Former culture minister supports removing religion from Egyptian national IDs

Former Culture Minister Gaber Asfour expressed his support for removing the religion field on Egypt’s national ID cards.

Asfour stated on Thursday that future generations will be lost if the religion field continues to be present on the card, with regard to determining their identity.

On the “Rai Aam” (Public Opinion) program, presented by journalist Amr Abdel Hamid, the former minister asked: “Do you have to specify in the card that you are a civilian Muslim or a Salafi Muslim? This no longer happens, we are not in the time of Taliban.”

He continued that a person’s pride in his “Egyptianness” does not mean that he is a Muslim or a Christian, saying: “We must look outside.”

“The passport that a person holds means that he is Egyptian only, without specifying an Egyptian Muslim or an Egyptian Christian,” he continued, explaining that countries around the world are already past the question about this matter.

“No one abroad asks you if you are an Egyptian Muslim or an Egyptian Christian,” he said.

Meanwhile, Professor of Faith and Philosophy at Al-Azhar University Amna Nosseir opposes removing the religion field from ID cards.

She said, in a separate interview Thursday with “Rai Aam”: “What annoys people about stating the religion in the (ID) card, isn’t this the reality of the person and their religion which they cherish? I do not see it an issue.”

“I have many Christian friends who are family, and I do not find [the issue of printing religion on ID cards] bothering them because I give them their right,” she added.

“The presence of the religion field in the ID card is not sectarian segregation, but rather a confirmation of one’s name and the name of their father and grandfather because there are many common names (between Muslims and Christians), even the third name,” she said, explaining that many dishonest persons might conceal their true religion to marry a spouse from another religion.

Nosseir opined that the issue of religion field on ID cards has been exaggerated.

Lately, social media users have shared photos showing a national ID and passport with the nationality, job and marital status fields in Arabic and English, but no section for religion. The images sparked debate, with one side feeling that the field should be left out to avoid discrimination, while others felt it should remain.

A member of Egypt’s Defense and National Security Committee in the House of Representatives Yahya al-Kedwany stressed in April that Parliament did not discuss any laws that suggested removing the religion field from ID cards.

Regarding the online images, Kedwany said that Parliament has no knowledge of them and they are likely fabricated. Such a decision requires a change in the Civil Status Law number 143 of 1994, which would have been presented to the relevant committees of the parliament for discussion, he stressed.

Parliament member Ismail Nasr Eddin back in 2018 had presented to parliament a bill to remove the religion field from the national ID card.

Nasr Eddin set his draft on the text of Article 53 of the Constitution, which stipulates that citizens are equal before the law and there is no discrimination between them for reasons, including religion or belief, and this article obliges the state to take measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination and organize the establishment of an independent commission for this purpose.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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