Monday, January 17, 2011

Is religious designation on ID cards really necessary?

Egypt's Al Masry Al Youm newspaper has recently reported on a prominent Egyptian poet who is leading a campaign to abolish religious designations on ID cards.

Since the introduction of official ID cards in Egypt in 1960, holders of these cards have always been required to state their religion on these documents. A number of excuses for this practice have been propagated by the enforcers of the law, but none of them could be construed as legitimate, particularly in today's society.

To make matters worse, religious designation has led to discrimination in employment and in obtaining basic civil rights, and of course has created a crisis for those who do not belong to the three "recognized" religions in Egypt, many of whom have been left without any identification and have been self-labeled as being in a state of "civil and societal death."

Finally, however, through multiple legal challenges, Baha'is, for example, are currently in the process of obtaining ID cards by having their religion identified with (--) dashes. There still remain barriers to obtaining ID cards for the majority of the adults in the Baha'i community as was described earlier in this blog. Recently, those individuals holding ID cards with (--) dashes designation are beginning to face a new ominous wave of discrimination, having been already "marked" and considered as "undesirables."

Ultimately, Egypt will need to abide by the tenets of international law and civil liberties by eliminating this requirement of religious designation which has always led to conflict and contention. One's religion, when necessary, can always be identified and documented through one's own religious administration and authorities, and not by the State.

This grassroots movement, reported on by the Egyptian media, should be regarded as a very significant development which illustrates the will of the common man of today's Egypt. The authorities must take notice....

Here is the article:

Poet leads campaign against religious designations on national IDs

Mahmoud Ramzy
[Thursday, 6 January 2011
]

Representatives of various Egyptian political movements have agreed to launch a campaign aimed at collecting one million signatures in support of the abolition of religious designations on national identification cards.

The idea was first proposed by renowned Egyptian poet Ahmed Fouad Negm in a recent letter to President Hosni Mubarak.

In his letter, Negm also urged the president to expedite a new law governing construction of churches and mosques in an effort to avert sectarian unrest and religious discrimination.

“We're now in the process of choosing the areas in which we'll launch the campaign,” said 6 April opposition movement coordinator Ahmed Maher.

National Association for Change (NAC) member George Isac, meanwhile, said that Negm’s idea had "come at the right time," in reference to the New Year's Eve bombing of a church in Alexandria. “We hope that all opposition movements sign on to the campaign," he added.

NAC coordinator Abdel Gelil Mostafa, for his part, expressed anxiety that the ruling regime might "attempt to thwart the initiative."

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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