Thursday,23 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1316, (20 - 26 October 2016)
Thursday,23 November, 2017
Issue 1316, (20 - 26 October 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Religious anonymity

Cairo University removes the religious identity field from all its paperwork and the Engineers Syndicate follows suit. Ahmed Morsy reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

“When we ask students to write down their religion on university applications or other documents many worry they might be discriminated against on a religious basis. Moreover, there is no law or bylaw stipulating religion be included in any paperwork,” head of Cairo University Gaber Nassar said on Wednesday 12 October.

Egypt’s oldest and largest university had decided a day earlier to remove the religion identity field on all university certificates and documents related to students and staff. The decision will be applied in all faculties and institutions.

“Cairo University does not take random decisions. Rather, we act to amend illegal or unconstitutional situations. We received many complaints about the possibility of discrimination on the basis of religion,” Nassar said.

“Recently I was surprised to find a head of one of the university’s departments distributing an application that included fields for both religion and denomination. Such inquiry into religious identity contradicts the university’s regulations.”

On Sunday Mohamed Fayek, head of the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR), praised Nassar’s decision. “This decision, taken by Cairo University, underlines there should be no discrimination on the basis of religion, as is guaranteed by the constitution,” he said.

Article 53 of the constitution states: “Citizens are equal before the law, possess equal rights and public duties, and may not be discriminated against on the basis of religion, belief, sex, origin, race, colour, language, disability, social class, political or geographical affiliation or for any other reason.”

Hafez Abu Seada, member of the NCHR, also praised Nassar’s decision and its upholding of the constitution. Abolishing the religion field, he said, will help eradicate discrimination and promote equal opportunity.

Salafi leaders were far less happy. “We ask God to guide Nassar on to the right path. Nassar is implementing a malicious agenda which seeks to undermine Egypt’s Islamic identity,” complained Yasser Borhami, vice president of Salafist Calling.

“Claims students were being discriminated against are false. The only one guilty of discrimination – against veiled women in Cairo University, is Nassar himself,” Borhami told reporters.

Cairo University bans academic staff from wearing the niqab – full-face veil – inside classrooms. The ban, says Nassar, is implemented for the sake of “general welfare” and is meant to “ease communication with students” and “advance the educational process”.

The university decision to ban the niqab has been roundly criticised by Islamist preachers.

Last week the Engineers Syndicate also announced it would no longer include a religion field on syndicate documents. 

“Starting from November all new forms will be printed without the religion field. The move is being made so as to reduce the possibility of discrimination,” said the syndicate’s Secretary-General Mohamed Khedr.

Engineers Syndicate head Tarek Nabarawi reiterated the argument that removing the religious field from documentation is simply a matter of applying the constitution.

The Egyptian Foundation for the Protection of the Constitution praised both Cairo University and the Engineers Syndicate. It urged all private and public institutions and companies to follow in their footsteps and abolish the religion box from paperwork and applications.

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