Lynch of Shiites in Egypt – Iran Issues Condemnation

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Iran’s foreign ministry has strongly condemned the killing of four Shi'ite Egyptians near Cairo, ironically saying that extremism violated the tenets of Islam and blaming the incident on foreign intervention.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran denounces any act of extremism and violence which contradicts Islam and the tenets of Islam," a foreign ministry statement read.

The incident the foreign ministry is referring to took place in the village of Abu Mussalem near Cairo, when a group of Sunni takfiris (Muslims who believe that forms of Islam other than theirs is apostasy) attacked the house of a Shi'ite cleric. The cleric and three of his followers were murdered after the house was surrounded by hundreds of people vowing to kill them for being Shi'ites. Their bodies were then dragged into the street by the murderers. 

The residents of the village said they were "proud" of the mob lynching of the four Shi'ite Muslims. Witnesses and security officials said that hundreds of residents of Abu Mussalem surrounded the house of a Shi'ite resident after learning that a leading Shi'ite cleric, Hassan Shehata, was inside. They threw molotov cocktails at the house, situated in a small alley, hoping to set it ablaze, according to witnesses.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Araqchi said, "We condemn any move which seeks to create sectarian conflict in Muslim communities and consider it as a foreign plot. Egypt's national unity is of grave importance. The enemies of the Egyptians are seeking to create a religious conflict in Egypt."

Shehata was a leading figure in Egypt's minority Shi'ite community. He was jailed several times under the regime of ousted president Hosni Mubarak after being accused of insulting Islam.

The crowd chanted "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) and "Shi'ites are infidels," before storming the house, dragging the Shi'ites out and beating them.

"We're happy about what happened. It should have happened long ago," Mohamed Ismail, a teacher, said.

Shi'ites are estimated as a tiny fraction of Egypt's population of 84 million, most of whom are Sunni Muslims. Shi'ites are dominant in Iran, a regional rivals of Egyp. Sunnis oppose Shi'ism, which teaches that many of the Prophet Mohammed’s companions revered by Sunnis were corrupt and usurped power from his rightful successor and cousin, Ali.

The attack on the Shi'ites comes at a particularly tense time of political division in Egypt and ahead of planned mass rallies against President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood party.

Egypt has been experiencing increasing sectarian violence the uprising that toppled Mubarak in 2011, with a number of reports of lynchings  in recent months.

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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org