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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More