On the night of mid Sha’ban, an eve which, according to all denominations of Islam, including Sunnis and Shi’ite Muslims, Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) used to spend the night in prayer and supplication to God Almighty, the civilized world was shocked at the gory murder of four devoted Muslims in Giza, near Cairo, at the hands of the dastardly Salafists, who shamelessly follow the brutal customs of the Arabs of Jahiliyya.
The Islamic Republic of Iran and all conscientious leaders and scholars have rightly denounced the incident as a plot hatched by the enemies of Islam to sow discord amongst Muslims, and have asked the government of Egypt to bring the culprits to justice.
Here is a special feature on the martyrdom of Egypt’s revered Shi’ite Muslim religious leader, Shaikh Hassan Shahata, and three other innocent Muslims.
The civilized world wash shocked at Sunday's attack in the village of Zawiyet Abu Musalam, near the Pyramids of Giza, as about 30 Shi’ite Muslims were having a meal to mark a religious occasion. Hundreds of Salafists descended upon them in the house with metal and wooden clubs, swords and machetes, to beat them on the head and back, trapping them in the narrow entrance of the house, as police passively looked on without preventing the crime.
Despite pleas for mercy for the sake of Islam, as blood streamed down their heads and soaked their robes, the seditious crowd shamelessly shouted "Allah-u Akbar" and heaped insults on the followers of the Ahl al-Bayt or Blessed Household of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA). One video shows a young man dragging the motionless and bloodied body of one victim by a rope.
Afterwards, the attackers sadistically congratulated each other, one witness, local activist Hazem Barakaat, said in written and video account of the events he posted online. He said that in the weeks preceding the attack, Salafi clerics in the area had been speaking out against Shi’ite Muslims.
More shocking was the indifference shown by the self-styled Islamic government of Egypt, as well as al-Azhar which claims to be the seat of Sunni Muslim learning, and which was ironically founded by Shi’ite Muslims over a thousand years ago. A mere two-paragraph statement by President Mohammad Morsi's office said the culprits must be found quickly and brought to justice, adding that authorities will not be "lenient" with anyone who interferes with the nation's security and stability. But few believe that Morsi was serious in view of his dalliance with the Salafist culprits.
Opponents of President Morsi said he was in part responsible for implicitly supporting his hard-line allies as they stir up incitement against Shi’ite Muslims, as part of support for the foreign backed Salafist terrorism in Syria where the legal government of President of Bashshar al-Assad is under attack by terrorists armed by the US, Israel, and Arab reactionary regimes, such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
A week earlier, Morsi had appeared on stage with Salafists leaders who were denouncing Shi’ite Muslims as "filthy", despite the fact that all forms of terrorism and cannibalism is being committed around the world by the Salafists. Critics warn that militants are acting with dangerous impunity. Police identified 13 suspects but have not yet made any arrests, security officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.
A spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails, also denounced the killings. But in a seeming show of distaste for fellow Muslims, he would not refer to the victims as Shi’ites Muslims. In a posting on his Facebook page, Ahmed Aref identified them as "the four dead who have beliefs of their own that are alien to our society."
The violence was startling, even in a country where violence has increased dramatically in the two years after the ouster of autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Mobs in rural areas have in recent months lynched anyone not agreeing with them. Violence has also become a feature of Egypt's polarized politics, with opponents and supporters of Morsi repeatedly clashing in the streets. Attacks against Christians, their businesses or churches have risen in frequency.
Sunday's attack, in contrast, seemed a straight-forward unleashing of hatreds, prompted only by the Shi’ite Muslims staunch adherence to the holy Qur’an and the Ahl al-Bayt, in accordance with the famous Hadith Saqalayn of the Prophet, which is widely mentioned even in Sunni books. Egypt's population of 90 million is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim, with about 10 percent Christians. The small Shi’ite Muslim minority is largely hidden and its size never firmly established, though some estimates put it as high as 2 to 3 million. The past few months have seen a dramatic rise in hate speeches by the Salafists, many of whom are Morsi supporters. The plot is to stir sectarian discord between the Sunnis and Shi’ite Muslims by these Salafists, who cannot even be called Sunnis.
Bahaa Anwar Mohammed, a spokesman for Egypt's Shi’ite Muslims, charged Morsi and the Brotherhood with "sacrificing Egypt's Shi’ite Muslims to please the Salafists." Analysts believe Morsi is trying to attract Salafist support ahead of mass protests due June 30 by secular and liberal opposition and youth movements calling for his ouster. The tactic came after one Salafist group, an-Nour Party, dropped its support for the president.
At a June 15 rally attended by Morsi, aimed at showing support for Syrian rebels, Salafist clerics railed against Shi’ite Muslims, calling on Morsi "not to open the doors of Egypt" to the followers of the School of the Prophet’s Ahl al-Bayt. In a similar vein, a cleric who addressed the rally denounced those participating in the June 30 protests as non-believers, reciting a prayer traditionally used against "enemies" of God and Islam.
The increase in anti-Shi’ite Muslim rhetoric came in part as a backlash against an attempt by Morsi to reach out to the Islamic Republic of Iran after nearly 30 years of frosty Cairo-Tehran relations. The an-Nour Party has put up posters around the county to distort the truth by falsely accusing Shi’ite Muslims of desecrating the Qur’an, when it is the Salafist terrorists who regularly desecrate the holy Qur’an in Syria, Bahrain, Pakistan and elsewhere.
There are roughly 30 Shi’ite Muslim families in Abu Mussalem. Shahata was a leading figure in Egypt's tiny Shi’ite Muslim community. He was jailed several times under the regime of ousted president Hosni Mubarak after being falsely accused of insulting religion, residents said. "Shehata had been attending a religious ceremony at the house of one resident," Shi’ite Muslim resident, Ziya Moharram told reporters in tears. Carpenter Yasser Yahya said that when people found out Shahata was in the house, they asked the owner to hand the cleric over but he refused. "They stormed in and attacked the place. The damaged the house, broke a wall and dragged the Shi’ite Muslims out one by one and beat them to death," he said. "We tried to save them but the people were adamant they were going to kill them," said Sameh al-Masri. Shi’ite Muslim leaders in Egypt have said they will give authorities the chance to apprehend the killers of the Giza village massacre, before they "internationalize" the case and file a lawsuit with an international legal body against leading government figures. The suit, the leaders said, would target President Mohamed Morsy, Prime Minister Hesham Qandil, Interior Minister Mohammad Ibrahim and the head of Giza's security directorate. Egypt’s Shi’ite Muslims have demanded the armed forces protect them from Salafist criminals, amid growing fears of the spread of sectarian incitement and violence. “We have documents implicating those who incited the killings,” said Shi’ite Muslim spokesperson Bahaa al-Anwar, adding that his persecuted community was coordinating with civil society organizations to pressure the government to stop sectarianism and enforce the law. He said the local residents had cheered the deaths because they were made to believe that Egypt’s Shi’ite Muslims were under the influence of the Islamic Republic of Iran and attempting to convert the Sunni majority.
Anwar called for human rights activists and the media to “save the lives of thousands of Shi’ite Muslims,” saying: “We called the police, and all they did was watch the massacre and refuse to interfere.” He added that police officers “knew this would happen, as they wanted Shahata to die. According to Anwar “over 300 people attacked 24 people, and I hold responsible the Salafist Sheikhs who have been inciting people against the Shi’ite Muslims over the last two weeks in the village, by falsely accusing them of spreading debauchery.”
Anwar said he believes this incident has occurred days before 30 June on purpose, as it marks one of the “worst sectarian incidents involving Shi’ite Muslims in Egypt in recent years.” He added “we believe that the Muslim Brotherhood is using them as a lesson to show all Egyptian citizens what will happen to them if they oppose the regime.” Anwar added that “this is also a [tactic] by the Brotherhood to drag the Salafists into joining them in the upcoming protests.”Ramy Ghanem, a lawyer for the Shi’ite Muslim victims, said that while he had yet to file the case, he predicted a difficult bureaucratic fight, given the false propaganda in Egypt against the Shi’ite Muslims.
Despite this, he noted that “what happened on Sunday was spread throughout all media outlets, and we are planning on [using this to help] get them their rights.” Ghanem said that the local Shi’ite Muslim community held a meeting on Monday afternoon to discuss means of securing their own safety. The group plans on holding a press conference after 30 June, where they would ask all political parties to join them. “The conference will be held after 30 June, because the Shi’ite Muslims do not want anyone to say [these protests] began because of the Shi’ite Muslims,” said Ghanem.
Meanwhile, top reform campaigner Mohammad al-Baradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, wrote in his Twitter account: "Killing and dragging Egyptians because of their faith is a hideous result of the disgusting 'religious' discourse which was left to mushroom." He said: "We are waiting for decisive steps from the regime and al-Azhar before we lose what is left of our humanity." His Dustour Party blamed the president. It said the attack was "a direct result of the disgusting hate speech ... escalating and expanding under the sight ... of the regime and in presence of its president and with his blessings."
Mohammed Ghoneim, the leader of at-Tayyar ash-Shi’a, an informal coalition of Shi’ite Muslims in Egypt, addressed the government, asking it to provide full protection for the community. “The incident that took place in Abu Mussalam is shocking, especially that it happened on the night of mid-Sha’ban,” said Ghoneim, noting that the security forces were aware of this incident and did nothing to stop it.
Responding to the lynching, Misr al-Qawia Party founder Abdel Moneim Abu’l-Fotouh said that such “acts of aggression” and “taking the people’s rights to choose what they believe” are “an awful crime,” adding that “all preachers who encourage such acts must be charged.” "For three weeks the Salafist sheikhs in the village have been attacking the Shi’ite Muslims by falsely accusing them of being infidels and spreading debauchery." Hazem Barakaat, an eyewitness and photojournalist, told Ahram Online, "I saw several Shias stabbed several times while they were being dragged in some sort of public lynching."
Barakaat, who reported the incident live on Twitter, took photos and videos showing one of the Shi’ite Muslims dragged in the street after being beaten. This is happening in a land, where the Fatemid Ismaili Shi’ite Muslim Dynasty ruled for over two centuries until 8 centuries ago, and built the city of Cairo along with its many beautiful mosques and madrasahs.