Saturday, January 31, 2009

Baha'is of Egypt Anticipate Final Verdict in Two Days

Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court is scheduled, on 2 February 2009, to announce its verdict regarding the appeal brought by Islamist lawyers in their attempt to reverse the 29 January 2008 ruling that allowed the Baha'is of Egypt to obtain ID cards and birth certificates. This appeal is thought to be the last apparent hurdle to granting the Baha'is their due identity rights. In order to review the recent history of this case, please look at the last post linked here....

A global prayer chain has been organized by world youth, linked to at this site.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Faiths Around the World (Part 4 of 6)

A BBC program, worth watching till...the end! [Coverage of the Baha'i Faith begins at 6:11]

If interested in the complete series, Around the World in 80 Faiths: Part-1 (1/6) begins here.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Timely & Thoughtful Theological Discourse By An Egyptian Scholar

A previous post, dated 25 October 2006, reported on an an interview with the Islamic scholar and prominent Egyptian thinker Gamal El-Banna.

More recently, on 24 November 2008, Copts United website reported on a symposium, titled “Freedom of Thought in Islam,” that was hosted by Dar Haven for Translation and Publishing and held in Cairo.

Before posting the remarks made during that symposium, it would be helpful to reintroduce the person in question:

Gamal El-Banna is known in the Egyptian society as a progressive, moderate and liberal thinker who is also a scholar who has published several books and manuscripts on various aspects of reform of religion and Islam as it applies to the modern Egyptian society.

On several occasions, El-Banna has publicly defended the civil rights of Egyptian Baha'is, and their entitlement to recognition and equal treatment under the law.

His older brother Hassan El-Banna founded the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt's Suez Canal city of Ismailia in 1928. The movement was subsequently outlawed, its followers were incarcerated over the years, and its founder was assassinated in 1949.

The following is a verbatim translation of the article that was published in Arabic on Copts United:

[Translator’s notes appear in square brackets [ ].]

Copts United [a liberal electronic newspaper concerned with Copts in Egypt]
24 November 2008

Gamal El-Banna:

- 90% of the heritage [doctrinal works of Islamic scholars] is no longer valid.
- Anyone who, after sincere consideration, converts to another religion does not incur punishment in this life.
- Who says that religions are only three; this is sheer stupidity!
- Hassan el-Banna was a liberal.
- When there is a conflict between the Text of the Qur’án and the commonweal, the latter should prevail.

Reported by-Emad Thomas

Islamic writer and controversial thinker Gamal el-Banna launched an unprecedented attack on the old books of our [Islamic] heritage and demanded that they be put in museums, adding that he is not bothered with Al-Bukhari and others like him, because he is a human being and is not infallible.

In a symposium titled “Freedom of Thought in Islam” hosted by Dar Haven for Translation and Publishing on Saturday evening, 22 November 2008, Gamal el-Banna said: “We should not give ourselves headaches and waste our time with heritage, because we have the genuine heritage—the Qur’án—and if we want to refine our heritage, it will take an age to get there.” He likened the heritage to a vein of gold in a mountain of iron; [in order to get hold of it] the whole mountain needs to be demolished. He further asked: “Why don’t we use our brains? Our ancestors could not dream of the knowledge and technology we have today.” El-Banna rejected the idea of refining the [Islamic] heritage as 90% of it is no longer valid—as he put it.

The punishment for apostasy
El-Banna emphasized that although apostasy is mentioned in the Qur’án, there is no punishment attached to it in this life. It is not a crime for someone to be guided to another religion, after due consideration; it is freedom of belief. El-Banna agreed with the scholars who have stated that there is no judgement on a person who thinks sincerely and converts to another religion, quoting the Quranic verse, “On no soul doth God place a burden greater than it can bear”.

Baha’ism is welcomed
El-Banna was very welcoming of the Bahá’í religion and whoever wishes to embrace it—in the framework of freedom of thought—and demanded freedom for Bahá’ís; he added that if God had so willed, He could have made mankind one people, but He created the nations with inherent differences. Therefore, we should accept pluralism and conversion from one religion to another—after all, everyone believes in one God. The Islamic writer [El-Banna] then added: “Who says that we believe in three religions only? This is sheer stupidity; China has more than three religions and it is an advanced country. He stressed that according to the Qur’án, there are prophets we do not know about.

Hassan El-Banna
Gamal el-Banna said that his late brother, Hassan el-Banna, founder of the Society of Muslim Brotherhood, was a liberal and a genius in the way he organised the structure of the Brotherhood group, which began with six individuals in the city of Isma‘iliyyah in 1928 and became “a way of life” in 1948. He added that all the women in the Brotherhood [Society] wore no veils at that time.

Najmuddin al-Tufi
In support of his assertions, El-Banna referred to the Hanbali scholar Najmuddin al-Tufi [who had stated that] in the event of a conflict between the Text of the Qur’án and the commonweal, the latter should prevail, as “the commonweal is the ultimate purpose of the lawgiver [God], and should be observed if a contradiction occurs between the commonweal and the Text, not as a means of fabricating the Text, but as a way of interpreting it”, and this for the purpose of “greater benefit for a larger number”. Commenting on freedom of thought and the religious institutions’ attitude to it, El-Banna said: “Who can believe that Christianity is the religion of love when the Church in the middle ages instituted courts of inquisition for its followers. There is a close relationship between freedom of thought and religions; religions should be a call for freedom and not fanaticism; freedom in Islam is part of the mechanism which ‘Aqqad referred to as “an Islamic obligation”. El-Banna further added that all the Quranic verses call for freedom of thought; people’s misconception of religion is the cause of their retardation. At the symposium, Gamal el-Banna also spoke about his big renaissance project, established under the title “Islamic Revival”, which he began fifty years ago when he published his book A New Democracy in 1946; the book included a chapter entitled “A New Understanding for Religion” which incorporated the core of the idea for his renaissance project—belief in the human being—“do not believe in faith; believe in the human being”, the wording has progressed to “Islam sought the human being, but scholars sought Islam”. The key idea in this call is to take Islam back to what it was fourteen centuries ago—a revolution to free people leading them out of darkness into light, a desire to change a society that worships in the ways of its forefathers, and to spread noble values.

- [Judiciary] Counselor Dr. Hassan Hind conducted the symposium, and Dr. Afaf Abdel-Mu‘ti, director of the publishing house, Dar Heffen, was the coordinator.
- Gamal el-Banna, the Islamic writer, presented three booklets as gifts to those present; a booklet about the topic of the symposium “Freedom of Thought in Islam” was one of them.
- The symposium received extensive media coverage in a number of electronic sites as well as the Egyptian and Arab press.
- The next Dar Heffen symposium on freedom of thought and belief is on the theme of rights of women in relation to personal status, and will be held on Saturday 27 December 2008.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court Postpones its Decision on the Appeal

In its session today, Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court postponed its verdict on the appeal by the Islamist lawyer, named Abd El-Mageed El-Aanany, who was not a party to lawsuits brought by the Baha'is in their quest for obtaining ID cards and birth certificates. Cairo's Administrative Court had ruled in favor of the Baha'is on 29 January 2008, and allowed them to obtain ID cards and birth certificates with dashes [--] inserted in place of religious identification.

Instead of ruling on the case today, the Supreme Administrative Court decided to announce its final verdict regarding the appeal during its upcoming session of 2 February 2009.

Such an appeal is not an obstacle to enforcing the lower court's ruling unless the court had decided to stop the implementation of the said ruling. The courts have not done so, thus there are no barriers to the government's enforcement of the lower court's ruling. So far, not a single Baha'i in Egypt has been able to obtain identification documents under this ruling.

Additionally, the Supreme Administrative Court's own State Judiciary Council had considered the appeal and had rejected it. The court is expected to abide by the decision of the Council.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Cairo's Administrative Court Rejects a Challenge To Baha'i Rights

As was described in a previous post, the Baha'is of Egypt have been awaiting two court dates scheduled to issue final verdicts regarding the challenges and appeals lodged against the previous court rulings that were in their favor. The 17 January 2009 date, quoted below, concerns the challenge by an Islamist lawyer intended to halt the court ruling allowing the Baha'is to obtain birth certificates and ID cards with dashes [--] inserted instead of their religious identity.
...scheduled for 17 January 2009, on which Cairo's Seventh Circuit Administrative Court will rule on a challenge (a stalling tactic--not an appeal) to the same ruling of 29 January 2008 of the First Circuit Administrative Court, in which another Islamist lawyer challenged the competence of the judge. Consequently, the judge had referred the case out of his court to the Seventh Circuit Court for an unbiased determination.

In its session today, Cairo's Seventh Circuit Administrative Court rejected the challenge filed by the said lawyer, Hamed Saddiq, who was acting on behalf of Egypt's Islamic Research Council which is under the auspices of al-Azhar University. His challenge had the effect of stalling the implementation of the favorable 29 January 2008 court ruling.

Today's verdict implies that the 29 January 2008 court ruling in favor of the Baha'is can be enforced by the Ministry of Interior and that it can proceed, without delay, to issue the Baha'is of Egypt birth certificates with dashes [--] inserted in the religion section of these documents. Today's verdict concerns only the case of 14-year-old twin children, Emad and Nancy Raouf Hindi whose father has been requesting the issue of their birth certificates.

The Other case concerning the 18-year-old university student Hussein Hosni Bakhit Abdel-Massih, who is in quest for his ID card (he was dismissed from the university consequent to his inability to obtain a military postponement certificate, required for the continuation of his education), was heard on 15 January 2009 and postponed until 24 February 2009 for a final verdict on the challenge, filed by the same lawyer (Hamed Saddiq). The 29 January court verdict had also ruled in his favor to obtain an ID card with dashes [--] in place of his religion.

The next date to watch is 19 January 2009, on which Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court will issue its final verdict on an appeal by another Islamist lawyer, named Abd El-Mageed El-Aanany. He was not a party to the lawsuit, but appeared to act on behalf of extremists. The appeal could not stop the implementation of the ruling unless the court had decided to do so. In this case, the court has not stopped the implementation of the lower court's ruling, and the Ministry of Interior has not appealed either.

It is anticipated the the Supreme Administrative Court will reject the appeal since its own State Judiciary Council has already recommended this course of action.

Based on these developments, it is becoming clearer that Egypt's judiciary is on a righteous path that is headed towards a resolution to the dilemma of the Baha'is of Egypt, who are in quest of their basic civil rights.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"Baha'i Faith in Egypt" Listed in Top 50 Human Rights Blogs

Just received a communication today from e-Justice website informing me that this blog "Baha'i Faith in Egypt" was listed among the top 50 human rights blogs. The post listing these blogs is entitled: "World Watchdogs: Top 50 Human Rights Blogs."

The e-Justice site describes itself as follows:
Welcome to e-Justice where we tackle issues that matter to your safety and well-being. Our security and law experts provide the essential information you need to safely navigate through an often dangerous and confusing world. From cyber-law to personal security, we confront the issues that are important to you and your family. Join us in the pursuit for justice; take some time to read through our blog and become a more pro-active and informed citizen.

The following is the section under which the blog is listed:


From specific religious groups spreading awareness to blogs that pinpoint religious persecution, turn to this list.

  1. Baha’i Faith in Egypt and Iran: This blog considers the religious persecution inflicted upon the Baha’is of Egypt and Iran.
  2. Unitarian Universalist Service Committee: The UUSC blog shares news and spreads awareness about gender protection issues, Darfur and more.
  3. Religion News Blog: Besides being a great resource for learning about different religions, this blog reports on the latest issues and conflicts relating to religious culture and ethnic groups.
  4. Persecution Blog: Persecution Blog uncovers cases of Christian persecution around the world.
  5. The Liberty Blog: The North American Religious Liberty Association writes about religious bigotry, same sex marriage and more.
  6. Christian Persecution India: This blogger is passionate about investigating and publicizing Christian persecution in India.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Baha'is of Iran Video (English & Arabic Versions)

English Version

Arabic Version

Versions in other languages can be found here....

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Why Are Baha'is Persecuted in Egypt & Iran? Part-2

Prison cell of Baha'u'llah while in exile (closed door on left)

This is a continuation of the previous post regarding the message of the Baha'i religion and its intended purpose.

Those who oppose the Baha'is in Egypt and Iran claim that the Baha'i religion is not a "heavenly" or a "divine" one, and that it is a man-made philosophy and such other unfounded claims by those who are ill-intentioned or misinformed.

Even with such ongoing opposition and the repeated attempts at the extermination of the founders and followers of the religion at its birthplace, the Faith has proven its worth by surviving such desperate maneuvers for over a century and a half. It is now considered as one of the fastest growing religions and it has been recognized, after Christianity, as the second-most widespread religion in global geographic distribution.

The following paragraphs and quote give a glimpse of some of the basic teachings of the Baha'i Faith that illustrate the clear message on how man should regard his Creator and the power of His revelation through His Manifestations on earth:

The first of Bahá’u’lláh’s Teachings I will describe for you is about God and our relationship with Him. Bahá’u’lláh teaches us that God is unknowable in His Essence. This means that we should not make images of God in our mind, thinking of Him, for example, as a man. In general, that which has been created cannot understand its creator. For instance, a table cannot understand the nature of the carpenter who made it. The carpenter’s existence is totally incomprehensible to the objects he makes.

God is the Creator of all things. He has made the heavens and earth, with its mountains and valleys, its deserts and seas, its rivers, its meadows and trees. God has created the animals and God has created the human being. The reason behind our creation, we are told by Bahá’u’lláh, is love. He says:

“O Son of Man! I loved thy creation, hence I created thee. Wherefore, do thou love Me, that I may name thy name and fill thy soul with the spirit of life.”

So although God’s existence is far beyond our understanding, His love touches our lives and our beings ceaselessly. The way this love flows to us is through His Eternal Covenant. According to this Eternal Covenant, God never leaves us alone and without guidance. Whenever humanity moves away from Him and forgets His Teachings, a Manifestation of God appears and makes His Will and Purpose known to us.

The word “manifest” means to reveal, to bring forth something that was not known before. The Manifestations of God are those special Beings Who reveal to humanity the Word and the Will of God; thus when we listen to Them, we are responding to the Call of God.

There is an example from the physical world that helps us to understand the concept of “Manifestation” as taught by Bahá’u’lláh. In this world, the sun is the source of all warmth and light, without which life would not exist on the planet. Yet the sun itself does not descend to earth, and if we tried to approach it, we would be totally consumed.

But suppose we take a well-polished mirror and point it towards the sun. In it we will see the image of the sun, and the more perfectly polished the mirror, the more perfect the image will be. The Manifestations of God are like perfect Mirrors that reflect the Light of God in all its Splendor. And all these Mirrors reflect the same Light. While God is beyond our reach, these perfect Beings come to us from time to time, live among us, give us guidance, and fill us with the energy we need to progress, materially and spiritually.

To be continued....

Monday, January 05, 2009

Some Might Be More Fortunate Than Others!

While several thousand Baha'is continue to struggle in Egypt to survive in an oppressive environment that sanctions discrimination against them by depriving them identification (ID) documents, the Egyptian Ministry of Interior and the Foreign Ministry are deputizing emissaries to the United States and Canada to meet with Egyptian expatriates, in these countries, so that they would facilitate and expedite the issue of ID cards to these citizens living abroad.

This information was published in one of Egypt's leading newspapers, Al-Gomhoreyah [the Republic] in its 3 January 2009 edition (attached with this post). It announces that this consular mission, headed by Ambassador Muhammad Al-Dorghamy will travel to the cities of "New York, Washington, and Los Angeles in the US" as well as the "cities of Montreal and Toronto in Canada." This mission will also be accompanied by representatives of other Egyptian government agencies.

One cannot but to wonder at the irony of this precarious situation: government ministries that deprive its Egyptian citizens, living in their homeland, of their basic civil rights merely because of their religion while, at the exact same time, have its representatives travel thousands of miles to faraway lands in search for Egyptians--who are enjoying their full rights in these foreign countries (regardless of their religion)--to facilitate the issue of ID cards to such individuals who do not necessarily feel the urge or the need to acquire these documents!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Why Are Baha'is Persecuted in Egypt & Iran? Part-1

A question that always appears to linger in our minds is Why Baha'is continue to be actively and systematically persecuted in Egypt & Iran? If one attempts to find a justification, one fails to find any logical reason for such uncalled-for treatment of the followers of a religion that seeks peace, equality and justice.

Considering the events in Egypt and Iran over the past couple of years, an unprecedented spontaneous large-scale media publicity was the natural outcome of these events. This publicity and exposure was not limited to only the Middle East, but rather spread to the entire world. Human rights organizations, activists, free thinkers as well as academics and prominent media persona and bloggers played an active part in making the case of the oppressed Baha'is publicly known, have condemned the unjust and illegitimate treatment of the Baha'is, and have been playing a very active part in the defense of their rights.

A natural consequence of such publicity and exposure is that any independent seeker of truth will attempt to investigate for him/herself what this religion is all about. Thus, in order to begin this process, let us do just that by directly examining the religion itself. This careful examination will be presented over the next few posts and will begin with the following paragraphs:
The Baha'i Faith is a world religion whose purpose is to unite all the races and peoples in one universal Cause and one common Faith. Baha'is are the followers of Bahá’u’lláh, who they believe is the Promised One of all Ages. As you know, the traditions of almost every people include the promise of a future when peace and harmony will be established on earth and humankind will live in prosperity.

Baha'is believe that the promised hour has come and that Bahá’u’lláh is the great Personage Whose Teachings will enable humanity to build a new world. In one of His Writings, Bahá’u’lláh says:

"That which the Lord hath ordained as the sovereign remedy and mightiest instrument for the healing of all the world is the union of all its peoples in one universal Cause, one common Faith."

The Bahá’í Faith is a world religion whose purpose is to unite all the races and peoples in one universal Cause and one common Faith.

To be continued....