Egypt’s Shiite Muslim minority is demanding official recognition by the state, permission to establish congregation halls, and a fixed quota of seats in national parliament, local media reported Wednesday.
Mohamed Ghoneim, head of the Egyptian Shiite Current organization, has called on President Mohammed Mursi as well as the official religious establishment of Azhar to consider their demands, said Egyptian newspaper al-Mesryoon.
In the interview, Ghoneim stressed that Shiites have the right to practice their rituals without persecution and called for the establishment of “Husseiniyat” halls in which they can gather to mourn the death of al-Hussein ibn Ali, son of Prophet Mohammed’s cousin, Ali ibn Abi Taleb, and one of the most venerated figures in the Shiite faith.
“This will be the first step towards applying the principles of citizenship on Egyptian Shiites so that they would feel equal to the rest of Egyptians,” he told the newspaper.
Ghoneim argued that Shiites made up the third largest religious group in Egypt, after Sunni Muslims and Coptic Orthodox, and that is why they needed to fair representation in parliament.
“Shiites have to be represented in the People’s Assembly, the lower house of parliament, and the Consultative Assembly, the upper house of parliament, as is the case with Copts so that they would be integrated in the society and would no longer be treated as outcasts,” he reportedly said.
Commenting on the visit of President Mursi to Iran, Ghoneim told the newspaper it was unlikely that ties between the two countries will be restored soon.
“There are so many pending files, like the security of the Gulf. There is also fear of Shiite infiltration in Egypt, even though Iran reassured Egypt about this several times,” he said.
Mursi, Ghoneim added, is also facing a lot of pressure from the U.S. and Israel not to establish ties with Iran.
“Both countries do not want to see a normalization take place between Egypt and Iran,” he reportedly said.