Thursday, April 02, 2009

Baha'is in Egypt: Mob Mentality


The following story in the Associated Press reads like something out of the Dawnbreakers. (Note: I have not yet verified the facts of this story through official Baha'i sources.)

CAIRO (AP) — Dozens of Muslim villagers have attacked the homes of members of the minority Baha'i religion in southern Egypt, hurling firebombs and denouncing them as "enemies of God," human rights groups said Thursday.

The attacks began Saturday after a prominent Egyptian media commentator denounced a Baha'i activist in a television appearance as an "apostate" and called for her to be killed.

The Baha'i religion was founded in the 1860s by a Persian nobleman, Baha'u'llah, whom the faithful regard as the most recent in a line of prophets that included Buddha, Abraham, Jesus and Muhammad. Muslims reject the faith because they believe Muhammad was God's final prophet, and Baha'is have been persecuted in the Middle East.

In Egypt, where the majority of the country's nearly 80 million people are Sunni Muslim, the Baha'i faith is not recognized as an official religion. The head of Al-Azhar, Egypt's dominant religious authority, has also declared it a "sacrilegious dogma."

After five days of violence, calm returned Wednesday to the village of Shouraniya, located about 215 miles south of Cairo. No one was injured in the attacks.

The village's 15 Baha'i residents were forced to leave, and police have prevented them from returning, rights groups said.

Egypt's Interior Ministry confirmed the attacks and said police have made arrests. But it denied that police stopped the Baha'i residents from returning to their village.

"This is just an incident, and we are investigating," ministry spokesman Gen. Hamdi Abdel-Karim said. He declined to provide more details.

During the violence, the attackers shouted "No God but Allah" and "Baha'is are enemies of Allah" as they hurled stones through windows, a group of six Egyptian human rights organizations said in a joint statement. On Tuesday, assailants also threw fire bombs, damaging five homes, they said.

Abdel-Sameia el-Sayyed, one of the Baha'i villagers, said a mob looted his house and destroyed his possessions. He said he fled the village Tuesday with his wife and five children.

"I have lived there for 45 years — all my life — and I had to leave it for the sake of my children's safety," he told The Associated Press.

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and the other rights groups called on authorities to investigate claims that police were reluctant to stop the violence.

The rights groups also accused the media commentator, Gamal Abdel-Rahim, of inciting the violence. Abdel-Rahim praised the Shouraniya assailants in a commentary published Tuesday in the state-run Al-Gomhouria newspaper.


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