A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, June 24, 2013

Sectarianism Breaks Out in Egypt and Lebanon

The growing threat of sectarian conflict in the Arab world has seen two new outbursts: an anti-Shi‘ite pogrom in a village in Egypt, and the bloody clashes between the Lebanese Army and a Salafi sheikh's followers in Sidon, Lebanon.

We've talked about the curious fact that Egyptian Salafis and even the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt have a strong streak of anti-Shi‘ite rhetoric, despite the country that Egypt's Shi‘ite minority is minuscule.

Today is the 15th of the month of Sha‘ban, and the night before is celebrated in Muslim tradition (Sunni and Shi‘i) as a nignt when God's mercy is at its most forgiving, a night for prayer and repentance. In a village in Giza Governorate, a small group of Shi‘ites were gathered privately in a private home, with an Egyptian Shi‘ite figure and spokesman named Hasan Shehata attending. A mob, learning of the gathering, surrounded the house, dragged the worshippers out, killed Shehata and three others and injured more, destroying several houses in the process. Zeinobia has details and photos, including some bloody ones. While the lynch-mob killed its victims, police reportedly looked on without intervening.

The fighting in Lebanon is on a larger scale and involves the Lebanse Army, but is also sectarian in inspiration. At least 16 Lebanese soldiers have died in a confrontation between the Army and the supporters of raidcal Salafi leader Ahmad al-Assir in Sidon. Qifa Nabki offers some background on Assir's gamble, which is quickly turning against him; he's denouncing the Lebanese Army as instruments of Iran and Hizbullah. But in a country that has already postponed Parliamentary elections and witnessed fighting in its north and east as the war in Syria echoes inside Lebanon, it adds another front in southern Lebanon.

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