Egyptian court rules against giving Bahais the right to recognition on official IDs


An Egyptian court ruled Saturday against giving Bahais the right to include their faith on official identification documents, ending an almost nine-month court battle.

"The Egyptian constitution recognizes only three religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism," the judge of the Supreme Administrative Court said in his verdict.

Bahaism is a religion that 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. Given the pivotal role of Islam in Egyptian life, the government does not issue ID cards that say the holder is a Bahai. Cards may indicate only that the holder is an adherent of Islam, Christianity or Judaism; in the case of Bahais a line appears in the religion section.

The ruling is expected to spark a new round of public debate between Islamists, on one side and rights' advocates who describe the ruling as a violation of human rights, on the other.

{josquote} it is seen by liberals and civil rights advocates as a reflection to how religious extremism outweighs theoretically existing protections of religious freedom{/josquote}

While the dispute directly affects only the country's Bahais — perhaps 2,000 of the more than 72 million Egyptians — it is seen by liberals and civil rights advocates as a reflection to how religious extremism outweighs theoretically existing protections of religious freedom.

"This is a regrettable decision for all Egyptians, but the real loser now is the government," Hossam Bahgat, the head of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, which closely followed the case from the beginning, commented on the verdict.

"Al-Azhar doesn't recognize them as Muslims, the court said the same but the government has hundreds of citizens with no papers, and it has to find a solution. The ball in government court now," he added.

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