Anti-Shia tensions mount ahead of holy day

After the Egyptian Shia community announced it would commemorate the holiday of Ashura in Islamic Cairo’s Hussein Mosque, the Endowments Ministry issued a statement rejecting any organized Shia festivities, and called on the relevant authorities to implement that decision.

Ashura, a holiday that falls this Thursday, is celebrated by Shia Muslims to commemorate the death of Prophet Mohamed’s grandsons Hussein and Hassan in Karbala in 680.

The state-run Middle East News Agency quoted Endowments Minister Mohamed Mokhtar saying the planned Shia celebrations would not be allowed.

Salafi groups told the privately owned newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm that they would organize committees to prevent Shia followers from entering the Hussein Mosque this Thursday.

Despite its historical importance for the Shia, today the Hussein Mosque is the symbol of Al-Azhar University, the seat of Sunni learning in the Islamic world. However, t was first built by the Fatamids, a Shia caliphate.

Hussein’s head is believed to be buried on the grounds, although mosques in Damascus and Karbala also make the claim.

Anti-Shia sentiment has been on the rise recently in Egypt. After weeks of anti-Shia sermons by ultraconservative Islamist preachers, a mob killed four Shia Egyptians after they prayed in a private home last June.


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