Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

AFRICA NEWS

Air Algerie investigation continues

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Dozens of youths trampled to death on Conakry beach

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Ebola death toll tops 700

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

UNRWA official breaks down over Gaza deaths

Read more

DEBATE

Argentina Defaults - Kirchner Cries Foul Over 'Vulture Funds' (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Argentina Defaults - Kirchner Cries Foul Over 'Vulture Funds'

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Renault's women drivers ad deemed sexist

Read more

FOCUS

Constitution prohibits Aung San Suu Kyi to run for president

Read more

THE BUSINESS INTERVIEW

War and Markets, with Steen Jakobsen, Chief Economist at Saxo Bank

Read more

  • Israel and Hamas agree on 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire

    Read more

  • Interactive: France’s new plan to counter jihadism in Africa

    Read more

  • French Jews speak of growing fear in Paris amid Gaza conflict

    Read more

  • Video: Inside Hamas ‘terror’ tunnels in Gaza

    Read more

  • France remembers murdered socialist hero Jean Jaurès

    Read more

  • Sierra Leone declares state of emergency over spread of Ebola

    Read more

  • Investigators reach MH17 site amid 24-hour ceasefire

    Read more

  • Air France ground workers to strike on August 2

    Read more

  • Scores feared dead in India landslide

    Read more

  • Russia ordered to pay further €1.9 billion to Yukos shareholders

    Read more

  • Iraq's Christians: Nowhere to Run?

    Read more

  • Russia defiant as US, EU unveil 'phase three' sanctions

    Read more

  • US House votes to sue Obama for over-reaching his powers

    Read more

  • Argentina fails to reach deal with creditors

    Read more

Reportages

Troubled relationship with Shiite community

Video by Ygal SAADOUN

Text by Ygal SAADOUN

Latest update : 2009-09-18

In Cairo, the authorities allegedly target Shiite groups, who themselves stand accused of being linked to Iran and of trying to destabilise Egyptian society. The Shiites claim they are just trying to follow their branch of Islam.

For the Egyptian authorities, Mohamad El Derrini is a traitor. He's accused of spreading Shiism, a minority school of Islam, through a centre he heads for defending the rights of the Shiite community in Egypt. The centre was recently closed down because it was allegedly financed from abroad.

 

"I defy anyone to prove these accusations. It's what the security forces always do. They accuse everyone of being financed from abroad. People believe this kind of story more easily," replies Mohamad El Derrini.

 

Nor does he give much credence to the recent arrests of terrorist cells allegedly linked to Shiite Iran. He says it is pure propaganda aimed at sustaining a popular paranoia.

 

In the land of Al-Azhar, the world's highest institute of Sunni learning, Shiites and Sunnis sometimes pray together unawares. Shiism is not recognised and the faithful are do not have their own place of worship. The Egyptian state reckons there are just a few hundred Shiites in the country, while Shiite activists say there are hundreds of thousands of them, living in hiding for fear of the police.

 

Journalists at the El-Masryoun news website, which is reportedly close to the Egyptian intelligence services, are convinced that the threat is serious. The mere presence of Shiites in Egypt is seen by them as an Iranian bid to destabilise the country.

 

"This is an infiltration by Iranian security. The threat should not be measured in numbers but by their financial means, by their capacity to obtain weapons. If they're well organised, a hundred people can be stronger than a million", explains Gamal Soltan, editor in chief of Al Masryoon.

 

At Said Mouftah's office, they're used to hearing this argument. He is a Cairo lawyer who defends members of the Shiite community in their increasingly frequent tangles with the authorities: "We've reached a point where state security officers put pressure on the preachers in mosques for them to stand against Shiism. Political power is playing a role that it shouldn't. The role of the security forces should be to protect the population from threats based on facts, but they're becoming a thought police."


Founded by Shiites more than a thousand years ago and today a beacon of Sunni learning, Al-Azhar only recognised Shiism as a legitimate school of Islamic thought in 1965. A step that the Egyptian state still refuses to take.

Date created : 2009-09-18

COMMENT(S)