Egypt’s Constitutional Proclamation: Ideals to Strive For
Previous posts on this blog, examining the decision of the Supreme Administrative Court of Egypt to deny the Baha’is of Egypt access to identification cards, have focused on how this action is a gross violation of Egypt’s obligations under international declarations and covenants to which it is a signatory, and how the reasoning of the Court totally obscured the actual issue that was before it. In addition, the Court’s decision is incompatible with the lofty principles enunciated in Egypt’s own Constitution, the seminal legal document upon which the laws of Egypt are founded and to which the Court’s legal analysis is bound.
The Egyptian Constitution begins with a Constitutional Proclamation, setting forth the principles upon which the rest of the Constitution is based. In the Constitutional Proclamation, we find the following:
We, the Egyptian people, in the name of God and with His assistance pledge to indefinitely and unconditionally exert every effort to realise:
Peace to our world:
Being determined that peace can only be based on justice and that political and social progress of all peoples can only be realized through the freedom and independent will of these peoples, and that any civilization is not worthy of its name unless it is free from exploitation whatever its form. (emphasis added)
These words provide much food for thought concerning the decision of the Court to deny the Baha’is of Egypt access to national identification cards–preventing them from gaining access to health care, employment, and education, among other basic civil rights–solely on the basis of their religious belief. The proclamation asserts that “social progress of all peoples can only be realized through the freedom and independent will of these peoples.” Where is the freedom and independent will in forcing citizens of Egypt to identify themselves as members of one of only three religions–Christianity, Judaism, or Islam–in order to obtain identification cards? What effect might this have on the “social progress of all peoples?”
Moreover, consider the statement that “any civilization is not worthy of its name unless it is free from exploitation whatever its form.” Exploitation is commonly defined as using someone else unfairly to your own advantage, but, as the Proclamation states, it can take many forms, all of which are pernicious. One example of the exploitation that the Baha’is of Egypt face, pointed out recently on Bilo’s blog, is that despite the fact that the Egyptian Baha’is are being denied access to basic civil rights on account of their religious belief, they are still required to pay taxes to the government of Egypt. As one commentator put it, the Egyptian Baha’is have been rendered faithless and stateless, and yet the government is still trying to wring a few last drops of pecuniary benefit out of them.
As the Proclamation rightly points out, to be worthy of classification as a civilization, the Egyptian government must rise to abolish this exploitation, which it could do with minimal effort, by allowing Egyptian Baha’is to place a “dash” in the religion field of their identication card paperwork. Thus would the actions of the Egyptian government be increasingly harmonized with the clear principles upon which its own Constitution is founded.