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  Updated: November 13, 2006

Egypt's Shiites facing problems at home

By: Sultan Ahmed

CAIRO, Egypt: Egyptian Shiias have been left vulnerable under a regime that questions their loyalty by Iran's regional influence.

Referring to Israeli attack on Lebanon in July and August, an Egyptian Shiite and professor of medicine at Mansura University Ahmed Rasim An-Nafis said: "After Hezbollah's victory in the war, the regime started to turn its attention to Shiites (in Egypt)."

"There have been smear campaigns about us in the state press and in mosques, and our loyalty has been questioned," he told AFP from his home in the northern city of Mansura.

There are no reliable figures for Egypt's Shiite population.

Nafis and others say the lack of a proper census, community centres or separate places of worship makes it virtually impossible to calculate the number.

Nafis, 54, was not born a Shiite.

In 1979, Nafis began to search for books on Shiite Islam and by 1985 he had read enough to know he wanted to convert.

Nafis explained that what attracted him to Shiism most was the sect’s principle that the door of "ijtihad" -- the process of interpretation -- was never closed. He said that Shiism paves the way for intellectual development, while Sunnism has been "hijacked by Wahhabi ideology."

In 2004, Nafis demanded the recognition of Shiism as a legal sect in Egypt, but a police crackdown on the community that same year stalled the effort.

Egypt's Shiites are not a clandestine group: they speak openly in the press of their beliefs and pray freely in non-Shia mosques.

In April, Mubarak accused Arab Shiites of being "always loyal to Iran and not the countries where they live."

"The authorities did not waste much time after I converted. I was arrested in 1987 and charged with belonging to a Shia organization," said Nafis who was detained three times between 1987 and 1996.

"Whenever something happens in Iran or Iraq, it is reflected on Shiites" in Egypt, said Mohammed al-Dereini, head of the Higher Council of the Al al-Bait, a Shiite research centre based in Cairo.

Dereini voiced his desire in the press to apply to set up a Shiite political party, but dropped the initiative following his 15-month detention in 2004 for "belonging to an illegal organization and threatening national security."

At least 124 Egyptian Shiites have been arrested since 1988 in a series of crackdowns, according to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR).

The centre's director, Hossam Bahgat, said that there is in fact no policy of Shiite persecution in Egypt -- they are treated with suspicion like all other religious groups in the country as a threat that must be contained.

"In the eyes of the security services, there is no clear difference between Shiite Muslims and a militant religious organisation. They simply don't care that Al-Azhar recognized them," Bahgat said. 

Egypt authorities impede Imam Ali celebration at Mount Siani

CAIRO, Egypt: Al-Majlis Al-Ala Le Reayatil Ahl-el Beit, an organization of Shias in Egypt, has said Egyptian security authorities have stopped annual celebration at Makhsha’a (place) Ameer’ol-Mominin Al-Imam Ali bin Abi Talib (peace be upon him) at Mount Sinai.

  "Knowledge is better than wealth because it protects you while you have to guard wealth. it decreases if you keep on spending it but the more you make use of knowledge ,the more it increases . what you get through wealth disappears as soon as wealth disappears but what you achieve through knowledge will remain even after you."MORE ..  


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