[QODLink]
Middle East
Bahais lose Egypt recognition fight
Ruling leaves 2,000-strong Bahai community suspended in a constitutional vacuum.
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2006 13:13 GMT
The Egyptian constitution promotes freedom of
belief for Islam, Christianity and Judaism only

An Egyptian court has denied Bahais the right to state their religion on official documents and described them as pro-Israeli apostates, in a landmark case condemned by human rights organisations.
 
The case, seen as a test of religious freedom in Egypt, left the country's 2,000-strong Bahai community suspended in a constitutional vacuum.
Sayed Nofal, the judge in the case, said: "The constitution promotes freedom of belief for the three recognised heavenly religions and they are Islam, Christianity and Judaism.
 
"As for the Bahais, Islamic jurists have all agreed that the Bahai faith is not one of the three recognised religions."
The supreme administrative court ruled against the right of Hossam Ezzat Mussa and his wife, Rania Enayat, to state their religion on official documents.
 
Apostates
 
The couple had filed their case in 2004 and a lower court ruled in their favour in April this year. In May, however, the decision was suspended by the supreme administrative court pending an appeal by the interior ministry, and the couple's identity cards were confiscated.
 
Enayat said: "Those who belong to this religion are apostates of Islam, because the faith's principles contradict the Islamic religion and all other religions."
 
Saturday's verdict throws the status of Egypt's Bahai community into limbo, in a country where carrying identity papers at all times is required by law and essential for access to employment, education, medical and financial services.
 
Without official identity cards, Bahais cannot apply for jobs, buy property, open bank accounts or register their children in schools.
 
Regrettable decision
 
Human rights organisations condemned the court's decision. Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, who has closely monitored the case, said: "It's a regrettable decision, but it's a crisis for the government more than for the Bahais.
 
"Now the government is forced to find a solution for the hundreds of citizens who have no papers."
 
Bahgat said the judge did not respond to any of the legal arguments but instead discussed the tenets of the Bahai faith, which fell outside the scope of the lawsuit.
 
Bani Dugal, who represents the Bahai community at the UN, condemned the decision as a violation of human rights. He said: "The court's decision threatens to make non-citizens of an entire religious community, solely on the basis of religious belief.
 
"Our hope now is that the public debate over this issue will cause the Egyptian government to rectify its discriminatory policies."
 
Israeli 'collaboration'
 
Despite the fact that Bahais have been in Egypt for as long as the religion has existed, 163 years, most Egyptians had not heard of the religion until the April ruling.
 
Under Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt's late president, Bahais were suspected of collaborating with Israel because the faith's highest governing institution is based in Haifa.
 
In 1960, Bahai assemblies and institutions were dissolved. The judge in Saturday's hearings reiterated the accusation. He said: "One of the first goals of the Bahai movement is to maintain their relationship with the occupying powers, which embraces them and protects them."
 
Principles
 
Of the faith's 12 principles, which include the unity of mankind, the elimination of all forms of prejudice, gender equality and independent investigation of truth, it is obedience to government that is most highlighted in Egypt.
 
Egyptian Bahais do not join political parties, take part in demonstrations or hold elections for their spiritual assemblies.
 
Labib Hanna, professor of engineering at Cairo University, recently said: "We don't want to cause problems. We just want to exercise our rights as Egyptian citizens."
Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Israel's Operation Protective Edge is the third major offensive on the Gaza Strip in six years.
Muslims and Arabs in the US say they face discrimination in many areas of life, 13 years after the 9/11 attacks.
At one UN site alone, approximately four children below the age of five are dying each day.
Featured
Absenteeism among doctors at government hospitals is rife, prompting innovative efforts to ensure they turn up for work.
Marginalised and jobless, desperate young men in Nairobi slums provide fertile ground for al-Shabab.
The Khmer Rouge tribunal is set to hear genocide charges for targeting ethnic Vietnamese and Cham Muslims.
'I'm dying anyway, one piece at a time' said Steve Fobister, who suffers from disabilities caused by mercury poisoning.
The world's newest professional sport comes from an unlikely source: video games.
join our mailing list