As the Shia community celebrated its religious holiday Ashura on Thursday, the Ministry of Endowments kept the historic Hussein Mosque closed as they reiterated their refusal to allow any organized Shia rituals to take place in Egypt, the privately owned newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm (AMAY) reported.
The endowments minister added that the authorities would take strict measures against anyone violating that mandate.
Sheikh Ahmed al-Turk, the director of the ministry’s mosques department, told AMAY that Hussein Mosque is only open during prayers and closes promptly afterwards in accordance with the Endowment Ministry’s instructions. Furthermore, the mosque is currently being renovated and no one is allowed inside, he added.
“The ministry prevents any sectarian or political activities to take place within mosques to thwart trouble, and to stress the importance of the holy duty of a mosque, which is prayer and reading the Quran,” Turk told AMAY.
AMAY also quoted sources who claimed that ministry authorities have officially approved the Ministry of Interior’s intervention should anyone violate these rules. Security forces heavily guarded Hussein Mosque on Thursday, and also installed security cameras to monitor any potential violations, the newspaper reported.
Amr Ezzat of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights told Mada Masr that Shia activist Amr Abdallah was arrested Thursday morning on charges of allegedly insulting the companions of Prophet Mohamed. Abdallah was transferred to the Gamaleya police station and then to the Zeinhom prosecution headquarters, Ezzat claimed.
The troubles erupted when a number of Shia activists declared their plan to perform certain religious rituals inside Hussein Mosque to celebrate Ashura.
“The request was met by disapproval from the Muslim Initiative to Defend the Prophet’s Family and Companions, who apparently spotted Abdallah this morning by the mosque and filed a police report against him,” Ezzat said.