Egypt's Cairo University removes religious identity field from all official paperwork

Ahram Online , Wednesday 12 Oct 2016

Gaber Nassar
File Photo: Cairo University President Gaber Nassar talks during an interview with Reuters at his office in Cairo October 15, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

The president of Cairo University, Gaber Nassar, has decided to abolish the religion field on all university certificates and documents it issues related to students, staff, and professors, the academic told a local television programme on Tuesday.

The decision, which came into force on Tuesday, will be applied in all faculties and institutions at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.

“We noticed several complaints about the possibility of discrimination between students due to the mention of religion. Lately I was surprised to see that a department head in one of the faculties was distributing an application that included the religion and the denomination,” Nassar told satellite channel Al-Nahar Al-Youm by phone.

He added that when a student is asked to write his religion, he may feel that he will be discriminated against because of it.

“At Cairo University, we don’t take random decisions, we take decisions to amend illegal or unconstitutional situations,” Nassar said, adding that the university had no law or bylaw that stipulated that the religion field should be included, saying that at present some faculties issue certificates which include the candidate's religion and others do not.

Nassar added that those who don’t abide by the new decision would have disciplinary action taken against them.

In June, the then-Support Egypt bloc spokesperson Alaa Abdel-Moniem presented a draft bill to parliament titled “Citizenship” that included an article related to the elimination of the religion field from Egyptian national identity cards, an issue that has long sparked public debate.

The draft bill is yet to be presented for discussions and a vote inside the House of Representatives.  

According to Article 53 in Egypt’s 2014 constitution, 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.

The article sets discrimination and incitement to hate as “crimes punishable by law”.

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