Egypt: Baha’is attacks spark outcry

Date posted: April 3, 2009


 

On April 2, several human rights organizations headed to the public prosecutor in solidarity with the Baha'is who were assaulted in Sohag after a journalist called them reverts and urged people to kill them.

The Arabist commented on the incident saying:

I wanted to mention it yesterday when the story broke, but there has been a nasty attack against a Ba’hai community near Sohag in Upper Egypt. The incident appears to have been sparked by the appearance of a local community leader on TV, where he was attacked by a hack for the state newspaper al-Gomhouriya, who called for him to be killed. The same pathetic hack later praised the attacks on the Ba’hais in an article, showing how deeply xenophobic, sectarian, ultra-Salafist thinking has permeated state institutions. This man should be fired and put on trial for inciting violence (Egypt has no law against religious incitation, something I’ve long thought they should implement and use against any intolerance and particularly Islamists who advocated takfir).

He then shared a Press release from the Egyptian human rights groups who demand the prosecution of those who provoked the assaults; The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Hisham Mubarak Law Center, El-Nadim Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, and The Associationfor Freedom of Thought and Expression:

“The heinous and unprecedented attacks on Baha’i Egyptians are a crime against all Egyptians,“ the rights organizations said. “We shall never allow the perpetrators of these crimes to benefit from the same climate of impunity that has marred the government’s response to sectarian violence against Egyptians Copts over the last four decades.”

The six rights organizations demanded that:

the Public Prosecutor question Gamal Abd al-Rahim regarding his incitement to violence against Baha’is in both the television program and his published article, pursuant to Articles 171 and 172 of the Penal Code, which address public incitement to felonies and misdemeanors. Consistent with the organizations’ principled opposition to the imprisonment for publication offences, the groups’ complaint excluded Article 98(f) of the Penal Code, which stipulates mandatory imprisonment for “anyone who exploits religion to promote extremist ideas with the intent of inciting civil strife and damaging national unity,” and Article 176 of the Penal Code, which also stipulates mandatory imprisonment for anyone who “incites to discrimination against a group of people on the basis of race, origin, language, religion, or belief when such incitement disrupts public peace.”

Moreover, the rights organizations called on:

the board of Egypt’s national Press Syndicate to take immediate action against Gamal Abd al-Rahim, particularly since he occupies a seat on the board, regarding his violation of the Syndicate’s Code of Ethics, which states that journalists have an obligation “to refrain in their writings from joining racist or bigoted advocacy or advocacy that involves contempt or disdain of religions, aspersions cast on the faith of others, or incitement to discrimination against or contempt for any group of society.”

On Facebook, a group has been created in support of Baha'is, another group calls for the cancellation of the religious status from the Egyptian ID, and a third Facebook group for the prosecution of Gamal Abd al-Rahim:

نحن هنا بصفتنا مصريين نؤكد بقوة علي الأتي:
1- نطالب النائب العام بتحويل الصحفي المدعو جمال عبد الرحيم لمحاكمة عادلة بتهمة التحريض علي قتل مواطنين مصريين شرفاء.
2- نؤكد علي أن الدولة المصرية هي وطن يسع الجميع و يحترم الأختلاف و يحمي حرية الأعتقاد و العبادة بحسب نص الدستور المصري.
3- نؤمن أن ليس من حق أي أنسان أيا كان أن يفرض دينه أو معتقده علي الأخرين، أو أن يهدد حقهم في الأعتقاد أو العبادة أو الحياة أو السكن أو المواطنة بشكل عام.
4- كمصريين مستنيريين نتضامن مع البهائيين من أجل حقهم المشروع في حرية العقيدة.
5- ندين بشدة الكلام الذي صدر عن هذا الصحفي و الذي لايمت لمبادئ أحترام و قبول الأخر و المواطنة و الأخاء بأي صلة بل هو تحريض صريح علي النبذ و العنف و الكراهية الغير مقبول تماما من المصريين سواء كانوا مسلميين أو مسيحيين أو غير ذلك
As Egyptians we would like to highlight the following:
1 – We demand that the journalist Gamal Abd al-Rahim be prosecuted and has a fair trial for inciting the murder of honorable Egyptian citizens.
2- Egypt, according to the Egyptian constitution, is the home for all citizens regardless of their religions or beliefs.
3- We believe that no one has the right to force his own beliefs on others.
4- As enlightened Egyptians we show our solidarity with Baha'is and grant them their legitimate right of freedom of belief.
5- We indict what this journalist said for we find it a direct call for hate and violence – which is equally unaccepted by Muslims and Christians.
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