Egyptian Streets, June 1, 2016.
Egyptian MP Ala’a Abdel Mone`em (علاء عبد المنعم) has announced he will introduce new legislation within the next two weeks to remove citizens’ religious affiliations from national identity cards. All Egyptians over 16 must have an ID card, which is used for opening a bank account, registering at a school or university, obtaining a mobile or landline telephone, obtaining a driver’s license or passport (which does not have “religion” field), applying for social services, registering to vote, and paying taxes. However the Bahai Faith cannot be entered as a religion: the possibilities are limited to ‘Muslim,’ ‘Christian,’ or ‘Jew.’ Atheists therefore face the same difficulties as the Bahais, and Shiah Muslims are assumed by default to be Sunnis, Catholics are assumed to be Copts, and so on. This matters because ‘personal status’ issues in Egypt are settled in accordance with the religious law of the person concerned – providing his or her faith is one the three main religions.
A report in ‘7 days‘ reports Bahai spokesperson Dr. Basma Moussa (بسمة موسى) as expressing strong support for the abolition of the “religion” field on identity cards, but adding that this “is not sufficient to eliminate discrimination, extremism and sectarianism within the community. We need to reform education to eliminate the problem at its roots.” The need for curriculum reform to combat sectarianism and prejudice has been echoed by others, in what has become a wide debate in Egypt.
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