CAIRO, Oct 12 (Aswat Masriya) - Cairo University will eliminate the religious identity field from all university certificates and documents related to students, faculty and staff, according to a decision by its president Gaber Nassar.
The decision came into force on Tuesday and will be applied in all faculties, institutes and centers on the undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
In a phone interview with satellite channel El Mehwar, Nassar said that he made the decision after some issues were reported to have taken place at Cairo University, adding that it was based on "necessity."
"We noticed that some faculties and institutes print out applications that required students to write their religion and sect," Nassar said, "and it was discovered that some students were denied admission."
"This would give students the impression that they are discriminated against based on religion, even if that weren't the case," Nassar added.
Nassar asserted that identifying the person's religion is not required by university regulations or laws.
Mohamed Abdel Salam, researcher in the academic freedoms and students' rights program at the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), told Aswat Masriya that the decision represents a "positive step," however the context is important.
Abdel Salam clarified that Nassar took the decision after a complaint from a student shed light on the situation.
Mina Nader was applying at the Cairo University's Institute of African Research and Studies early September when he was asked to identify his religion as well as sect "if the applicant is Christian."
He was denied admission and was not given clear reasons behind the decision, so he filed a complaint.
In a post on his Facebook page, Nader clarified that the oral examination was not subject to any "objective standards" upon which the decision of approval or rejection can be made.
Nader further questioned the reason behind including the religious identity field in the application when the documents required for admission include the birth certificate and others that already include religion.
He told Aswat Masriya that, despite Nassar's decision, he has not been accepted to the institute.
"The situation is a bit complex," Abdel Salam said, "Nassar's decision, although progressive, came in relation to incidents that have been happening...so, we have to understand the context; this was partly done to avoid uproar."
Abdel Salam added that Nassar's decision opens up debate regarding equal opportunity in higher education as well as equal opportunity when it comes to selecting heads of departments in certain fields.
The researcher asserted, "without this debate, we won't be able to influence state policies," adding that anti-discrimination rules still lack.
Discrimination is defined by Egypt's constitution as a crime punishable by law.
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, color, language, disability, social class, political or geographical affiliation, or for any other reason."
The constitution obliges the state to "take all necessary measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination."