Egypt's parliament has opened an investigation into the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah's reported distribution of money to the poor in the predominantly Sunni Muslim country, according to press reports Monday.
Mohamed Sherdi, MP of al-Wafd opposition party for the northeastern governorate of Port Said, accused Hezbollah of distributing five and 10 Egyptian pound bills with the Shiite party's stamp.
"We found one pound, five pound and 10 pound bills with the Hezbollah stamp on them," Sherdi told Al Arabiya. "These small bills are what people on the lower end of society commonly use so we fear that Hezbollah members in Egypt are distributing money to the poor," he explained.
The stamp printed on the bills says "Hezbollah-Ahl al-Beit- God's bond." Ahl al-Beit refers to the prophet's family and is a common expression used in the Shiite faith.
"They are taking advantage of the people's respect for Ahl al-Beit and their simple minds to manipulate them and attract them to Hezbollah," Sherdi said in his statement to the parliament.
Sherdi suspects that Hezbollah is paying money to the poor to attract them to the Shiite faith and destabilize Egyptian national security and called for taking strict measures against them.
"Egypt is a Sunni country and Hezbollah is trying to expand its influence here in any way possible," Sherdi said.
Gihad Ouda, MP for the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), accused the banned Muslim Brotherhood – a Sunni group -- of helping to distribute the money and co-operating with Hezbollah in Egypt, the London-based Asharq al-Awsat reported.
"We cannot overlook the role of the Muslim Brotherhood," he told the paper. "Two of the arrested Hezbollah members said they were affiliated with the Brotherhood in the past."
Muslim Brotherhood accused
Last month Egypt accused Hezbollah of plotting to carry out attacks inside the country and "spreading Shiite ideology" and arrested 43 people.
But Ouda said that the Egyptian authorities have not arrested all members of the Hezbollah cell in Egypt and that those who distributed the money are the remaining members.
Saad al-Katatni, head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s independent bloc in parliament, denied Ouda's accusations and stressed that the group’s support for Hezbollah comes within the framework of fighting Zionism.
"We are against the Shiite infiltration of Sunni countries," he said. "It is very strange that one of the most prominent Sunni groups is accused of being involved in spreading the Shiite faith."
The relationship between Egypt and Hezbollah has been tense lately after a Hezbollah cell was allegedly discovered to be operating in Egyptian territories. The cell is suspected of comprising 49 members from Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon, and Palestine. The authorities have arrested 21 members.
In a speech last month following the detentions, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah confirmed that Sami Shihab, a Lebanese citizen among the detained, was a member of Hezbollah and was working to help Hamas against Israel.
Hezbollah has denied involvement in any terrorist operations and stressed they are simply offering help to Palestinians.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)