- Continued persecution of Baha’is in Egypt
- October 14th, 2012
It seems like the Bahai’s of Egypt share persecution with the Baha’is of Iran. Below is an English translation of an article from Persian (http://www.radiofarda.com/content/f3_bahais_egypt/24712130.html) by Dr. Wahied Wahdat-Hagh.
In an article in the journal Cairo Review of Global Affairs, a publication of the American University in Cairo, published on 22 August 2012, Dwight Bashir, the Director [TN: this is incorrect, he is Deputy Director] of the research section at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom warned about the situation of the Bahá’ís of Egypt.
He writes that the myths that exist about the Baha’is are wrong, including that Bahá’ís endanger Egypt’s national security.
According to a report from the official website of the Baha’is of Egypt, today Baha’is enjoy none of the rights of citizenship in their own country. They are still discriminated against with respect to admission to schools and universities.
About two thousand Baha’is live in Egypt. Compared to the 170,000 Baha’is of the United States, the number of Baha’is in Egypt is unremarkable; however, the government’s treatment of Egyptian Baha’is is a good benchmark for the freedom of non-conformists.
Hillary Clinton, the American Secretary of State, in early August warned about the violations of human rights of the Baha’is of Egypt. But according to the report of Egyptian an English-language newspaper called the “Daily News”, Muslim Brotherhood spokesperson Mahmoud Ghozlan immediately rejected Clinton’s comments, called her a “liar”, and claimed that all religions are free in Egypt.
Ghozlan promotes the idea that seemingly the Baha’i religion stems from Zionism, and this is one reason why they burn down Baha’i houses in Egyptian villages. Thus the state’s anti-Baha’i propaganda becomes a reason for the anti-Bahá’í activities of religious fanatics.
Prosecuting and restricting the rights of Baha’is in Egypt is not a new phenomenon. In an article by Naseem Kourosh published in the legal journal “International Law News” Kourosh reviews the history of the persecution of Baha’is in Egypt.
According to that article, Egypt passed Presidential Decree number 263 in 1963. in it, all Baha’i institutions were prohibited, Baha’is’ property was confiscated, and their social activities prohibited. In the sixties, dozens of Baha’is were arrested due to their faith.
In Egypt, Baha’i marriage is not even recognized, which has had and continues to have adverse repercussions for Baha’i families.
In 2003, the Center of Science of Al-Azhar University, considered one of the most important centers of Sunni Islam in the Islamic world, issued an anti-Baha’i fatwa [religious legal opinion] that added new aspects to the discrimination against and persecution of Baha’is. In that fatwa it was announced that the Baha’i Faith is “a deadly pandemic” that must be destroyed by the government.
The fact that Baha’is don’t conceal their religion brings many attendant issues in some communities: In Egyptian identity cards/birth certificates, a person’s religious affiliation is stated in terms of belief in one of the Abrahamic religions, meaning the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religions. From the perspective of the Egyptian government, those who do not belong to these religions do not exist. This causes grave problems for the community. From 1960 onwards Baha’is were in fact not allowed to register themselves as Baha’is. This showed that the Egyptian government was determined to eliminate Baha’i identity from society.
In 1983, the Baha’is of Egypt were given permission to register their Baha’i identity on their identity cards/birth certificates or register themselves as belonging to an “other” religion without identifying its name. Unfortunately, the consequences of this law were disastrous, as Baha’is were considered heretics [or apostates], and heretics were not allowed to study.
In 2004, the Egyptian government retracted its earlier decision and Baha’is were again prohibited from registering their religion on their identity cards; at this point identity cards were no longer issued for Baha’is. This led to a new crisis for Baha’is: birth certificates were no longer issued for Baha’i children. They were not allowed to go to school and were not allowed to be vaccinated.
Identity cards were no longer issued for young or older Baha’is, in which case they could neither be admitted to the hospital nor study in schools or universities. They could not obtain drivers licenses either. Moreover, if a Baha’i passed away, a birth certificate would not be given to his relatives. As a result Baha’is also lost their right to inheritance. All property owned by the deceased person became the property of the state, which was of course a very positive [outcome] for government bodies.
In April 2006, Baha’is were allowed, like other citizens in Egypt, to register their own religious identity on their identity cards. But it did not take long before the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Azhar University complained against the Egyptian government’s decision, and the government reversed its ruling in December of that year.
In 2007, several international human rights organizations and the U.S. government in its annual report protested discrimination against Baha’is. Unfortunately, the protests have thus far been fruitless. When early last month U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton protested again about discrimination against the rights of the Baha’is, Muslim Brotherhood spokesperson Mahmoud Ghozlan rejected U.S. Secretary of State’s comments and said, “non-Muslims are free in Egypt.”
Since the Arab Spring the situation of Baha’is in Egypt has not improved in any way. The new government of Egypt has also retracted the governmental decisions of 2009, based upon which Baha’is could have left a blank, meaning a dash, in place of naming their religion on their identity cards.
The Arab Spring has turned into a cold winter for the Baha’is. Following the [condition of] minorities in an Islamic society is truly a barometer for measuring the lack of freedom and equality of people of different beliefs in society.
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- Anna Steffes | October 16th, 2012 - 1:11 am
This article points out the ignorance of the Egyptian government in regard to religions stemming from Abranham of which they acknowledge Jewish, Christian, and Islamic only.. Abraham had a third wife, Keturah, from whom the Founder Prophet of the Bahai Faith, Baha’u'llah, can trace His roots. The Bahai Faith, then, IS an Abrahamic religion.