Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Congressman Frank Wolf on Human Rights & Dialogue With Iran

The following was published on an official website of the Baha'is of the United States:
Congressman Frank Wolf urges Obama administration to make human rights a key component of dialogue with Iran

Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia expressed concern that seven Baha’i leaders who have been in prison for more than a year may face death on charges of “spreading of corruption on earth,” a capital offense in Iran. “Human dignity and freedom must not be made a sidebar as the Administration seeks to engage the Iranians,” Wolf said in his May 21, 2009 testimony. You can read the full statement here.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mr. WOLF. Madam Speaker, May 14 marked the one-year anniversary of the imprisonment of the seven member national committee of the Iranian Baha’is. According to CNN reports, the seven Baha’i leaders may now face charges of "spreading of corruption on Earth" which carries the threat of the death penalty under Iran’s penal code. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom recently released their 2009 report which recommends that the State Department designate Iran a country of particular concern due to its gross violations of religious freedom. Such violations include the execution of over 200 Baha’i leaders since 1979, the desecration of Baha’i cemeteries and places of worship, and the violent arrest and harassment of members of the Baha’i faith. As the Administration seeks diplomatic engagement with Iran, I urge them to make human rights and religious freedom an integral part of the dialogue. Human dignity and freedom must not be made a sidebar as the Administration seeks to engage the Iranians.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Condolences to the Mubarak Family

All Egyptians are in a state of shock and grief over the untimely and unexpected death of the grandchild of President Hosni Mubarak. According to Al-Ahram Weekly, "twelve-year-old Mohamed, the child of Mubarak's eldest son 47-year-old Alaa, died suddenly on Monday."

The newspaper adds:
A presidency statement said that Mohamed died after a "two-day health crisis", while other reports elaborated that he had suffered a brain haemorrhage on Saturday and was flown to Paris for emergency treatment, where he died. On Tuesday the child's body was brought back to Egypt for burial. Before the funeral, the body was admitted to Al-Galaa Armed Forces Hospital where President Mubarak bid his eldest grandson farewell, since he was not to attend the funeral. Alaa has another son, Omar, who is six years old.

Our hearts go out to the President, to his son Alaa, and to the entire Mubarak family. The loss of a child is one of the most painful experiences anyone can endure. It is certain that all Egyptians share in mourning the loss of this beloved child and pray for the progress of his pure soul in the heavenly worlds of God.

We also pray to God to shower the Mubarak family with His grace, and to bestow upon the family strength and patience during this very difficult time.

The accompanying photographs of the President with his grandson, the funeral, and the President's sons Alaa and Gamal are courtesy of Al-Ahram Weekly. Please click on the picture in order to enlarge it.

The entire article can be accessed here.... You may also view a video of the funeral here....

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Signs of an Enlightened Phase in Egypt's Parliament

More details regarding the retraction of a proposed parliamentary law criminalizing "Baha'i thought" in Egypt appeared in yesterday's edition of Egypt's Al-Youm Al-Sabe'h newspaper. These details clearly illustrate a progressive and enlightened trend in the Egyptian legislative branch of government. The following is not a word by word translation, but rather a synopsis of the newspaper story:

The released Parliamentary report was surprisingly contradictory to the recommendations of the Joint Commission on Defense, National Security, Arab Affairs and Religious Endowments, which considered in its meetings the call for an urgent law to "criminalize Baha'i thought." The newspaper reports that this reversal was a result of the expressed rejection by the Baha'is, followed by pressure exerted by the senior representatives of the ruling National Democratic Party to prevent the writing of such recommendation in the commission's report.

The article also mentions that of "great significance" is the fact that the new recommendations--reversing the proposed laws--carried "the opinions of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) Parliamentary faction representatives who have been refusing the law criminalizing the Baha'is from the very start." They [MB] also requested that "the men of religion" as well as "scholars" must begin an open dialogue and discussions with Baha'is, pointing out the danger of dealing with this [Baha'i] congregation with "sticks...." [symbolic]

During these discussions, the senior parliamentary leadership had also requested that the Joint Commission review articles 2 and 40 of the Egyptian constitution regarding freedoms before falling into that grievous mistake, i.e. the previously proposed law.

Another important remark was made by Mr. Essam Mokhtar, a Muslim Brotherhood representative, who stated that the manner by which the Joint Commission had held its consultation on the Baha'i question had almost caused a real crisis, clarifying that "the Commission had become judgmental of the followers of the [Baha'i] thought without allowing a chance for discussions between religious scholars and the followers of that [Baha'i] thought...." He also affirmed that the principle of citizenship and the rights guaranteed to all citizens forbid parliamentary representatives from producing legislation that stand against human rights, otherwise this type of action could "turn everything upside down."

Assuming that these reports are indeed reflective of the recent events in the Egyptian Parliament, one can only conclude that these developments are truly representative of an enlightened phase in the recent history of that body. Additionally, the reaction of the Muslim Brotherhood representatives to this crisis deserves acknowledgment and respect.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Egypt We All Miss is Coming Through!

The following is a TV program on Egypt's Nile Life Channel aired on 10 May 2009. The two program hosts have invited Dr. Mohammad Farahat, constitutional expert and Professor of Law at Cairo University, Mr. Adel Ramadan, attorney for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), and Dr. Raouf Hindi, an Egyptian Baha'i who has been at the center of the litigations regarding identification documents for the Baha'is.

This program is by far the most well presented, civil and balanced presentation seen for quite some time in Egyptian media regarding this particular subject matter. It speaks for freedom of belief, constitutional guarantees for all Egyptian citizens, and the need to enforce the recent order by the Ministry of Interior to expeditiously grant Egyptian citizens who do not belong to one of the three recognized religions in Egypt identity documents with dashes (--) inserted in place of religion.

Mr. Ramadan expressed his optimism that the ruling will be enforced by the civil status department quite soon. Professor Farahat's comments clearly show the cultural dignity and the well-grounded arguments and views of a respected leading Egyptian scholar regarding the rights of citizenship and freedom of belief. This is indeed the Egypt I know....




Saturday, May 02, 2009

A Futile Attempt to Criminalize "Baha'i Thought" in Egypt Falls on its Face

A number of Middle Eastern news outlets reported last week that the Egyptian Parliament's Joint Commission on Defense, National Security, Arab Affairs and Religious Endowments has demanded that the Egyptian Parliament expedite the issuance of "a new law criminalizing Baha’ism...." [see links here, here & here]

As expected, these attempts were armed with the usual absurd fabrications about Baha'i beliefs and intentions. They were initiated by extremist elements in the Egyptian Parliament and were accompanied by a so called "secret memorandum from al-Azhar denouncing Baha'ism...."

This futile and "dramatic" attempt, which has created "a Parliamentarian crisis," was stopped in its tracks, before gaining any momentum, by the wisdom of the Parliamentary leadership, denouncing it as "unconstitutional."

According to an article, published in today's Rose al-Youssef, a paper normally expressing the views of the Egyptian authorities, the Joint Commission, mentioned above, was forced to "erase" its recommendation to "criminalize Baha'i thought and those who believe in it" because such a law would violate the tenets and procedures of the Parliament as well as "articles 2 and 40 of the Egyptian Constitution that guarantee freedoms of citizenship and belief." The Joint Commission, however continues its rhetoric against "Baha'i thought" and its concern for the Egyptian youth and its attraction to it.

The strategy of extremist elements in the Egyptian society, as well as the media and the supportive extremist elected officials, has been to consistently paint the Baha'is with one brush, soaked in a soiled bucket filled with fabrications and blatant lies, intended to stain the Bahai's so that the uninformed masses would be brainwashed into hating and detesting them. These fabrications include, but not limited to: accusations that the Baha'i [religion] is not a divinely-ordained religion, but rather a man-made destructive thought; accusations that Baha'is are agents of Zionism and imperialism with a mission, as a political movement, to destroy the Islamic world and its infrastructure; accusations of immorality, incest and exchange of wives; accusations of being Iranian agents with the intent of destroying the Arab world; accusations of "bribing the Egyptian youth into converting to Baha'ism;" as well as many other fabrications, too numerous and ludicrous to mention here.

The reality is, if any of these fabrications were true, why would anyone in his or her right mind want to joint such a "thought?" Fortunately, Egyptian youth, who are mostly educated, can read for themselves and can independently investigate the truth. Their intelligence cannot betray them into believing such absurdities being thrown at them.

The divinity of a religion is not for any man to judge but rather it is for God to ordain such a power; the proof of which lies in the religion itself and in its teachings. One can simply go to the source of the fountain of truth to satisfy one's thirst--reliable sources such as in this or that site.

How could they accuse the Baha'is of political ambitions and intentions when they well know that one of the main principles of the Baha'i Faith is the absolute necessity of non-involvement in partisan politics?

How could they accuse Baha'is of "immorality" and of "devious thought" when they well know that their teachings are in complete contradiction to their claims? They very well know that when it concerns morality and rectitude of conduct, just like in any other divinely-ordained religion, they do not need to look any farther than to pay attention to the numerous writings of the Baha'i Faith. Morality and rectitude of conduct are clearly the fundamental cornerstones upon which the religion is revealed. Among the many examples of such writings, one can refer to the following quotes:
O ye beloved of the Lord! In this sacred Dispensation, conflict and contention are in no wise permitted. Every aggressor deprives himself of God's grace. It is incumbent upon everyone to show the utmost love, rectitude of conduct, straightforwardness and sincere kindliness unto all the peoples and kindreds of the world, be they friends or strangers. So intense must be the spirit of love and loving-kindness, that the stranger may find himself a friend, the enemy a true brother, no difference whatsoever existing between them. For universality is of God and all limitations earthly. Thus man must strive that his reality may manifest virtues and perfections, the light whereof may shine upon everyone. The light of the sun shineth upon all the world and the merciful showers of Divine Providence fall upon all peoples. The vivifying breeze reviveth every living creature and all beings endued with life obtain their share and portion at His heavenly board. In like manner, the affections and loving-kindness of the servants of the One True God must be bountifully and universally extended to all mankind. Regarding this, restrictions and limitations are in no wise permitted.

Wherefore, O my loving friends! Consort with all the peoples, kindreds and religions of the world with the utmost truthfulness, uprightness, faithfulness, kindliness, good-will and friendliness; that all the world of being may be filled with the holy ecstasy of the grace of Baha, that ignorance, enmity, hate and rancor may vanish from the world and the darkness of estrangement amidst the peoples and kindreds of the world may give way to the Light of Unity. Should other peoples and nations be unfaithful to you show your fidelity unto them, should they be unjust toward you show justice towards them, should they keep aloof from you attract them to yourself, should they show their enmity be friendly towards them, should they poison your lives sweeten their souls, should they inflict a wound upon you be a salve to their sores. Such are the attributes of the sincere! Such are the attributes of the truthful.

Abdu'l-BahaBaha'i World Faith - Abdu'l-Baha Section, p. 445.
In another passage, one can find the following teachings:
Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face. Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answerer of the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of thy pledge. Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men. Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression. Let integrity and uprightness distinguish all thine acts. Be a home for the stranger, a balm to the suffering, a tower of strength for the fugitive. Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be an ornament to the countenance of truth, a crown to the brow of fidelity, a pillar of the temple of righteousness, a breath of life to the body of mankind, an ensign of the hosts of justice, a luminary above the horizon of virtue, a dew to the soil of the human heart, an ark on the ocean of knowledge, a sun in the heaven of bounty, a gem on the diadem of wisdom, a shining light in the firmament of thy generation, a fruit upon the tree of humility.

— Bahá’u’lláh — Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh.
[1952] 1983: 285.
How could any of these teachings be a threat to the national security of Egypt, as claimed by those extremists who stated that Baha'is are more of a threat to Egypt than the most venomous and terrorizing organizations currently invading its society? And why would they want to protect the Egyptian youth from such teachings? Their strategy is very telling indeed and can be explained in few simple words: take all the Baha'i teachings and reverse them 180 degrees, so that those who cannot read for themselves would believe their fabricated stories, which in turn can serve their scheme to create an environment hostile to any progressive thought that could be a threat to their own ambitions and power....

The Baha'is of Egypt do not ask for much: they want to be given the opportunity, as equal citizens, to continue to love and serve their society and to contribute to its advancement and its success. In return, they yearn for their society to just love them back--as it is only natural to have such feelings.

Fortunately, Egypt remains to be an enlightened society which continues to be able to halt such desperate attempts at disrupting its diverse fabric and its need for progress. This episode is yet another example of its will to promote a just and tolerant society that aspires to join the rest of the world in its goodwill and prosperity. Egypt's well-recognized ancient civilization and heritage can only attest to that end. Nothing less can be expected from the wisdom and vision of its leaders whose ardent desire is a hopeful and bright future for Egypt's people.

See Refuting Allegations in Arabic here....