarantees freedom of belief based on its constitution.

In the same breath he also states that Baha'is should not be granted their citizenship rights. He bases his argument on his claim that Egypt recognizes three religions only: Islam, Christianity and Judaism, which is in direct contradiction to his earlier assertion that Egypt guarantees absolute freedom of belief and freedom of religious practice. He conveniently neglects to state that nowhere in Egypt's constitution there is any reference to his claim that Egypt recognizes only three religions.

He also uses the usual argument brought up by many extremists before him, that is "public order." Again, as has been clearly established by several sources before, including the Human Rights Watch report itself, no one had ever explained what the issue of civil rights for the Egyptian Baha'is has to do with "public order!" No one had ever explained how allowing the Baha'is--who are Egyptian citizens--to obtain identification documents could disrupt "public order!" Even though if "public order" was disrupted, it was never stated by any of those using that argument what this exactly means! It remains a vague "catch phrase" used by those who continue to promote and enforce the oppression and the denial of civil rights of a law-abiding segment of the Egyptian population (Baha'is), and to mislead and inflame the masses against them.

This meager piece of journalism must remain filed with the few others who have constantly plagiarized each other's arguments and false statements in their efforts to discredit the Baha'is and deny them their basic civil rights.

Lastly, if we assume that this logic is the only one left for those grabbing at straws to use against the rights of Egyptian Baha'is, what then do they propose instead for a solution? What can this segment of Egypt's citizenry do without identification documents? How can you provide them with official identification without forcing them to lie on official documents by denying their true faith?

It is indeed a shameful day for Egypt's journalism!


  1. The language of the report and writing style, for those who are familiar with official press releases, shows that he's just copying from a ministry of interior reply. And it's not going too far if we assume this whole report is prepared by the ministry and a journalist name was just placed on it. Very common practice in regime controlled press. It's good to know again where the ministry stands.

  2. Is it just and impartial practice that a so-called semi-official newspaper prints such an article during the period where a verdict is set to be announced by the Court of Administrative Justice on 25 December 2007? No better means of demonstrating lack of integrity and incompetence could be displayed if one were to intentionally plan for such. That the arguments are illogical and outdated are added insult to those who would only hope that some fraction of justice may be forthcoming. Al Ahram has the greatest circulation, which puts to question the comparatively small number of articles that are proficient and impartial in recounting the issues of the Baha’i national ID issue.

  3. I was wondering why it was so poorly written! It is almost like a word salad. Now I understand why....

  4. R.A.,
    It is the usual rehtoric: deny...deny...deny...deny...deny....

  5. What is also odd is that the article states in its title that "the Baha'i [Faith] is not a recognized religion from the sky [translated literally]. The Arabic word "Samaweyya" used in the article, when translated literally means "from the sky" and is often used in the Arabic language to refer to "divine." The article is accompanied by a sunset photograph of the sky. You can draw your own conclusions from this metaphor, but it is interesting to note that many still think of divine as coming from the "sky!" Do we really know where the divine is? I would love to hear what you think!

  6. I think it is rather accidentally revealing that a picture of sunset is that correct? Perhaps the metaphorical guidance of their sun is now setting on the horizon?

  7. To translate the word "divine", I can't think of another Arabic word source other than "sama's".

    I think the first comment on this article shows that this is the semi-official position and is a lead to a biased court decision. This does not bode well for the Baha'is in Egypt who have suffered so much. The courts are obviously not independent!

    Journalism and the judiciary seem to be controlled by the government which is trying to compete with the fundamentalists as to who is watching more for "Islamic" interests in the country! In doing so, the government spreads lies, fabricates arguments that do not stand the test of logic, and predetermines court outcomes!

    I think this goes beyond incompetence to a well articulated campaign of control and "religious" cleansing!

  8. Perhaps the Arabic word "Elaheyyah" meaning "Godly" wold be more descriptive!

  9. The "public order" excuse is derived from international human rights law. As I understand it, states can - under very limited circumstances - restrict the freedom of their citizens to publicly manifest their religion if such manifestation endangers public order. In the Anglophone world, "public order" is usually taken to mean absence of disturbances on the streets. However, in the Francophone world the phrase "l'ordre publique" indicates the basis on which the state is founded. In a society in which l'ordre publique is allegedly founded on Islam, the government can - by twisting the equivocating between the English phrase and the French phrase - develop an excuse to abridge the human rights of religious minorities.

    Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides for limitations "as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others".

    The UN's Human Rights Committee's General Comment 22 states that, "limitations on the protection of freedom of religion or belief must not be based on principles derived from one single tradition."

    So the Egyptian authorities are not in the least justified in violating the human rights of the Baha'is, who, in any case, are no threat to public order, health or morals. Quite the opposite, in fact.

  10. Thank you Barney for this clarification. It is also interesting that the Arabic phrase for "public order" is "al-nezam al-aam," literally translated it means: "general order." Egypt, however, had never defined what it means when it claims that the Baha'i case disrupts "al-nezam al-aam." Also, the claim itself contradicts Egypt's own constitution which guarantees absolute freedom of belief and religious practice.
    Regardless of this, the Baha'i case was never about the recognition of the Baha'i Faith in Egypt; it has been all along about obtaining identification documents and equal citizenship rights. This is the issue that must be addressed and resolved by the government. Using the question of "recognition" has been intended by those in authority to issue ID documents to divert public opinion and the judiciary from the real question, namely: citizenship rights.


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