The joint parliamentary committee formed of the legislative and the human rights committees in the House of Representatives gave on Monday 31 October its preliminary approval of the bill for citizenship and anti-discrimination. The approval came following heated argument between the MPs and the government representatives who insisted that the proposed bill should not be put to a vote in parliament right away, but should be postponed. The MPs, for their part, accused the government of procrastination. The bill, which was put forward to the House of Representatives by MP Alaa Abdel-Moneim, proposes among other measures that the religion box be removed from the official ID card.
The issue of removal of the religion box from official documents is one that has always been a bone of contention between liberals and conservatives. Whereas the former see it as confirmation that the State does not concern itself with an Egyptian’s religion and treats all Egyptian citizens as equals, the latter see it as a violation of the constitutionally-stipulated provision that Egypt is an State where Islamic is the official religion. They argue that removal of religion from official documents would wreak havoc with family regulations; Muslims and Christians in Egypt have separate family laws governed by the principles of their respective religions.
Last October, Cairo University and the Engineers’ Syndicate announced they were removing the religion box from all their papers, whereas the Bar Association and the Journalists’ Syndicate declared that none of their papers included a religion box. The moves were applauded by liberals and seculars in Egypt, but disapproved by conservatives.
Watani has covered the issue of the religion box extensively in:
1 November 2016