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Egypt's Shiite Muslims saw the Sunni hatred grow under Morsi

Few groups view the ouster of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi with as much relief as Shiite Muslims.

August 10, 2013|By Shashank Bengali

Shehata, two of his brothers and a fourth man went outside to placate the crowd, but attackers set upon them with sticks and metal rods, beating them until they collapsed. Video made at the scene shows one man, motionless, his arms and legs bound with rope, being dragged through the street as a mob cheers, "God is great!"

The attack stunned many Egyptians. Morsi and top Brotherhood officials condemned it. But in a pointed omission, they did not specify that the victims were Shiites. Activists would say later that sectarian tension had been building in Abu Mussalem, where, a few weeks earlier, Salafi clerics had led a march through the village chanting that Shiites were heretics.

Bahaa Anwar, a Shiite activist in Cairo, said he received a call from the village that afternoon as the mob was gathering. He notified the police, but witnesses said that though officers in riot gear arrived before the worst of the attack, they waited to intervene until Shehata and the three others were killed.

Anwar called it "an assassination."

His organization, the Fatimid Human Rights Center, on the sixth floor of a grand, moldering office building downtown, was an early supporter of Rebel, the youth movement that organized protests that led to Morsi's ouster. Although some in that movement have expressed concern about the post-coup political transition, Anwar had only praise for the military's road map to elections and a new constitution.

His group has called for Shiite representation on the committee that will finalize constitutional amendments. And it is preparing lawsuits that aim to dissolve the Brotherhood and the Nour Party, the Salafists' main political arm.

"They are dangerous," Anwar said, "but we have to free our country from them."

shashank.bengali@latimes.com

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