In the first part
of this series we clarified the inaccuracy of considering the Egyptian Bahá'í community as a “cult”. We also provided some clarifications to correct the invalidity of the alleged relationship between the Bahá'ís and Zionism. We ended part one with a discussion of the position of the Al-Azhar regarding the Egyptian Bahá'í community.
In part two of this series we will be discussing several comments made in the article regarding the constitutional rights of the Egyptian Bahá'í community. We will also address some of the accusations specifically made by the columnist Mr. Ragab El-Banna and the secretary-general of the Bar Association, Mr. Ahmed El-Banna against the Egyptian Bahá'í community.The Egyptian Bahá'í and his constitutional rights
In the article Ms. Shahine mentions the rejection of the Ministry of Interior to the ruling issued by the Supreme Administrative Court giving the members of the Egyptian Bahá'í community their rights to indicate their religion freely in the official documents issued for them. The argument used was, since Egyptian constitution declares Egypt as a Muslim country and that Islam only recognizes Christianity and Judaism as religions hence the Egyptian Bahá'ís have no constitutional rights, “otherwise it would be the right of devil worshippers, for instance, to get similar recognition”, as Mr. Ahmed El-Banna states later in the article.
We would like to share with the reader some of the articles listed in the Egyptian constitution that protects and guards individual freedom and rights.In Chapter Two - Part One: Social and Moral Constituents:
The State shall guarantee equality of opportunity to all Egyptians.In Chapter Three of the constitution under: Public Freedoms, Rights and Duties
All citizens are equal before the law. They have equal public rights and duties without discrimination due to sex, ethnic origin, language, religion or creed.Art. 46:
The State shall guarantee the freedom of belief and the freedom of practicing religious rights.Art. 47:
Freedom of opinion shall be guaranteed. Every individual shall have the right to express his opinion and to publicise it verbally, in writing, by photography or by other means of expression within the limits of the law. Self criticism and constructive criticism shall guarantee the safety of the national structure.Art. 57:
Any assault on individual freedom or on the inviolability of the private life of citizens and any other public rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and the law shall be considered a crime, whose criminal and civil lawsuit is not liable to prescription. The State shall grant a fair compensation to the victim of such an assault.
Without getting into too much of the legal arguments the Egyptian Constitution clearly states the freedom of religion and guarantees the right of the individual of practicing his/her own beliefs.
Furthermore, “at the international level, Egypt was among the few countries that participated, in 1945, in drafting the UN Charter in San Francisco which enhances and promotes respect for human rights. Egypt also takes pride in contributing to drafting many conventions and declarations on human rights.”
Also “Egypt proposed the idea of the right to development in the commission on Human Rights in Geneva in 1977”
Further more “Due care is given to training and awareness increasing programs on human rights and freedoms. These courses are organized in collaboration with the U.N Center for Human Rights, Geneva.”
Since Egypt is a great supporter of the Declaration of the Universal Human and has ratified its articles, we would like to share the first few articles of the Universal Declaration:Article 1
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.Article 2
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.Article 18
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
From all the above it is clear that to deprive the Egyptian Bahá'í community from its national and universal rights is in its own merit an unconstitutional act and hence unlawful.
It was also mentioned that the Ministry followed the argument used by some that Islam only recognizes Christianity and Judaism as religions. This logic carries an uncanny familiarity to the same argument used by an Ostridge burying its head in the sand and refusing to recognize that more than two thirds of the world does not follow any of the three religions mentioned above. Yet, we still rely in our daily lives on goods and products traded from China, India and others countries of different faiths and beliefs.
Surely this understanding needs to become more realistic. It should add a global outlook in its evaluation of the current state of the world. Open dialog and respect are the tools needed to survive peacefully in this ever changing world. There is no room for constant fear and unjustified prejudice. It does nothing but continue to hurt the reputation of those who choose to remain arcane and intolerant in their thinking.
The idea that civil rights granted to all citizens as their birth right be withheld based on faith and belief is a practice no Muslim would tolerate in any western country where the majority of its citizens do not recognize Islam as a religion. If so, then why would the Egyptian Bahá'í community be treated with such harsh and unjust treatment despite their unwavering belief in the station of Prophet Muhammad?Addressing some of the comments made in the article by Mr. Ragab El-Banna, Mr. Ahmad El-Banna and others:
Mr. Ragab El-Banna considers the Bahá'í faith “a sneaky conspiracy against divine religions, not just Islam”. He continues “Bahaism is headquartered in Israel and chosen Misson, a jewish-american, as its spiritual leader in 1950”
The Bahá'í faith emphasizes publicly and emphatically declares the validity of Islam, the truthfulness of his message and the authenticity of its founder, Prophet Muhammad. The Bahá'ís no matter what their background may be have to believe in all the divine Prophets of God and their messages. The reader can check the Bahá'ís writings available on the internet
or have an open discussion with any Bahá'í to realize the truthfulness of their intentions and belief. Bahá’u’lláh, the Messenger of the Bahá'í faith writes:
“Consider and call to mind how when Muhammad, the Apostle of God, appeared, the people denied Him. They ascribed unto Him what caused the Spirit (Jesus) to lament in His Most Sublime Station, and the Faithful Spirit to cry out. Consider, moreover, the things which befell the Apostles and Messengers of God before Him, by reason of what the hands of the unjust have wrought.”
Also regarding the Qur’an, Bahá’u’lláh affirms in one of His most important books tilted “The book of Certitude”, Kitáb-Il-Íqán:
“the Qur’án was an impregnable stronghold unto the people of Muhammad. In His days, whosoever entered therein, was shielded from the devilish assaults, the menacing darts, the soul-devouring doubts, and blasphemous whisperings of the enemy. Upon him was also bestowed a portion of the everlasting and goodly fruits—the fruits of wisdom, from the divine Tree. To him was given to drink the incorruptible waters of the river of knowledge, and to taste the wine of the mysteries of divine Unity.”
Kitáb-Il-Íqán has more than 140 references to the Qur’an. It is read and studied by Bahá'ís all over the world. How could Mr. El-Banna worry from such a practice and consider it a conspiracy against religions? We would urge him to study that book to learn the truth.
It is also worth noting that Mr. El-Banna was incorrect about “Mison”. Mr. Mason Remey followed the Bahá'í faith for a period of his life. Before he was a Bahá'í he was a member of the High Church Episcopalian which is a Christian school in the United States. He was never an American-Jew as Mr. El-Banna attested. Mr. Remey was never considered the spiritual leader of the Bahá'í faith. Again, we do urge the latter to investigate his own claims and not rely on rumors and unfounded information.
The article also quotes Mr. Abdel-Moeti Bayoumi, a prominent IRA member, “explaining how Bahaism contradicts the basic tenets of Islam.” By viewing the Bahá'í faith writings it is quite clear and evident that the Bahá'í faith asserts itself as an independent world religion that carries a message that meets the needs of this age and addressed the current state of mankind.
As such, why would God decided to send another religion with the same teachings as the former religion? The changes that occur in the human mind and the evolutions that takes place in our society since the inception of Islam 1400 years ago, has shown the critical need for teachings that equip society with what addresses its current worldly issues and needs e.g. Globalization, AIDS, new world economy, The serious diversity of the world community, Global warming, advancement of women, Ozone, the new dynamics of family structure are but a few examples that are addressed by the Bahá'í faith.
God chooses to do what He wills. Who amongst us can withstand His will and argue with Him about receiving a new guidance? That’s why it is important and fundamental to learn about the new guidance from its source and have an open dialog with the Bahá'ís. People like Mr. Bayoumi are not protecting Islam in the minds of the believers. The scare tactics they insist on using only serve to show how frail Islam is in their minds.
We continue with the article and see Mr. Ahmad El-Banna claiming that the Bahá'ís were instrumental in helping the British occupation of India.
We are not sure where Mr. El-Banna got his fantastic historical theory from. However it suffices to say that the British presence in India extended as far back as the seventeenth century. Between 1601-13, merchants of the East India Company
took twelve voyages to India, and in 1609 William Hawkins arrived at the court of Jahangir
to seek permission to establish a British presence in India. There were few later events that Mr. El-Banna needs to familiarize himself with. In 1757, on account of the British victory at Plassey
, where a military force led by Robert Clive
defeated the forces of the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-daulah,
the East India Company found itself transformed from an association of traders to rulers exercising political sovereignty over a largely unknown land and people.
Since Bahá’u’lláh was not even born until 1817 and the Bahá'ís faith did not come into existence for over a century after the British controlled India, the claim that Mr. El-Banna makes seems quite remarkable and an indication of the level of the quality of his scholarship.
Mr. El-Banna also asserts that “any society is equally free not to acknowledge the belief of a minor sect as an established creed; otherwise it would be the right of devil worshippers, for instance, to get similar recognition.”
We would like to remind Mr. El-Banna that the Bahá'í faith is a recognized faith worldwide. It is a faith that is quite respected almost everywhere except the Middle East. It effectively serves world communities with its principles and efforts.
We would also like to remind him how upset and irate the Muslim community is with the French government for banning the Hijab in its schools. The following excerpt was from an article written in the Al-Ahram weekly online regarding how angry the community with the response of the Al-Azhar to this incidence only serves as a proof of how Muslims wanted their minority rights in France to be respected:
“While conceding that the hijab is a religious obligation for Muslim women Tantawi stressed that it is also the right of a non-Muslim country like France to ban it. Tantawi made the statement during a press conference following a meeting with French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. Arguing that no country has the right to interfere in French lawmaking, Tantawi said that if the French government forced women to take off their veils, they would not be committing a sin.
Many interpreted Tantawi's statement as giving France the go-ahead to ban the hijab and the Grand Imam was seen to be expressing a political, rather than religious, opinion. Critics argue he should have defended France's veiled Muslims by opposing the ban on the grounds that the hijab is not a symbol, but rather a religious obligation and a human right.
Three days later, on 2 January, crowds of worshippers gathered in front of Al- Azhar mosque to protest Tantawi's edict, and call for his resignation. The outlawed Muslim Brotherhood also held a public rally following Friday prayers on the same day, lambasting Tantawi as "a government official" who "compromises the principles of Islam [for the sake of] state policies".
Should we conclude from Mr. El-Banna statements mentioned above that he agrees with the practice of the French government in Banning the Hijab since the Muslim community in France is a minority?
That seems hardly justified by any modern society. Observing individual and minority rights and freedom are a crucial part of any religion and the religious leaders should act as mentors to the community in preserving and protecting such rights.
We would like to express our gratitude to Ms. Jihan Shahine, for bringing these views together, and compiling different opinions that address this important topic. She had the courage to write about the views of a Bahá'í family living under these unjust conditions as well as publish the views of the Egyptian Organization of Human Rights (EOHR). We look forward to more balanced views in her future articles.
In conclusion, This is an opportunity to put aside fear, prejudice and anger and engage in a fair and open dialog at the local and national level that invites the input of the Egyptian Bahá'í community as loyal citizens of the great country of Egypt and cease to exert pressure on individuals to recant their faith. After all, faith is a relationship between the human soul and its Creator not a tool for oppression and injustice.
Bahá’u’lláh states:“Religion is, verily, the chief instrument for the establishment of order in the world, and of tranquillity amongst its peoples.”
Egyptian Constitution, http://www.egypt.gov.eg/english/laws/Constitution http://www.ngolaw.org.eg/human.htm
, issues by Ministry of Insurance and Social Affairs, Arab republic of Egypt
Those writings are available at http://reference.bahai.org/
Proclamation of Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’u’lláh, p. 79
You can find the whole text on http://reference.bahai.org
There are numerous references that would explain the history of the British in India, a quick search on the internet provided the following link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_East_India
Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, Bahá’u’lláh, p. 29