News / Middle East

Egyptian Sectarian Fault Lines Grow

A blood-stained sandal is seen in front of a house, where four Egyptian Shi'ites were killed, in the suburb of Zawiyat Abu Musallem, on the outskirts of Cairo, June 24, 2013.
A blood-stained sandal is seen in front of a house, where four Egyptian Shi'ites were killed, in the suburb of Zawiyat Abu Musallem, on the outskirts of Cairo, June 24, 2013.
Elizabeth Arrott
A deadly mob attack on Shi'ite villagers near Cairo has exposed yet another fault line in an increasingly divided Egypt. The killings also reflect the increasingly violent turn toward sectarianism across the Arab world.

Representing just one percent of Egypt's population, Shi'ite Muslims would seem an unlikely threat to the country's overwhelming Sunni majority.

But on Sunday a crowd of angry Sunnis, including followers of the ultraconservative Salafi sect, attacked a group of Shi'ites on the outskirts of the capital, killing four of them.

Security forces say the mob accused the men of trying to spread their Shi'ite religious views.

While Christians and Baha'is say they face more discrimination under Egypt's Islamist-led government, Shi'ite Muslims also are increasingly a target.

Political sociologist Said Sadek of the American University in Cairo noted that Egypt's new basic law places Shi'ites at a disadvantage.

"Their rights are very little. For the first time in Egyptian history, the Egyptian constitution is sectarian. It is only focusing on Sunni. It does not talk about Shia," said Sadek.

Anti-Shi'ite sentiment grew earlier this year, when President Mohammed Morsi played host to Iran's Shi'ite leaders, prompting Salafist protests.
 
It became more vehement in recent weeks, with a prominent Egyptian Sunni cleric calling on Sunnis to undertake jihad in Syria.
 
The Syrian conflict has unleashed a wave of sectarianism across the region, as the peaceful political protests against President Bashar al Assad, of the minority Allawite sect - an offshoot of Shi'ism - descended into religious divides both at home and abroad.

Sunni Gulf states have been major backers of the opposition, while Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah support Assad.

Political analyst Hala Mustafa said, "I think Middle East is going toward now a sectarian split between the Shi'ite camp and the Sunni one.”

Mustafa, former editor of Democracy Journal, also noted that the recent sectarianism in Egypt also has a local angle: a call for Sunni unity at a time of increasing polarization within the country.  

Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, increasingly has sought support from rival Salafis ahead of mass anti-government protests planned for June 30.

With a showdown between Islamists and their secular and nationalist opponents brewing, the head of Egypt's military said it may step in should the situation spiral out of control.
 
Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said Sunday “the will of the Egyptian people alone is what governs us" and the military will protect it. It was not immediately clear to whose will he was referring - those who chose Morsi as Egypt's first democratically elected president - or those who would have him step down.

For decades the armed forces were the guarantor of secular stability in Egypt, and General al-Sisi warned Sunday against sectarian strife. Under the new government, however, the military retreated from its interim period on the political stage to a Morsi-backed, constitutionally protected position on the sidelines.

Political analyst Mustafa said that any army intervention likely will have only one thing in mind, and it is not the original goal of the revolution.

"This of course won't be in the favor of democracy. It will be in the favor of stability,” said Mustafa.

And in Egypt, she noted, those are two very different issues. But with sectarianism on the rise, and political discontent threatening to boil over, some Egyptians say that is not the worst possible outcome.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: MUSTAFA from: INDIA
June 25, 2013 2:22 AM
This is sad news, in place of solving economic and other important issue, current Govt is creating more problem for Egypt. Egypt already in the grip of so many social and economic problem. As to divert Egyptians attention, current Govt is playing this dirty game.I do not think they will be successful Govt, to create more problem just for the sack of political gain which is short and not long term.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs