Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

IN THE PAPERS

Shifts in the propaganda war waged between Israelis and Palestinians

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

French MPs face quandary in pro-Palestinian rallies

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Yezid Sayigh, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut

Read more

#TECH 24

Mind the Gender Gap : getting more women into the tech sector

Read more

INSIDE THE AMERICAS

Bolivian children: heading to work aged 10

Read more

WEB NEWS

Israel and Hamas battle online over public opinion

Read more

FOCUS

Can Chancellor Merkel's winning streak last?

Read more

FOCUS

Hunger in a fertile land...

Read more

DEBATE

Nigeria: One Hundred Days and Counting (part 2)

Read more

  • Live: Algerian jet with 116 on board 'crashes' in northern Mali

    Read more

  • ‘Many’ French passengers on board missing Algerian plane

    Read more

  • Iraqi parliament elects moderate Kurd as president

    Read more

  • Sudanese Christian woman sentenced to death arrives in Italy

    Read more

  • No end to fighting until Israel ends Gaza blockade, Hamas says

    Read more

  • Two foreign women shot dead in western Afghanistan

    Read more

  • At least 60 killed in attack on prison convoy near Baghdad

    Read more

  • Cycling is ‘winning the war on doping,’ says expert

    Read more

  • Ceasefire agreed for Central African Republic

    Read more

  • Can Jew-kissing-Arab selfie give peace a viral chance?

    Read more

  • In pictures: Thousands march for Gaza peace in Paris

    Read more

  • France charges Swiss bank UBS with tax fraud

    Read more

  • Israel faces heightened diplomatic pressure as Gaza violence rages

    Read more

  • Botched Arizona execution takes nearly two hours

    Read more

  • Bomb attacks leave scores dead in north Nigeria

    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)