egyptian court rules against baha’is

From the Baha’i World News Service (BWNS):

Egyptian court rules against Baha’is, upholding government policy of discrimination

CAIRO, 16 December 2006 (BWNS) — In a closely watched case that has become the focus of a national debate on religious freedom, Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court today ruled against the right of Baha’is to be properly identified on government documents.

The decision upholds current government policy, a policy which forces the Baha’is either to lie about their religious beliefs or give up their state identification cards. The policy effectively deprives Egyptian Baha’is of access to most rights of citizenship, including education, financial services, and even medical care.

“We deplore the Court’s ruling in this case, which violates an extensive body of international law on human rights and religious freedom to which Egypt has long been a party,” said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations.

“Since this was the last avenue of appeal in this particular case, the Court’s decision threatens to make non-citizens of an entire religious community, solely on the basis of religious belief,” said Ms. Dugal. “Our hope now is that the public debate over this issue will cause the Egyptian government to rectify its discriminatory policies.”

Read the Baha’i World News Service story.

Qatar-based news network Al-Jazeera (yes, that Al-Jazeera!) also covers the story.

Bahais lose Egypt recognition fight

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.

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.

Read the Al-Jazeera story.

You can also find this story blogged (along with many more great sources of information) at the legendary Baha’i Blog.

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