Excerpts from Recent Human Rights Reports

From the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, Spring 2005, "Policy Focus: Egypt":

During the Commission's [2004] visit to Egypt, interlocutors cited an increased tendency by Muslim clerics to view Bahá'ís as a heretical sect of Islam rather than an independent religious movement. When asked why in practice the right to freedom of religion of the Baha'i community is not protected under the Egyptian Constitution, government officials said that Islam recognizes only Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Nevertheless, Egyptian officials claimed that Baha'is are free to practice their religion in private. Various Egyptian religious leaders and government officials made spurious claims to the Commission, without any evidence, that Baha'is have engaged in political activity against the Egyptian government in the past and that the community practices immoral acts, such as "wife-swapping." The absence of facts to support such authoritative denunciations apparently made no difference to the officials who made the slanderous statements...

The Egyptian government requirement to include religious affiliation on the national identity card particularly affects members of the Baha'i community and Muslim converts to Christianity. The Egyptian government has now made it illegal to be in public without an identity card. The identity card is also necessary to engage in many basic transactions such as opening a bank account, buying a car, or obtaining a driver's license. Furthermore, identity cards are necessary to verify the religion of a student so that he or she may receive religious instruction in primary and secondary schools — as required by the Egyptian Constitution — according to his or her beliefs.

From the 2005 Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Asma Jahangir:

Finally, the Special Rapporteur noted that according to information received, Bahá'ís were not allowed to indicate their religion on the birth certificates of their children. In one case, when filling out the birth registration form for their newborn, the parents reportedly left the space for religion blank, knowing that "Bahá'í" would not be accepted. A ruling dated 16 September 2003, issued by the Egyptian Ministry of the Interior, allegedly asserts that it is not permissible to leave the space for religion blank on an official registration form, nor is it permissible to write (in that blank) any religion other than those recognized — Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Moreover, the ruling goes on to state that it is not permissible for the father of any child to follow the Christian faith and for the mother to be a Muslim, "as this violates the public order", whereas in the present case the father was allegedly of Christian background and the mother of Muslim background. Moreover, a recent fatwa issued by the Al-Azhar Islamic Research Academy in Cairo allegedly declared the Bahá'ís apostates.

... she notes that the Government has not given its observations on...the question relating to the Bahá'ís. Recalling the most recent concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee (CCPR/CO/76/EGY), she encourages the Government to continue taking all necessary measures to ensure freedom of religion to all without discrimination.

From the 2004 United States State Department Human Rights Report:

Law 263 of 1960, which is still in force, bans Baha'i institutions and community activities. During the Nasser era, the Government confiscated all Baha'i community properties, including Baha'i centers, libraries, and cemeteries. The problems of Bahá'ís, who number fewer than 2,000 persons in the country, have been compounded since the MOI [Ministry of Interior] began to upgrade its automation of civil records, including national identity cards. The Government asserted that its new software requires all citizens to be categorized as Muslims, Christians, or Jews, although some Baha'is initially received identity cards which listed their religion as "other." During the year, Baha'is and other religious groups who did not choose to describe themselves as Muslim, Christian, or Jewish, were compelled either to misrepresent themselves as members of one of these three religions, or to go without valid identity documents, passports, birth and death certificates, and marriage licenses. Most Baha'is have chosen the latter course. The Government's unwillingness to issue Baha'is identity cards and other necessary documents made it increasingly difficult for Baha'is to register their children in school, to open bank accounts, and to register businesses. At year's end, some Baha'is reported that government representatives had offered them passports, but no other documents. The Baha'i leadership noted that while this would enable them to leave the country, it would not facilitate their continued residence in the country.

From the 2004 United States Committee on International Religious Freedom Report:

The Constitution provides for freedom of belief and the practice of religion, although the Government places restrictions on this right. According to the Constitution, Islam is the official state religion and Shari'a (Islamic law) is the primary source of legislation; religious practices that conflict with the official interpretation of Shari'a are prohibited. However, since the Government does not consider the practice of Christianity or Judaism to conflict with Shari'a, for the most part members of the non-Muslim minority worship without harassment and may maintain links with coreligionists in other countries. Members of religions that are not recognized by the Government, such as the Baha'i Faith, may experience personal and collective hardship…

From Human Rights Watch, 2004 "Overview of Human Rights Issues in Egypt":

Although Egypt's constitution provides for equal rights without regard to religion, discrimination against Egyptian Christians and intolerance of Baha'is and minority or unorthodox Muslim sects remains a problem. Egyptian law recognizes conversions to Islam but not from Islam to other religions. There are credible reports that Muslims who convert to Christianity sometimes face harassment. Difficulties in getting new identity papers have resulted in the arrest of converts to Christianity for allegedly forging such documents. Baha'i institutions and community activities are prohibited by law. The authorities have detained and prosecuted individuals adhering to or promoting non-orthodox Islamic sects on grounds of insulting one of the "heavenly religions" — Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.

From the 2003 Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Abdelfattah Amor:

On 11 April 2002, the Special Rapporteur sent the Egyptian Government a communication in connection with information according to which Salwa Iskandar Hanna has allegedly been denied her husband's pension since his death in February 2002, because the Government does not recognize Baha'i marriages. The Special Rapporteur was also informed of the publication of an article in the daily Al-Ahram of 11 July 2002 in which the author allegedly said that anyone converting to the Baha'i religion should be considered apostate and executed if the apostasy persists.

The Special Rapporteur, recalling the observations made in his previous report to the General Assembly (A/57/274) concerning action taken by the Egyptian authorities to contain and prevent displays of intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief, urges that this positive approach should not incidentally lead to discrimination against certain religious minorities.

Moreover, while recalling the need to respect freedom of the press, he wishes to draw the attention of the Egyptian authorities to the necessity of combating any call for religious hatred that incites discrimination, hostility or violence and which therefore must be prohibited by law.