Dr. Nabil Ali is the director of the website Baha’i Faith in Egypt. He offered the following commentary:
First of all, Egypt continues to argue that it recognises only the three “divine religions” and uses that excuse to discriminate against Baha’is and exclude them from their citizenship and civil rights. It should be made very clear, however, that it is not up to Egypt to make such determination, particularly when the Baha’i religion is recognised everywhere else as “divine.” Thus, the argument used to exclude Baha’is is baseless and without any merit. Regardless of this, citizenship should have nothing to do with religion or belief. It is the right of every human in his or her homeland.
Secondly, denial of education is only one piece of the injustices being faced by Egypt’s Baha’is, but it penetrates into the core of their existence as a community. The words used by the minister of education indicate an ominous undercurrent and a veiled threat that can open the door to unhindered wave of hatred and state-sponsored persecution.
One can only hope that this sorry state of affairs is only transient.
I believe the minister expressed his own views in an answer to a question that shouldn’t be asked in the first place. It’s a given that all Egyptian children have a right to education regardless of their belief. This is not a government policy as far as I know.
Bahai children are issued birth certificates stating a dash in place of religion. This is the only requirement to enroll in an Egyptian school, which they legally fulfill. As for religious studies in schools, Bahai children never had a problem with choosing to study either Islam or christianity as per their parents choice. The Bahai faith believes in progressive revelation and believes all God’s messages have the same divine source. We find it’s natural to study and understand all the holy books. In fact we do this systematically with our friends in interfaith devotional gatherings.
I grew up studying Islam in school while it was known to all my friends and teachers that I’m a Bahai. I was even top of my class in Islamic studies.
The Bahai faith has existed in Egypt for more than 160 years. Bahais have enrolled in Egyptian public and private schools since then facing no problems. Bahais have never requested to have Bahai classes at school. children of Bahai families are brought up as Bahai children at home and study virtues like love, unity, excellence, generosity, truthfulness in Bahai children classes that are open for children of any religious background.
Dr. Basma Moussa, who writes about Baha’i rights at Rose Bouquet, offered her commentary immediately upon discovering the Minster’s comments in the newspaper al Sabah. She says “we all used to attend [school] without conditions”, and questions the fairness of being taxed at the same rate as all Egyptians without being treated the same as all other Egyptians.
She only asks of the Minister of Education Ibrahim Deif to know what exactly are these conditions that Baha’i families must meet in order to enroll their children, and she awaits his response.
The Muslim Network for Baha’i Rights is also eager to know what the Minister’s conditions are, and will strive to not just reveal but to combat them as well.