Discrimination against Egyptian Shias; Al-Hussein Mosque closure on Ashura
By: Mubarek Eli
CAIRO, Egypt: The historic mosque of Al-Hussein remained closed
during Ashura to prevent the Shiites to perform mourning of Imam
al-Hussein (p) martyrdom. Human rights activists and Organizations
world over have criticized the banning shias from performing their
rituals. Shias of Egypt have been facing strong discrimination by
The mosque closure from 8th to 10th Muharram followed after an
official statement from the ministry of religious endowments. The
statement claimed that the closure was also meant to prevent “Shia
rituals that don’t belong to Islam.”
“Our visits to the Hussein Mosque are continuous all year, but
visits in those days are of a special nature because they coincide
with the memory of the great loss and the martyrdom of Imam
Hussein,” Egyptian Shiite leader al-Taher al-Hashemy told News
“We are Egyptian citizens, and we have the right to celebrate what
we believe in, the same as Sunni Muslims and Copts,” Al-Hashemi
Isaac Ibrahim, an officer with the Freedom of Religion and Belief
department at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR),
told Daily News Egypt that the government’s move is against the
Egyptian constitution and the International Declaration of Human
“Closing the mosque of Imam Hussein does not only prevent Shi’as
from celebrating the Day of Ashura. There are Sunni Muslims who
frequently go to this mosque as well,” emphasised Ibrahim. Ibrahim
also said that this is not the first act of discrimination committed
against Shi’as. He noted that Egyptian authorities have previously
imprisoned Egyptian Shi’as, accusing them of insulting Prophet
Mohammed and his companions.
The Holy head of Imam Hussein(p) is believed to have been buried
beneath the mausoleum at Al-Hussein Mosque.
Ashura, the 10th day of the Islamic calendar, commemorates the 7th
century Battle of Karbala, Iraq when Al-Hussein(P), the grandson of
the Prophet Muhammad(PBUH), was martyred.
This is not the first time Egypt has closed the mosque ahead of the
Islamic Ashoura festival.
In November 2013, the ministry closed the shrine at the heart of
Al-Hussein Mosque to visitors to avert possible clashes between
Salafists and Shias during the Ashoura commemorations.
During Mohamed Morsi’s reign, Shi’a cleric Hassan Shehata, two of
his siblings, and a student were killed, while dozens of others were
injured, as a result of Sunni-Shi’a sectarian violence in the
district of Abu Mussalam in Giza.
The killings took place when approximately 24 Shi’as gathered at a
local residence to celebrate the birth of Imam Mohammed Ibn Hassan
Al-Mahdi, believed to be the 12th and last imam, in Shi’a Islam. The
gathering was attacked by a mob armed with Molotov cocktails and
Days before the incident, Mohamed Morsi gave a speech in which he
supported the Syrian uprising against the regime of President Bashar
Al-Asaad. In this speech, Morsi oversimplified the upheaval into a
Sunni-Shi’a feud, calling on “the Sunni Islamic world to unite
against a Shi’a dictator”.
In October 2010, under former president Hosni Mubarak, an Egyptian
court jailed more than 10 Shi’as, arguing that “they challenged and
insulted Islam and the Sunni doctrine”.
Furthermore, in February 2014, a Shi’a citizen named Amr Abdullah
was imprisoned for five years for the same reason. Local media
reported that Abdullah was arrested while entering the mosque of
Imam Hussein to commemorate the Day of Ashura.
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