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EGYPT: Bahais issued new identity cards

August 10, 2009 |  7:19 am

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Emad and Nancy Hendy have become the first Egyptian Bahais to be granted new identity cards without having to choose a religious denomination.

The unprecedented move over the weekend followed a ruling handed down in March by the country's High Administrative Court, granting the minority Bahai community the right to ID cards that didn't identify its members by religion.

Egyptians are compelled to have their religion noted on their identity cards, and Bahais were previously forced to choose among Islam, Christianity or Judaism in order to receive official documents. Many of them took their cases to court, claiming that they'd rather leave the religion slot blank than choose a different religion than Bahai.

"It took me more than five years to earn the right to leave the religion slot blank," Raouf Hendy, father of Emad and Nancy and spokesman for Egypt's Bahai community said. "Bahais have always been technically dead in Egypt because we couldn’t issue any official certificates proving our religion. Now my son and daughter can finally live freely using their new documents."

There are no exact figures on the number of Baha'is in Egypt, although estimates suggest there are 2,000. The Bahai faith emerged in Iran from the heart of the Shiite Islam in 1863, founded by Bahaullah, whom adherents recognize as the most recent in a line of prophets, including Jesus and Muhammad.

The world's more than 5 million Bahais believe in one God and the unity of all major religions. They believe in continuous and progressive divine revelations. They also believe that humanity will receive more prophets.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: The shrine of Bahaullah, founder of the Bahai faith, in the Israeli city of Haifa. Credit: Nelson Ashberger / Bahai Media Bank

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