2006-05-05 00:00:00 : Egypt > Society
“Bill to incriminate the embrace of the Bahai faith in Egypt”
Nabil Sharaf Eddine reported on Elaph.com, a pan-Arab website, on May 4 that: “In one of the few issues that the Egyptian government agrees on with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian parliament has witnessed a race between the deputies of the governing party and the Brotherhood in proposing exemplary punishments to believers of the Bahai faith [founded by Baha'u'llah in Iran in the 19th century] and the launching of what can be named a hate campaign. This began when the administrative courts issued, last April, a judgment that committed the interior ministry to issuing identity cards that have the Bahai identity.

"The Egyptian minister of religious endowments said that the government has decided to appeal this verdict and the deputies of the Brotherhood described the Bahais as ‘heretics and traitors’. They asked the parliament to issue a law that charges those who believe in the Bahai faith. The Brotherhood deputies - that have 88 seats in the parliament - accused the Bahai’s of being Israeli agents and taking power from the West. The minister of religious endowments said that the Al Azhar Sheikh had quoted that the Bahai faith is not one of the three heavenly religions [Christianity, Judaism and Islam] and the people of jurisprudence have agreed unanimously on this. He said that the Supreme Constitutional Court has decided in a rule in 1975 that if religious freedom were to exist then it should be restricted to the three heavenly religions and the Bahai faith is not one of the heavenly religions that is recognised.

“The court order in the administrative courts in Alexandria came [as the result of] a call that a couple made to have the Bahai faith under the religion section of the identity cards for their family. Civil societies welcomed this call considering it a victory in the fight for freedom of religious beliefs that the constitution guarantees theoretically but that the government in reality imposes restrictions on.”

“The Brotherhood’s project”

“Akram Al Shaar, MP of the Muslim Brotherhood said that the Bahai faith is not a part of Islam and that they are ‘heretics’. He added that ‘this is the opinion of many big Muslim Sheikhs. If this is the case then how can we allow them [to exist] and recognise them. The Muslim Sharia [religious rule] is the main source of legislation and it incriminates this deviant thought’. Shaar continued ‘the Bahai faith is supported from abroad and specifically from Russia and Britain who protected them from being executed in Iran’. He said ‘the United States is pressuring Egypt and other Arab countries to practice human rights including recognising Bahai’s, but we confirm the impossibility of such an event in Egypt and the parliament will not allow to place a law that recognises those who support Zionism’.

“MP Al Sayed Askar then spoke; he said it was agreed on to present a bill that incriminates the Bahai faith. He said that we can appeal to court orders. Askar wondered where official sides were when the judgement was issued about a month ago. Why did they not move to appeal to such a judgment despite the fact that there is a judgment issued by the constitutional court that incriminates the Bahai ideology’? As for MP, Zainab Radwan, she confirmed her approval of putting the Bahai religion on identity cards. She added that ‘the Bahai ideology is deviant and extreme but it is for everyone’s general interest to register the Bahais on official documents and cards because they have the same names as Muslims. She added ‘it is of interest that they are known rather than anonymous so that they do not sneak into society and spread their extreme and deviant ideologies’. ..

“Hate campaign”

Since the 1980’s, the civil registration department stopped issuing IDs to Bahais. The Bahais appealed to the Higher Administrative Court, which passed a sentence on the 29th of January 1983. The sentence stipulated the following: The civil registration department's refusal to issue IDs to Bahais is in violation with the law. The civil registration department is to issue IDs for Bahais and should state their religion on the ID.

However in reality, most offices did not implement this sentence and continued to issue IDs to Bahais by marking the religious section as ‘- ’. The Bahais were satisfied with this solution fearing that if they refused this, state authorities would reject them altogether. Nevertheless...the state security investigation bureau in Cairo arrested a number of Bahais; amongst them was the artist, Hussein Bikar, acquitted by the court due his old age despite having confessed to being a Bahai and clearly stating it to be an independent religion just like any other religion. Although the Bahais have not been implicated in any other cases since then, the distortion of their image has continued to occur in the media. More so, they continue to deal with problems with official authorities.

”The stance taken by the various offices affiliated to the civil registration department in Egypt varied from one office to the other. Some refused to implement the court order and write "Bahai" under the heading of 'religion' on birth certificates, whereas some complied with the order and wrote "Bahai." In 2004 decree number 46 was issued limiting religions to Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. This deprived the Bahais from having their religion stated, leaving the section empty or being registered as 'other.'

“On December 2003, the Al Azhar Islamic Research Academy issued a fatwa (legal ruling) declaring that Islam does not recognize any religion other than those that the Holy Quran has asked to be respected. Therefore, there should not be any other religion in Egypt but Islam, Christianity, and Judaism because any other religion is considered illegitimate and deviating from the general norm. The fatwa specified the Bahai religion, stating that the Bahai creed and its likes are ideological epidemics that should be fought and eliminated by the state.” - Elaph, United Kingdom
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