Court suspends ruling recognising Bahai rights

Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court decided on 15 May to suspend the implementation of an earlier lower court ruling that allowed Bahais to have their religion recognised on official documents.

“While [we are] disappointed by the decision to suspend the administrative court ruling…it is important to note that the Supreme Administrative Court has yet to decide on the merits of the case,” read a press statement issued by the Cairo-based Egyptian Initiative for Private Rights (EIPR).

The earlier ruling, made on 4 April, was passed after a case was filed by a Bahai couple whose official documentation – on which their affiliation to Bahaism was stated – had been confiscated by the state. The ruling quickly became the epicentre of controversy in parliament, led by members of both the ruling National Democratic Party and the banned-but-tolerated Muslim Brotherhood, after which the interior ministry quickly filed an appeal to overturn the ruling.

“We have no issue with people describing themselves as followers of beliefs not recognised by Islam,” prominent Muslim Brotherhood member Abdel Moneim Abul Futouh said on 7 May. “What must be appealed is a ruling allowing followers of unrecognised faiths to describe themselves as followers of a religion in official documents when it’s not technically a religion.”

According to the EIPR statement, the Supreme Administrative Court has denied a request by the defence team for a postponement of the suspension until its members could present a written rebuttal.

Officials at the Supreme Administrative Court meanwhile declined to comment.

Informal estimates suggest that there are approximately 2,000 Bahais currently resident in Egypt. Founded in Iran in the 19th century, the movement’s spiritual and administrative homes are now respectively located in Akka and Haifa, Israel.