CAIRO: The Interior Ministry reportedly summoned Islamic scholars to lecture state security investigation officers on Shia Islam, according to an article in Al-Masry Al-Youm s Thursday edition.
The report, entitled “Interior Ministry summons clerics to train state security officers on fighting Shia thought, quotes Dr Abdel Moneim El-Berry, head of the Front of Al-Azhar Scholars, as saying that the ministry summoned a number of scholars specialized in Shia Islam after “the entry of thousands of Shia Muslims into Sixth of October City.
Iraqis fleeing the war have settled in Sixth of October City in large numbers.
El-Berry is also reported as saying that Shia Muslims in Sixth of October City are “attempting to penetrate Sunni Egyptian society in order to spread Shia thought and that the Interior Ministry “is now trying to combat this by teaching state security officers how to deal with it.
He also alleged that Shia groups opposed to Sunni Islam have spread recently in several of Cairo’s new towns.
El-Berry could not be reached for comment on the authenticity of his quotes at time of press.
Mohamed El-Derini, secretary general of the Supreme Council for the Care of the Prophet’s Family, strongly repudiated El-Berry’s comments.
He told Daily News Egypt that these statements represent the latest in a series of attacks on Shia Muslims.
“This is not new from a regime which continually exercises a policy of oppression, he told Daily News Egypt.
El-Derini has himself been detained several times, most recently in 2007 when he was held for two months in October and charged with “promoting extreme Shia beliefs with the intent of causing contempt for the Islamic religion. He was also charged with “spreading false rumors and propaganda which undermine trust in security agencies by claiming that prisoners and detainees have died as a result of torture in prisons.
Adel Ramadan, a lawyer with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) which provided legal assistance to El-Derini, told Daily News Egypt that while Al-Azhar recognizes Shia Islam, security bodies demonstrate a suspicion of the minority belief.
“The authorities seem to have a fear of Shia Islam and the spread of what they perceive as Iranian political influence in Egypt, Ramadan said.
He said that the detention of Shia Muslims for their beliefs is always rejected by judicial authorities.
“It is not the role of the state to launch a campaign against the peaceful expression of religious belief, and a security operation against Shia Muslims would in any case be unsuccessful.
“Cases of the detention of Shia Muslims in which EIPR has been involved, were thrown out by the public prosecution office, he continued.