Earlier this week, an angry mob in a small village near Cairo attacked and lynched a group of Shia Muslims, a horrific episode that resulted in the murders of four men. The incident came two weeks after posters were widely displayed in the village accusing Shia of being “stooges of the Jews.”
Members of Al-Nour Party, an Islamist party and a member of Egypt’s governing coalition led by the Muslim Brotherhood, reportedly displayed these posters on the walls of the village’s homes. One poster, circulated on Twitter, has the logo of Al-Nour Party on the top right corner of the poster.
The posters included images of outgoing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is perceived as a symbol of the Iranian-led Shia expansion in the Sunni Muslim world, shaking hands with members of Neturei Karta, an extreme anti-Israel group. The photos represent an absurd attempt to demonstrate a “Jewish-Shia’a alliance” that is allegedly plotting to gain control over the Sunni Muslim world.
Two weeks after the posters first appeared, a hostile group of villagers attacked the house of a Shia family who lived in the village. Members of the small Shia community had gathered in the house to attend a religious ceremony led by Hassan Shahata, a prominent Egyptian Shia cleric. Four men were killed during the brutal attack, including Shahata himself.
Graphic images of the violence showed the mob dragging the bodies of the victims through the streets of the village while police officers watched from a distance.
A young daughter of one of the victims who witnessed the assault told a reporter from an Egyptian news agency, “Is this the form of religion they want to implement and they speak about? Even if we were Jews they shouldn’t have done this to us.”
Last week, a large billboard in Tripoli showed Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah with a Star of David on his turban and blood dripping from his mouth. The poster, the work of a rival Sunni group, was intended to demonize Nasrallah in the worst possible way: by characterizing him as a Jew. Indeed, linking one’s enemy to Jews is a theme of the rising sectarian tension in the Muslim world. The recent lynching incident is a reminder of the potentially brutal consequences of such accusations.