Security forces on Monday put an end to the Ashura celebrations of nearly 3000 Shias inside Cairo's Hussein Mosque.
The event, which marks the death of the Prophet Mohamed's grandson Imam Hussein, was attended by senior figures from Egypt's Shia community.
Security authorities shut the mosque's shrine to Hussein, fearing non-Shia citizens would react angrily to the celebrations. Seven visitors were detained, including Mohamed al-Deriny, a leading Egyptian Shia.
The Endowments Ministry undersecretary, Mohamed Abdel Rahman, said that Shias had not obtained permission to celebrate inside the mosque.
“We were surprised to find them inside, performing barbaric and unreligious rituals. Security forces forced them out,” Abdel Rahman said.
Ashura is the biggest event in the Shia Muslim calendar, and includes chanting and self-flagellation to commemorate Hussein, who died in the battle of Karbala in Iraq in the year 680. The vast majority of Egyptian Muslims follow the Sunni denomination.
Workers at the Hussein Mosque told Al-Masry Al-Youm that they were surprised to find a group of Shias entering the mosque late Monday. They said male visitors did not perform the evening prayer but performed rituals, while women wept and wailed, which rattled other worshippers.
"We asked them to leave, but they declined. So we sought the assistance of police and citizens to drive them out. They protested outside the mosque in objection," one worker told the newspaper.
Some Shias attacked Al-Masry Al-Youm's photographer, Mohamed al-Shamy, and forced him to delete what he had filmed of the celebration.
Assistant Endowments Minister, Fouad Abdel Azim, inspected the mosque early Tuesday, instructing workers to keep Shias outside, the workers added.
Shia community leaders complained of persecution and detention under the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak. Taher al-Hashemy, a senior Shia figure, says Shias abstained from performing their rituals to avoid detention by the now dissolved State Security Investigation Services.
Translated from the Arabic Edition