It was former Egyptian President Husni Mubarak who famously said during a 2006 interview with Al-Arabiya television, “Shiites are 65 percent of the Iraqis … most of the Shiites are loyal to Iran, and not to the countries they are living in.”
Mubarak, worried over the influx of Iraqi Shia fleeing sectarian persecution in the aftermath of the 2003 war, co-opted scholars of Cairo’s prestigious Al-Azhar University to counter the perceived threat. As the Egyptian daily Al-Musry Al-Yaum reported in its July 2008 headline, “Ministry of Interior Calls Scholars to Train State Security Investigation Officers on Combating the Shiite Ideology.”
Dr. Mohammed Abdel-Moneim al-Barri, professor of Islamic Culture, revealed that the Interior Ministry asked him and other scholars at Al-Azhar to lecture security officers on how to oppose the feared “spread” of Shiism.
He was complicit with the designs of the regime, in effect, by instructing personnel at the notorious Mazra’a Tora prison where political detainees were jailed and tortured. Al-Barri was apparently ignorant of the landmark 1959 fatwa by Al-Azhar head Mahmoud Shaltoot which affirmed the Jaafari (Shia) school to be as religiously correct as any of the Sunni schools.
After the revolution deposed Mubarak, hopes were raised for a thaw in the chilly—if not ice-cold—relations between Egypt and Iran. The visit by newly-elected President Muhammad Mursi to Tehran in August 2012 as part of the Non-Aligned Movement summit was the first by an Egyptian leader since diplomatic relations were severed after the Islamic Revolution and Egypt’s recognition of Israel.