Egypt: Denying the rights of Baha’is confirms discrimination on the basis of religion and belief

In Egypt /Road Map Program by

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) received with great concern the decision of the Supreme Administrative Court yesterday, that decision which deems the registration of Baha&#146ism in official papers as inadmissible. CIHRS considers this decision retrogression from what the Supreme Administrative Court itself had set in 1983, when it confirmed the right of Baha&#146is to register their belief in official records. CIHRS emphasized that it is unfortunate that the debate raised during the crisis was restricted to a doctrinal prosecution of Baha&#146ism, while totally overlooking the core of the issue, namely, the right of each citizen to embrace the religion or beliefs of his own free choice without being discriminated against by any authority in society. This right includes also the right to embrace a conviction that might deviate from what the official religious institutions, whether Muslim or Christian, embrace.

CIHRS added that the inability of the Egyptian Judiciary to bring justice to victims of this discrimination left them without protection, and gave them the feeling of vulnerability to further incitement and violations committed either by official authorities or extremist and fanatic parties within society. Furthermore, this exercise breaches the simplest principles of citizenship and equality among people, which the Egyptian Constitution as well as International Human Rights Instruments ensures. It is also an additional indicator of the deteriorating political and cultural environment prevailing in Egypt, which tends toward firmly tightening religious and security custodianship over the conscience and beliefs of individuals.

The denial of the rights of Baha&#146is, who are Egyptian citizens claiming the same rights and duties as other fellow citizens, is an additional indication of the expansion of patterns of religious discrimination, restriction of freedom of belief in general, through harassment by security forces, hostile media campaigns against Shiites, prejudice to the rights of Copts, or the continuous security and intellectual harassment of writers and thinkers for their mere deviation from mainstream interpretations of religious texts.

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