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

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the US are seeing gas prices dip below $3 a gallon More

Afghan Women's Soccer Team Building for the Future

A four-team female league was recently set up in Kabul; It will help identify players for the national team More

Video Koreas on Edge Amid Live-fire Drills

Pyongyang threatens nuclear test as joint US, S. Korean exercises show forces’ capabilities 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid