Much has changed in Egypt, but much has stayed the same. On November 30th Egyptian education minister Ibramim Deif gave an interview to the Egyptian newspaper al-Sabah. Amidst talks of Egypt’s changing education policy, one question affirmed the long standing legacy of marginalized minority religions such as the Baha’i faith across Egyptian society.
The newspaper asked:
“ما موقف الوزارة من ابناء من يعتنقون الديانة البهائية وهل لهم الحق في الالتحاق بمدارسها؟”
What is the position of the ministry regarding the right of Baha’is to enroll their children [as Baha'is] in school?
His response was:
“قانون الدولة وفق الأحوال المدنية لا يعترف سوى بثلاث ديانات ,البهائية ليست منها ولذا فأبناؤها ليس لهم الحق في الالتحاق بمدارس الوزارة.”
State law in accordance with government procedures only recognizes three religions, and the Baha’i faith is not among them. Thus their children do not have the right to register in government schools.
With these short lines the Minister of Education confirmed not his dedication to the well being of all children but his dedication to the discriminatory policies of the Egyptian government that has lasted well beyond the Mubarak regime. Baha’is in Egypt are not allowed to obtain identification cards that accurately reflect their faith, and thus their ability to register in basic social institutions such as schools without breaking a core tenet of their faith is severely compromised. The problem of identification cards was the inspiration behind a satirical video
that revealed the hypocrisy of Egypt’s reputation versus its reality.
It is highly telling that the Egyptian policy of deep-rooted discrimination is reflected even these short lines from a casual interview. In order to truly reform in a more democratic direction, the Egyptian government must reform these laws that keep Egypt’s religious minorities on the margins.