Egypt forcing converts from Islam, members of Bahai faith to conceal their religion, watchdogs say

Egypt forcing converts from Islam, members of Bahai faith to conceal their religion, watchdogs say

IHT, Associated Press

CAIRO, Egypt: Egypt must change its policy of not allowing converts from Islam and members of the Bahai faith to register their religion in official documents, two human rights groups said Monday.

In a report two years in the making, the New York-based Human Rights Watch and the local Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, or EIPR, described how Egyptians of religious persuasions authorities disapprove of are unable to get birth certificates and identification cards.

Joe Stork, the HRW Middle East deputy chief, said it was a systematic policy to deny documents to members of faiths other than Islam, Christianity and Judaism — the only three religions officially recognized by Egyptian authorities.

ID cards are mandatory here, but persons seeking to have "Bahai" listed as their faith on the card, for example, are denied the document, Stork told reporters in Cairo.

The report quoted some 40 people the watchdog groups interviewed as saying they were told in applying for papers that they must list themselves as either Muslim or Christian, or risk not being able to obtain the document.

"We're talking about a government policy that is compelling and pressuring people to lie," said Stork.

The report, titled "Prohibited Identities: State Interference with Religious Freedom," also noted cases where fathers have converted to Islam and left their children and families, with authorities automatically registering his children as having converted to Islam as well, often without informing them of this.

Since 2004, the issue has come before the court several times in the predominantly Muslim Egypt. Coptic Christians are about 10 percent of Egypt's 76 million population and generally live in peace with the Sunni Muslim majority.

Next Sunday, the Supreme Administrative Court will deliver a final ruling on whether seven Egyptians who reconverted to Christianity after already having converted to Islam will be recognized as Christians.


Next month, a ruling is also expected on whether the government must recognize minority Bahais. The religion, Bahaism, emerged from Islam and regards a 19th century Persian nobleman, Baha'u'llah, as its prophet — a challenge to the Muslim belief that Muhammad is the last prophet.

Unofficial figures put the Bahai community at about 2,000 in Egypt.

[...]

EIPR director Hossam Bahgat said the government policy has no basis in neither Egyptian nor Islamic law, or Sharia, as officials often claim. While converting from Islam is defined as apostasy by Islamic law, there is no corresponding legal punishment.

____

Associated Press Writer Maamoun Youssef contributed to this report.

Comments

A distressing situation. But how is lying in conformity with Baha'i law (and isn't "concealment" the same thing as "lying")? Do not the Baha'i Writings forbid a believer to recant his faith?
Sharon M said…
I don't know much about the Baha'i faith to be honest. But the point I think is to illustrate how freedom of religion is pretty poor in Egypt.

I'm sure that lying is considered immoral, but when it comes to getting a job most people feel that they can kind of fudge the truth. I say that not in defense of such an action, but as a simple statement of fact.
You've raised another important point in this Baha'i controversy. It's that the Baha'i Faith teaches that we are to obey the laws of the government of the country in which we live.

Looks like the Baha'is have their backs against the wall, again!
It's through the God-given heart of people like this through the ages that the old ways have been dissolved and society progresses. And the situation shows again that people are struggling, with the best of intentions, to put new wine into old skins.

Freedom of religion to an average Egyptian might well mean the freedom to be a Moslem, and to be free of competing faiths. It's a brittle philosophy on a planet where everyone is everyone else's next-door neighbor. All the more reason, perhaps, why Americans must recognize their own prejudice against Christianity! Every day in the United States wars are being waged in the courts by athiests who would tear apart the very spiritual fabric of America, and deny that Jesus Christ has or ever had any relevance to this country's success among the nations. They labor to broadcast the philosophy that the Bible is irrelevant and its teachings harmful, and hedonism will fuel the enconomy for generations to come. So while some leaders of society are persecuting minorities. others have launched their attack upon an entire nation.

All the faiths in Egypt have a challenge right now, but so does the United States and probably every other country on earth. Baha'u'llah announced that the old world order would "be rolled up, and a new one layed out in its stead." It would seem that the suffering of the Baha'is and others is the only remedy that will touch people's hearts. Religions may come and religions may go, but hearts are in us all.

Thanks for the opportunity to comment and respond.
Abu Daoud said…
Hi Sally and Sharon,

Both of you make good points. Though I would say that regarding religious freedom for Christians, Europe is much worse than the USA. Christians in the USA still have ample religious freedoms, though that could well be changing for the worse.

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