In the space of an hour and a half, the representatives related their hopes for a constitution that recognized Baha’i rights as equal to those of every Egyptian citizen — Muslim, Christian, Jewish or of any other faith. They stressed the importance of a constitution that did not discriminate based on “color, gender or creed”. Among their other requests:
Laws that protected the rights of Baha’i citizens to be issued identity papers. In the past, identity cards were only issued to people of faiths recognized by the state — Muslims, Jews and Christians. In 2008, Rauf Hindi, one of the representatives present at the meeting, won a court case which allowed Baha’is to apply for identity cards as long as they leave the religion field black. The state still does not recognize the Baha’i faith as a legitimate religion.
Laws to criminalize discrimination against minorities. They also requested that an independent body be allowed to monitor cases of minority discrimination.
Disassociation of the Baha’i faith with “Satanism” or other pagan religions. A popular misconception of the Baha’i faith mischaracterizes it as “Satanic”l these popular misconceptions are often perpetuated by state officials and underly much of hostility towards Baha’is in Egypt.
Participation of Egyptian Baha’is in international conferences on world religions and participation in global development programs.
Regarding Article 3 of the Proposed Constitution, which allows for the personal matters of Jewish and Christian Egyptians to be facilitated under their respective religious jurisprudences, Dr. Rauf expressed concerns that it would not sufficiently protect the rights of Baha’is. He stressed the importance of a constitution that provided human rights protections for all.
Baha’is in Egypt have historically been the target of state persecution and discrimination — dating back to the regime of Gamal Abdul Nasser, who (problematically) associated the Baha’i faith with the state of Israel. Without consideration of Baha’i rights in the new constitution, Egypt will have come short on its commitment to democratic ideals. This meeting may either be part of an effort to effectively institute those ideals or it may be an empty gesture to appease the Baha’i community. Time — and a new constitution — will tell.