Riots in Egypt
Riots in Egypt AFP photo

The tension in Syria between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims is spilling over into the rest of the Arab world. In a savage incident in Egypt Sunday, thousands of Sunnis lynched and murdered four Sh'ites in the Giza-district village of Zavia Abu Muslam, beating them and burning their houses down.

Some 3,000 Sunnis, led by Salafist religious leaders, conducted their own “Jihad” against the hapless Shi'ites, who were far outnumbered. A top Egyptian Shi'ite leader, Hassan Shachata, was dragged out of his home into the street, beaten to a pulp and then stabbed to death by dozens of Sunnis. Shachata was accused of “insulting the Muslim prophets who came after Muhammad,” village residents said.

Before the executions, Salafist preachers riled up the crowd, portraying the Shi'ites as “heretics” who “spread immorality” in the village. Witnesses said police were present during the events, but did nothing to intervene.

About a million Sh'ites live in Egypt, which has over 82 million residents. Tensions emerged between Sunnis and Shi'ites during the revolution that unseated Hosni Mubarak as president, and they have been sharpened by the fighting in Syria, which has essentially deteriorated into a civil war, with Sunnis on one side, and Sh'ites and Alawite Muslims on the other.