Influential Egyptian Author Supports Removal of Religion from ID cards

Egypt’s former Culture Minister, Gaber Asfour, has vocally expressed his support in removing the religious identity section from Egypt’s National ID. Responding to a question on the public opinion program, Rai Aam, Asfour 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 the Taliban.”

Gaber Asfour, considered an influential author in Egypt, has been a professor at Cairo University since 1966. The 77-year old published multiple books that are critical against fanaticism, especially in religion. His books included Countering Fanaticism and In Defense of the Enlightenment. He also founded Egypt’s National Center for Translation during his tenure as the General Secretary of the Supreme Council for Culture.

In the September 9 interview, Asfour continued his rhetoric, urging Egyptians to “look outside.” He cited, as an example, that passports do not specify if you are a Muslim Egyptian or a Christian Egyptian, “no one abroad (will) ask you,” he said.

In the same interview, Amna Nosseir, a professor of Faith and Philosophy at Al-Azhar University, expressed her opposition to Asfour. She asked, “what annoys people about stating the religion in the (ID) card?” Implying that there is no need to remove it since nobody is bothered with it. She further added that the national card presents “the reality of the person and their religion.”

Nosseir calls the issue of religion in the national ID an exaggeration.

Last year, Nosseir was in hot water when she responded to an interview question about inter-religion marriage. In the interview, she replied that “there is no text in Islamic law that prevents a Muslim woman from marrying a follower of other Abrahamic religions.” She later retracted her statement after a backlash, blaming social media for the confusion.

The issue started when photos of a national ID and a passport with no section for religion were circulated online. In 2018, MP Ismail Nasr Eddin sponsored a bill removing the religion field from the national ID after a similar bill was rejected in parliament in 2016.

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