Salafi Violence against Sufis

Salafi groups have been accused of perpetrating the destruction and burning of a number of Sufi mosques and shrines. These shrine affairs are a reflection of the resurgence of the long suppressed animosity between the Salafists and the Sufis, who adopt opposing perceptions on issues related to the interpretation of Quran and Sunna. For Sufis, shrines are sacred sites at which to pray and to worship through celebration; for Salafists, shrines are an abomination against Islam and the teaching of the Prophet.

As reported in Al-Ahram Weekly, in early April, 2011, Sufis held massive protest before Al-Hussein Mosque, as well as a march from Al-Azhar Mosque to Al-Hussein Mosque a few days earlier, expressing outrage at the destruction of the shrines belonging to holy men and women held in the highest esteem by the Sufi community. The Grand Mufti of Egypt, Ali Gomaa, dedicated his Friday sermon at Al-Azhar Mosque to denouncing those who spark strife. The Islamic Research Centre, led by Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed El-Tayeb, has also sharply renounced the attacks on the shrines. Gaber Qassem, deputy of the Sufi Orders, stated that around 14 shrines have been violated since the January 2011 revolution. Again as reported by al-Ahram, the Sufi community is mobilizing a unified front to protect the hundreds of shrines across Egypt. Sheikh Tarek El-Rifai, head of the Rifai Sufi Order, said that a number of Salafis have also allegedly prevented Sufi prayers in Al-Haram. Sheikh Rifai said that the order's lawyer has filed a report at the Al-Haram police station to that effect. Rifai affirmed that any resort to violence from Salafists could breed grave consequences. Sheikh Alaaeddin Madi Abul-Azaem, sheikh of the Azamiya Sufi Order, warned against a civil war "beyond imagination, should the destruction of shrines persist".

According to a report from Ahram Online, the Ministry of Religious Endowments held a meeting in Alexandria between prominent Salafist and Sufi leaders. A memorandum of reconciliation was signed; Salafists asserted that they had neither demolished the shrines nor would they incite such behavior. The Muslim Brotherhood also lent their weight in support of reconciliation. Dr. Gamal Heshmat, prominent Brotherhood member, declared his readiness to mediate between the Sufis and Salafists.

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