U.S. criticizes as violation of rights Egyptian court decision to ban Bahaiism on identity cards
WASHINGTON: The United States condemned as a violation of fundamental religious rights an Egyptian court's decision to deny members of the Bahai religion the right to have their faith recognized on official identification documents.
The decision by the Supreme Administrative Court, which overturned a lower court's ruling that granted the right, ruled that the Egyptian constitution recognizes only Islam, Christianity and Judaism.
"It is certainly a ruling that flies in the face of stated Egyptian commitments to freedom of expression, freedom of religion," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Monday.
"We would hope that the Egyptian government would take steps that would allow people of the Bahai faith to obtain these identification cards."
The cards of Bahais have a line through the section for the person's religion. The dispute directly affects only the country's Bahais, 2,000 or so of the more than 72 million Egyptians.
Civil rights advocates in Egypt, however, saw it as a reflection to how religious extremism overcomes theoretically existing protections of religious freedom. Islam is the official religion of Egypt, but it is considered by the constitution to be "a source" of Egyptian law, not "the source."
At his daily briefing, State Department spokesman McCormack said the inability of the Bahai to obtain completed identity cards causes them serious problems. "We would urge the Egyptian government really to address this issue. It's really a fundamental issue of religious