Egypt/Libya: Questions on Minorities Freedom After the Revolution

This post is part of our special coverage Egypt Revolution 2011.

Adherents of the Shiaa sect in Egypt have been prevented from commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Hussein bin Ali, the grandson of Prophet Mohammed, in Cairo's Al Hussein mosque. Many of them were also arrested. In neighbouring Libya, Soufi mosques and shrines have been destroyed by Salafis. Those attacks on freedom of religion in countries which ousted their dictators, have raised questions among netizens.

As a Muslim minority, Egyptian Shiaa, as well as Shiite expatiates living in Egypt were not allowed to to celebrate their events in Egypt during the Mubarak regime. This year, and after the fall of Mubarak, they decided to commemorate the event of Ashura freely for the first time in Egypt [ar].

One of the participants said [ar]:

إن الاحتفالات هذا العام تأتي في إطار الحرية الفكرية الذى تعيش فيها البلاد بعد ثورة الشعب المصرى العظيم، وحرصًا من شيعة مصر على تغيير النظرة السلبية التى صنعتها أجهزة إعلام النظام السابق للشيعة
The commemorations this year come in the light of the freedom of speech the country lives in after the revolution of the great Egyptians, and it comes as part of the Egyptian Shiaa to change the negative image created about them by the media of the old regime.

Not really optimistic about the level of freedom in Egypt now, Tarek Galal commented on the news:

يا خوفى لتكون آخر أحتفالية لهم فى مصر
@ALTAREKQ: @eahram I'm afraid this might be their last time to commemorate it as well

Later on, the same newspaper published [ar] that the mosque and shrine of Al-Hussain, where about 1,000 people gathered to commemorate the event was closed, and some of those commemorating the occasion were arrested. Netizens commented on the news and it's relationship to the level of freedom they are looking forward to have in the country now [ar].

@Psypherize: Egyptian Shiites arrested while celebrating #Ashura in front of Al-Hussein Mosque. And you think you're free? #Egypt #Tahrir

@SalmaIhab: Ok seriously! People didn't allow the Shiite in #egypt to celebrate ashoura. Come on! Thought this was a new era and all..oh boy!

@SarahZaaimi: Feels outraged! They arrested many Shia in #Egypt today trying to commemorate #Ashura in Al Hussein!

ياللا الأقلية اللي بعديها
@Sherpiny: The turn is now against the next minority!

Some others were astonished to know there are Egyptians practicing the Shiaa sect of Islam in Egypt.

ايه حكاية الشيعة دول كمان . هى مصر فعلاً فيها شيعة؟
@little_skipper: What's the story of those Shiaa now? Are there Shiaa in Egypt!?

While others have a different opinion, like @ahlalsunna2, who warned [ar] about what he called a “Shiite cancer in Egypt”, and that of a commenter on the news in Al-Ahram Gate [ar], who said:

فين ايامك يا مبارك .. كنت قاطع ذنب هؤلاء الروافض ولا يستجري اي واحد فيهم ان يجهر بنفسه.. تلك من حسناتك الحقيقية
We miss your days Mubarak … you were oppressing those Shiaa and none of them ever dared to speak out freely … this was one of your real positives.

The detainees were release after five hours of investigations [ar].

In Libya, a neighbouring country where another revolution took place this year, there have been news of attacks on Sufi Mosques and Shrines in the county [ar]. The National Transitional Council and Libyan officials condemned these acts [ar], which drew mixed reactions on Twitter.

Salah Fadhly notes:

السلفيون يبدأون بهدم أضرحة الصوفية في ليبيا التشدد السلفي يغزو ليبيا
@salahfadly Salafis started attacking Sufi shrines in Libya, Salafi extremism is spreading in Libya

And iAmaal adds:

صورة مشرقة في مصراتا عسى أن تعم ليبيا ، وتكون سنة حسنة في مصر وتونس وسوريا واليمن ، وهي هدم أضرحة الشرك ، والزوايا الصوفية
@iAmaal_: It's a great scene in Misrata and I wish to see this across the whole of Libya soon. Wish to see the same in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and Yemen. Destroying the infidel shrines and Soufi mosques.

Is freedom of beliefs going flourish after the revolutions in the Arab World, or will some extremists impose intolerance and sectarianism?

This post is part of our special coverage Egypt Revolution 2011.

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