Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Egyptian Baha'is Suffer a Reversal

Hey Pharaoh! LET MY PEOPLE GO!


The latest news out of Egypt is irritating but not too surprising.

CAIRO, 16 May (IRIN) - Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court decided on 15 May to suspend the implementation of an earlier lower court ruling that allowed Bahais to have their religion recognised on official documents.
"While [we are] disappointed by the decision to suspend the administrative court ruling…it is important to note that the Supreme Administrative Court has yet to decide on the merits of the case," read a press statement issued by the Cairo-based Egyptian Initiative for Private Rights (EIPR). The earlier ruling, made on 4 April, was passed after a case was filed by a Bahai couple whose official documentation – on which their affiliation to Bahaism was stated – had been confiscated by the state. The ruling quickly became the epicentre of controversy in parliament, led by members of both the ruling National Democratic Party and the banned-but-tolerated Muslim Brotherhood, after which the interior ministry quickly filed an appeal to overturn the ruling.
"We have no issue with people describing themselves as followers of beliefs not recognised by Islam," prominent Muslim Brotherhood member Abdel Moneim Abul Futouh said on 7 May. "What must be appealed is a ruling allowing followers of unrecognised faiths to describe themselves as followers of a religion in official documents when it's not technically a religion." According to the EIPR statement, the Supreme Administrative Court has denied a request by the defence team for a postponement of the suspension until its members could present a written rebuttal. Officials at the Supreme Administrative Court meanwhile declined to comment.Informal estimates suggest that there are approximately 2,000 Bahais currently resident in Egypt. Founded in Iran in the 19th century, the movement's spiritual and administrative homes are now respectively located in Akka and Haifa, Israel.

I find the statement by the "prominent" member of the Muslim Brotherhood to be particularly bizarre:

"We have no issue with people describing themselves as followers of beliefs not recognised by Islam," prominent Muslim Brotherhood member Abdel Moneim Abul Futouh said on 7 May. "What must be appealed is a ruling allowing followers of unrecognised faiths to describe themselves as followers of a religion in official documents when it's not technically a religion."

What in the world is he talking about? So people can "describe" themselves as Baha'is, just not on "official" documents because the Baha'i Faith is "not technically a religion". Does he mean that the Baha'is can go around with big bright T-Shirts saying "I'm a Baha'i" but they can't put the word "Baha'i" on their birth certificate?! As for the Baha'i Faith not "technically being a religion", if the second most geographically wide-spread faith community after Christianity that has it's own independent scripture, laws, calendar, Holy Days, administrative system, places of worship and Holy sites is not a "religion" then what on earth is a religion? I have no problem with people expressing differences of interpretation or understanding regarding the teachings of Baha'u'llah relative to Islam, but when people make statements like the one made by this member of the Muslim Brotherhood, they expose the fact that they really know nothing at all about the Baha'i Faith. The decision of Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court is a step backward for all the people of Egypt, not just Baha'is. Seems like not much has changed in Egypt since the days of Moses.

4,21 And the LORD said unto Moses: 'When thou goest back into Egypt, see that thou do before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in thy hand; but I will harden his heart, and he will not let the people go. (Torah (Law), Shemos (Exodus))