Attacks reported on Baha'is in Egypt

Jun 2006
Groups: Villagers attack homes of Baha'is in Egypt
April 2nd, 2009 @ 1:03pm
Associated Press Writer

CAIRO (AP) - Dozens of Muslim villagers have attacked the homes of members of the minority Baha'i religion in southern Egypt, hurling firebombs and denouncing them as "enemies of God," human rights groups said Thursday.

The attacks began Saturday after a prominent Egyptian media commentator denounced a Baha'i activist in a television appearance as an "apostate" and called for her to be killed.

The Baha'i religion was founded in the 1860s by a Persian nobleman, Baha'u'llah, whom the faithful regard as the most recent in a line of prophets that included Buddha, Abraham, Jesus and Muhammad. Muslims reject the faith because they believe Muhammad was God's final prophet, and Baha'is have been persecuted in the Middle East.

In Egypt, where the majority of the country's nearly 80 million people are Sunni Muslim, the Baha'i faith is not recognized as an official religion. The head of Al-Azhar, Egypt's dominant religious authority, has also declared it a "sacrilegious dogma."

After five days of violence, calm returned Wednesday to the village of Shouraniya, located about 215 miles south of Cairo. No one was injured in the attacks.

The village's 15 Baha'i residents were forced to leave, and police have prevented them from returning, rights groups said.

Egypt's Interior Ministry confirmed the attacks and said police have made arrests. But it denied that police stopped the Baha'i residents from returning to their village.

"This is just an incident, and we are investigating," ministry spokesman Gen. Hamdi Abdel-Karim said. He declined to provide more details.

During the violence, the attackers shouted "No God but Allah" and "Baha'is are enemies of Allah" as they hurled stones through windows, a group of six Egyptian human rights organizations said in a joint statement. On Tuesday, assailants also threw fire bombs, damaging five homes, they said.

Abdel-Sameia el-Sayyed, one of the Baha'i villagers, said a mob looted his house and destroyed his possessions. He said he fled the village Tuesday with his wife and five children.

"I have lived there for 45 years _ all my life _ and I had to leave it for the sake of my children's safety," he told The Associated Press.

Mar 2009
That is rediculous and horrible. The Bahai's are not harming the muslims or the state of egypt. There is so much hatred and injustice in this world.
Jun 2006
Thanks for your post Spiritual Seeker!

Yes you're right.. About all we can do is let people know about it and pray for the people affected..hoping that some how peace will be restored and families will be able to return to a more normal and safe life.

- Art
Jun 2006
Follow up article on the violence in Egypt:

The following article indicates that it was from the days of Nasser that the problems at least most recently started.. also note the case where the family is still paying taxes for a deceased relative because she was a Baha'i and note that Baha'is must leave Egypt in order to marry...Police stood by and watched and did nothing to control the mob..

Anti-Baha’i columnist refuses to apologise
Matt Bradley, Foreign Correspondent

Last Updated: April 05. 2009 8:34PM UAE / April 5. 2009 4:34PM GMT
Ahmed al Sayyid Abdul Ela, a Baha’i leader whose talk show appearance was followed by the torching of Bahai’s homes. Victoria Hazou for The National
Cairo // A newspaper columnist accused of inciting attacks last week against members of the Baha’i faith in an Upper Egyptian village said yesterday he remains unapologetic for his controversial comments.

Six Egyptian human rights groups have called on public prosecutors to investigate Gamal Abd al Rahim, a writer for the state-run Al Gomhurriya newspaper, for “incitement to felonies and misdemeanours”.

They say Mr al Rahim’s statements against Baha’is on a popular talk show led directly to an attack that saw villagers in the town of Al Shuraniya torch five homes known to belong to Baha’is.

The attacks in Al Shuraniya, in which eight homes were damaged but no one was injured, struck Egypt’s tiny Baha’i community only weeks after a decision by a constitutional court that will allow Egypt’s Baha’is to leave the religion section of their identity cards blank.

Baha’is had celebrated the verdict, which they hope will give their long-disenfranchised community equal citizenship status to Muslims and Christians. But if the court victory pointed to improvements in religious tolerance, the violence in Al Shuraniya revealed the latent communal tensions that persist in Egyptian society.

In an interview in his Cairo office, Mr al Rahim said the statements aired last Saturday, in which he said that a Baha’i leader who was a guest on the same programme “should be killed”, did not incite villagers in the town of Al Shuraniya to attack the homes of their Baha’i neighbours.

“I’m responsible for every word I said, and I don’t owe anyone any apologies,” said Mr al Rahim, who added that he condemns the attacks.

Instead, he said, the villagers were merely reacting to “disgraceful” statements by one of the show’s other guests, a Baha’i named Ahmed al Sayyid Abdul Ela, who boasted that his hometown of Al Shuraniya, about 400km south of Cairo, was “full of Baha’is”.

“The Egyptian people know how Sharia [Islamic jurisprudence] views this religion. They felt disgrace because of this man. And because of the strong customs and traditions of Upper Egyptian society, they attacked this man’s house.”

Mr Ela’s brothers were among those who appeared at a courthouse yesterday in Assiut, a governorate near to Al Shuraniya, to present their statements to police. On the evening of the attacks, police ordered all of Al Shuraniya’s Baha’i residents to leave the city before they could return to their homes to collect belongings. Most of them fled to Cairo.

“It was so painful to see all the children scared. It would have been better to have died than to have watched that,” said Abdul Bassit, Mr Ela’s brother, whose house was destroyed during the riots last Sunday night. “The police were there, but they were just watching. They didn’t take any of the kind of action that you would expect from police. This incident was such proof of ignorance and barbarism I couldn’t believe it was happening.”

Egypt’s constitution does not officially recognise the Baha’i faith and many Muslims consider them to be apostates.

Some, such as Mr al Rahim, also believe the Baha’i are agents of Zionism. While their numbers are few, he said, they are a dangerous threat to Islam and to Egypt.

“They are a group that is just related to Israel,” he said, citing the Baha’i headquarters in Haifa, Israel, as evidence of a Zionist conspiracy to permeate Egyptian society. “They just get money from abroad. They exist in Egypt, but their presence might cause discord in Egyptian society. I’m worried about Egypt.”

Even in the face of such ardent opposition, Baha’i community leaders say they are preparing to continue their struggle for basic rights.

After last month’s decision on identification cards, Baha’i leaders say the next step will be to pass legislation to allow civil marriage – the Baha’i still must leave Egypt to get married because they are prohibited from marrying in an unrecognised faith. But marriage is only one of several identity benefits denied to the Baha’i that most Egyptians take for granted.

Labib Hanna, a Baha’i leader, said his family still pays income taxes for his late sister, who was not issued a death certificate when she died five years ago because her religion was not recognised by the state.
“We are really true citizens. We love Egypt and we are obeying the government,” said Dr Hanna, a mathematics professor at Cairo University.

The Baha’is’ problems with the Egyptian government began in 1960, when Gamal Abdul Nasser disbanded the group’s official organisation and seized its property. That decision led to the periodic harassment and arrest of Baha’i adherents on charges of “contempt of religion” throughout the following decades.

Mar 2009
Mr. "Rahim's" name means (Dispenser of Mercy) a name and attribute of GOd. He does not deserve that title. So what if that area or district is full of bahais. Perhaps more people will be interested in converting to Islam if Muslims would act lik the Prophet Muhammad and be compassionate.
May 2009
I looked at a website - Muslim Network for Baha'i Rights - where the recent events in Egypt were discussed. By following the threads you can read a report from a journalist who interviewed someone claiming to be one of the perpetrators of hatred against the Baha'i community. His reasoning was nothing but ignorance... Thank you to those from the Muslim community who are speaking up - and to the brave network of Muslim youth who have risen as advocates for tolerance and justice. My heart is indeed grateful that you have the courage to risk your own safety and acceptance in order to speak out on behalf of my fellow Baha'is in a land far from my own home.