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  Updated: July 4, 2009

Anger, condemnation over arrest of hundreds of Shiites in Egypt

By: Sultan Ahmed

CAIRO, Egypt: Head of Egypt's Higher Council of the Al al-Bait Mohammed ad-Dereini has reacted angrily to the country's authorities on arrest of a large number of Shiite Muslims.

According to ad-Dereini among 306 Shiite Muslims held were Sheikh Hassan Shahat Ė a Sunni cleric who converted to Shiite faith ten years ago and as a punishment he was sacked of his office; he was a speaker at masjid shohadaa al-Jamia in Cairo.

Al-Misriyon daily reported that Shahat was arrested from his house on June 22. The report said accusation thrown on Shahat and other detainees was that they were a threat to national peace.

Ad-Dereini said the detainees have been kept in unknown place and their relatives have not been allowed to reach them.

Shiites are not allowed to hold their celebrations and conferences as well as dissemination of their faith and thoughts.

An Egyptian Shiite and professor of medicine at Mansura University Ahmed Rasim An-Nafis said: "There have been smear campaigns about us in the state press and in mosques, and our loyalty has been questioned."

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 sectís 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.

"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.

Dr Abdul-Mo'ti, a teacher in Al-azhar University said in this regard: "There exists no security threat to Egypt from Shiite Mazhab because it is not out of Islam and similarly Shiites are not infidels."

Dr Aminah Nasseer, a professor of Fiqh (Jurisprudence) in Al-Azhar said: "saying that Shiites are security threat in Egypt is wrong."      

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