The Egyptian Shia community have demanded greater protections in the country’s new constitution expected to go to public referendum by the end of the year.
In particular Egyptian Shias want more emphasis on freedom of religion as well as protection from discrimination and hate speech.
Shia community leader Salem al-Sabbagh said the 50-member Constituent Assembly had denied Shias representation and declined to listen to their demands. He threatened that Shias will give a “no” vote to the draft constitution if it fails to respect their freedom from religious hatred and discrimination.
Sabbagh told Egypt Independent that Saudi Arabia has been pressuring the current regime not to recognize Shias and to ignore their demands, claiming that the Gulf kingdom, the birthplace of Sunni Islam, is possibly threatening to halt financial aid if the Egyptian regime changes its stance on Shias.
Sabbagh said that the extent of intimidation and threats Shias face from Salafis has largely receded, noting that animosity from Salafis was a lot higher under the rule of Islamist President Mohamed Morsy and the Muslim Brotherhood.
He explained that while Shias had hoped that Islamists could manage the country successfully, they failed dramatically and spread fear among various groups in Egyptian society.
Sabbagh said Shias have been receiving threats from Sahb Wal Al, adding that those threats have been met with restraint.
“We are aware that this group is looking to spread chaos in the country, thus, if someone is killed, they would compare him to Hassan Shehata who died during the rule of toppled President Mohamed Morsy.”