We regularly receive letters from our readers: some applauding us for our efforts, some requesting more information on the Network, and others casting serious doubts on our intentions and credibility. We’ve been declared Baha’i mouthpieces and our Network has been accused of functioning with the covert aim of preaching the Baha’i Faith, an accusation that is as false as can be.

While most such letters are nothing but hateful rants, we felt a recent one we received required its response to be published. The gist of the letter (translated from Arabic) is below:

First, I’d like to know the purpose behind the creation of this site – is it to preach the Baha’i Faith or to defend their rights? And why the Baha’is? Why don’t you defend the Copts of Egypt because – as far as they say – they are persecuted? Baha’is have been declared unbelievers and apostates by Islamic scholars and as far as their rights go, they have all the rights guaranteed to Egyptian citizens by the Constitution, with the exception of ID cards.

Baha’is do not have the right to list “Muslim Baha’i” under the religion field as no such religion exists, that is all. If you knew what they say about Muslims and the Qur’an, you wouldn’t have started this site. They say we are savage barbarians – do you accept such accusations to be hurled at you?

The purpose behind the creation of this site is to speak out against and raise awareness on the human rights abuses perpetrated against the Baha’i minority in the region. In your message you asked, “Why the Baha’is?” and set the example of the Copts in Egypt.

We acknowledge that other religious minorities in the Middle East face discrimination, but most have an “advantage” (if it can be called that): they are recognized as religions by their respective governments. The public at large views their faiths as divinely-revealed religions whose adherents are entitled to special protection under the law. Official recognition does not automatically guarantee equality and justice before the law, but paves the way for it.

You admitted that Baha’is have all the rights guaranteed by the Egyptian Constitution, with the exception of the National ID card. But the National ID card is the key that allows all Egyptian citizens access to education, health services and economic opportunities. Without it, Baha’is are left marginalized.

You insist that for Baha’is to receive National ID cards is “beyond their imagination”, claiming that they wish to list “Baha’i Muslim” as their religion. That is far from being true: what the Egyptian Baha’i community requests is the to be allowed to leave the religion field blank, list a dash “-”, or “Other” under the religion field. And indeed, on the 29th of January Cairo’s Administrative Court ruled that Baha’is in Egypt can obtain identification papers with dahses, but the ruling has yet to be implemented.

Your claim that Baha’is attack Muslims and the Qur’an is ill-grounded; Baha’is profess a deep respect for Islam and believe in the Prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him). The words and actions of a few are not representative of the majority, and as Muslims we are fully aware of that.

You are entitled to your own beliefs and perceptions, but personal views should not be used as a justification to deny thousands across the Middle East access to basic civil rights.

This post is also available in Arabic