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Mohamed Farag
محمد فرج
Mohamed Farag was born in Alexandria and now lives and works in Cairo. He has reported for several newspapers, including 'Tajamoa', 'Addustour', 'Elbadil', and the Lebanese daily 'Assafir'. He is currently the cultural editor at 'Akhbar Aladab' newspaper.

"Internal Affairs Are Linked to External Factors."

Ahmed Rasim Al Nafis Egypt Shiite professor
Dr. Ahmad Rasim al-Nafis
"Internal Affairs Are Linked to External Factors."
Shiite scholar Ahmad Rasim al-Nafis about the murder of four Shiites and sectarianism in Egypt under the Brotherhood.
1/7/2013 | Cairo

"The massacre of Abu Muslim Village would never have taken place had Syrian oppositionists not been defeated in Al-Qusayr battle in Syria," says Egyptian Shiite intellectual Ahmad Rasim al-Nafis about four brutal murders committed against Egyptian Shiites in the village of Abu Muslim in Giza Governorate, on the west bank of the Nile.  

The killings occurred after President Mohamed Morsi called for Jihad in Syria in mid-June, and the escalation of Salafists' declarations from the dais of the elected president, calling for cleansing Egypt of Shiites.

Egyptian Shiite intellectual Ahmad Rassem Nafis explains the events in Syria and its effect on the treatment of Shiites in Egypt.

Mr. Ahmad Rasim al-Nafis, the murder of preacher Hassan Shehatah and three of his regular house visitors is the first violent action of its kind committed against Shiites in Egypt. How would you analyze it?

The incident cannot be separated from the on-going Sunni-Shiite conflict invading the region from Iraq to Lebanon via Syria. After the defeat of terrorist Sunni opposition forces in Al-Qusayr Battle, 'Hatla' – a Syrian Shiite village – was attacked and a Shiite intellectual was killed with his sons. Invaders were crying 'A day for Al-Qusayr day.' And while Salafists were breaking into sheikh Shehatah's house, Lebanese Salafists led by Ahmad al-Assir were making a severe attack on the Lebanese army in Sidon.

Some observers link the incident to the Muslim Brotherhood's need for Salafist support prior to the June 30 protests.

Internal affairs are often linked to exterior factors. Despite the large differences between the Brotherhood and the Salafists, the former needed the latter in the mobilization intended to face the June 30 protests. Such conflicts are political while none has managed to prove them as Sunni- Shiite. Some groups that could be described as extremist Sunni are commonly involved, which is evidenced by the many declarations denouncing the murder, clearly showing the core difference among the Sunni different groups. The conflict therefore is heated from time to time to achieve instantaneous aims.

Do you think that this is an incident of an aforethought plan, or it is a simultaneous result of the region’s status-quo?

In the wake of 2006 war against Lebanon, Israel declared the formation of a Sunni-Israeli coalition, an originally American suggestion. The Sunni party meant here is Saudi Arabia and the Wahhabis it patronizes.

What conditions did the Egyptian Shiites live in prior to the revolution?

The Shiites under Mubarak were subjected to repeated practices of detention, investigation, and travel harassment. Whenever I travelled abroad, I was inspected before travelling and had to wait many hours in airports when coming back.

Is it because Shia in Egypt openly reveal their religious identity?

Believing in Shiism is not formally revealed. Whether to reveal it or not is a personally determined issue. A lot of people do not reveal their sectarian belonging; while the positions many others occupy make it hard to hide such belongings. I, for example, am known to belong to Shia by my writings and books.

During that period, there was no orientation toward any certain organizational form?

The concept of organization is not prioritized for the Shiites. As an individual and a writer, I am against meetings and organizations and I spend most of my time at home reading, researching and writing. I however was accused of forming a Shiite organization only because I used to meet some people, and I was detained more than once, of which the last was in 1996. However, when the revolution broke out, we thought of founding the Liberation Party.

Was the revolutionary environment a source of hope for you to express political thought?

Indeed. But, under the military council, a certain partnership combined both the military rulers and the Brotherhood. On September 9, 2011, I survived an assassination attempt. Threats then started to be leveled against the party as a whole. And when it was suspended and subjected to trials, we froze the project, as we became aware that it was still early to launch such a project and that exerting more efforts would not be useful. However, threats have continued in one way or another.

Political Islamic forces have observed the spread of Shiite Hussainis since the revolution.

Hussainis are mere centers for occasions where people gather to celebrate happy and sad events alike. They are not the worship houses some claim them to be in order to show the Shiites as people of a different religion. Simply, one person prepared a room in his houses to meet friends, but this issue was exaggerated and exploited in this offensive way.

Why do you think it is a global conflict making use of the Shiites?

The status quo in Egypt suggests so. A report on the interior situation in Egypt published on an Israeli intelligence website says armed groups are emerging. Previously, Mubarak's regime dealt with them strictly, but since the revolution, particularly since the Brotherhood came to power, the situation has changed; they become indulged. America is no longer calling for fighting them as terrorists. Contrarily enough, it secretly arms Al-Nusra Front, an organization affiliated with Al-Qaida, while it classifies it as a terrorist organization in public. Such organizations are America's arms to face Iran in particular and Shia in general. That is why it is a cosmic war rather than a conflict arising from the establishment of Hussainis or other matters. The fate of America, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other countries in the region is closely related to the results of the events in Syria.

Image: KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images