Thursday, July 31, 2008

Egyptian Media Interviews US Baha'i External Affairs

In today's edition, Cairo's Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper published an interview it had recently conducted with representatives of the Office of External Affairs of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States.

The article is titled, "American Baha'i leaders demand that [Egypt's] government enforces the 'dashes' verdict for the identity document, and estimate the number of Baha'is in Egypt to be 2,000." The subtitle reads, "Kit Bigelow: the Egyptian Baha'i cannot obtain the ID card without his declaration of becoming a Muslim or a Christian...enforcemnt of the verdict allows him normal life."

The paper reports that it interviewed Ms. Kit Bigelow and Mr. Aaron Emmel at their offices in Washington, DC. The reporter was quite impressed with the design of their offices, being walled with glass as a symbol and a representation of the transparency of that office's work.

The article is quite extensive, objective and accurate as to the facts presented regarding the history, teachings, laws, principles and the administrative structure of the Baha'i religion. It reports that Kit Bigelow stated that the Baha'is of Egypt request nothing more than being granted identity documents, just like any other Egyptian citizen, that would allow them normal livelihood. It also reports that while there are about 160,000 Baha'is in the United States, there are approximately 2,000 Baha'is in Egypt.

The print version of the newpaper shows a photograph of Mr. Aaron Emmel, who is also quoted in the article and is referred to as the person responsible for human rights in the office of external affairs. The online version shows a picture of Ms. Kit Bigelow seated at the conference table, who is referred to as the director of the office of external affairs.

The comment section in the online version is another story! It contains a flood of comments (54 as of the writing of this post), presumably by extremist elements, attacking the Baha'i religion and the newspaper for its objective reporting. Some of these comments have been responded to by others but, in brief, these ferocious attacks betray how deep rooted is the hatred expressed by these extremists. By carefully analyzing these remarks, one cannot come up with any substantial or relevant arguments presented by them, but rather, as has always been the case in the past, blind antagonism without addressing the facts presented in the article. There is abundance of groundless hate messages...just like blowing words in the intellectual discourse there!

In conducting this interview and publishing this very well-written article, Al-Masry Al-Youm is to be commended on its courageous, objective and intellectually honest show of journalism.

Please see full English translation of the article at Barnabas quotidianus blog and here....


  1. It is good to see that freedom of speech is allowed to flourish in Egypt on both sides of this issue. This is the only way that people can make up their own mind.

  2. i wrote 2 comments yesterday in al masry alyoym but the didnot bublished yet

  3. Interesting you say that! In fact, as I was watching the comment section, supportive comments were--somehow--disappearing from the section, while attacking comments were unaffected by the deletion process. At the time of writing the post yesterday, 54 comments were present on the site, and by the time the post was published the number of comments dropped all of a sudden to 40, then gradually crept up to 49 as of now.

    One wonders whether "freedom of speech" really exists in its intended form! People cannot "make up their own mind" if the material presented is manipulated in such a way. Basmagm: perhaps if you write an attacking comment it could get published right away!

  4. Describing commentators as "extremist elements" is, unfortunately, inaccurate. Those comments are perfectly non-extreme and normal. This is the outcome of years and years of misleading message of the religious leaders in Egypt to the point that people cannot even comprehend the existence of someone who's different anymore. Hopefully this will be changing slowly by the new generation of Egyptians who decided to think for themselves.

  5. One must admit though that there are many (Muslim) Egyptians who are understanding and quite tolerant. I am sure you have experienced that, and their support of the rights of minorities--no matter how different they are--has been exemplary. They cannot be forgotten. There are also many silent ones out there.

    The example seen in the commentary on this article shows, in my opinion, an organized and deliberate campaign to discredit the article and the Baha'is by, again in my opinion, extremists who want to sound and present themselves in a deceptive manner as run-of-the-mill regular Egyptians.


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