Egyptian Activists: Scrub Religion From ID Cards

Other than for gathering anonymous census data, why would the government ever ask you what religion you are? And if the government issues national ID cards, as it does in many countries, why would your religious affiliation deserve a mandatory mention on that card? What purpose does it serve?

And what would happen if you told nosy bureaucrats to stay out of your business?

That’s the thinking of British-Egyptian journalist and blogger Sarah Carr, who teamed up with a friend, Mohamad Adam, to try to change the official Egyptian conflation of identity and religion. Via the New York Times:

Egyptian activists have begun an online campaign against sectarianism in the wake of a deadly attack on mourners at Egypt’s main Coptic Christian cathedral this month.


To begin the process of disentangling religion and citizenship, the “None of Your Business” campaign, driven by a Facebook group and a YouTube video, urges Egyptian citizens to cover up the section of their national identity cards that states their religion. The group’s Facebook page describes the initiative as “a campaign against interference in citizens’ private lives by the state, and by other citizens. We are for the removal of religion from official documents — the most important of which is the personal ID card — as a small but important step towards ending discrimination on the basis of religion.”

In response, supporters of the campaign have uploaded photographs of their ID cards to social networks with messages along the lines of “my faith is my own business,” obscuring their religions.

Says Carr:

“I couldn’t think of a single use for the religion field; the Egyptian state has a well-documented thirst for bureaucracy and collecting information about its citizens, but there is absolutely no need for it to have this information, which serves no purpose other than giving prejudiced state officials, and anyone else who sees the ID card, the opportunity to give [you] a hard time.”

She would ultimately like ID cards to be abolished altogether, calling them “unnecessary and sinister,” but concedes that’s still a ways off.

“Removing the religion field from ID cards is a symbolic first step towards this. If it ever did happen, it would be a message that the state need not and should not have a role in defining, controlling or exploiting religious identity.”