06/26/2013, 00.00
EGYPT
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Egypt risks civil war in clashes between Sunnis and Shiites

The lynching of five Shiites on June 23 in Giza brings tug of war between Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran to Egyptian soil. The leaders of Sunni radicals ignore al-Azhar’s appeals against mounting violence and call for Shiites and Christians to be kicked out of country.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - The conflict between Sunnis and Shiites has arrived in Egypt after having devastated Iraq and Syria. The episode in Abu Mussalam, Giza district (Cairo), where on 23 June, five Shiites were lynched by a mob of 3 thousand people have opened a new front in the religious conflict in Egypt ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood. Yesterday, police arrested eight people responsible for the massacre caught on video which appeared on the internet. However, the residents point out that  3 thousand Islamists attacked 24 people, with the intent to kill.

According to Fr. Rafic Greiche, a spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church, "the persecution of the Shia is nothing new in Egypt. In recent years the country has never witnessed this kind of sectarian violence among Muslims. So far, only the Christian minority had suffered this type of attack ". The priest invites us not to underestimate the problem, which might drag the largest Arab country (80 million inhabitants) into a much broader conflict, which is already ravaging Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, with serious risks for Christians . "The lynching - he says - came two days after a big rally by Salafis, attended by President Morsi. During the rally, several radical imams urged Sunni Muslims to attack the Shiites claiming they were heretics and immoral. Morsi stood by in silence listening to these dangerous invectives. "


"The Shia are very numerous in Egypt - said Fr. Greiche - but there are no reliable censuses. Some speak of 800 thousand, others of several million." Egyptian society now fears the beginning of a clash between Islamist ideologies. It is well known that Muslim Brotherhood's rise to political power is mainly due to funding from the Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which support Sunni Islamists throughout the Middle East and oppress the Shia minorities in their countries. For some time, however, Iran has also been trying to find consensus in Egypt, using the strategy has already been tried in Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, Lebanon, funding the Shiite community against the Sunni governments.


In recent days, Ahmed al-Tayeb Grand Imam of Al-Azhar condemned the Giza lynching calling it "contrary to Islam." Even the office of Mohamed Morsi criticized the fact, without clearly condemning anti-Shiite sentiments. In the text denouncing the violence, the word "Shia" is never mentioned. The attack of 23 June was also fueled by the al-Nour Party, the political arm of the Salafi movement which holds about 20% of the parliamentary seats. In the foreign media they have criticized the position of the other Islamist parties, but in the slums of Cairo and in the rural districts of the country they distributed leaflets calling on the population to denounce the presence of Shiites and drive out Christians.
The ambiguous position of the authorities, often complicit with the radical imams, increases the risk of attacks against Christians and all those who are not in line with the extremist Islam proposed by the political establishment. (S.C.)

 

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