Egyptians fear Shia pilgrims following Iran tourism link-up
Egyptian Islamist preacher Safwat Hijazi has voiced objection to a tourism agreement with Iran, expressing fear that Ayatollah’s regime in Tehran might be sending Shiite missionaries disguised as tourists.
Hijazi told Al Arabiya in an interview aired Monday that Iran tends to “stir problems wherever it exists” like Iran and Syria. He pointed out that since the Islamic Revolution, the Ayatollah’s regime in Tehran has sought to disseminate the Shiite doctrine, especially among the Sunnis.
Hijazi added that Iranian tourists will not go to Egypt to visit the country and enjoy what it has to offer but they will go to spread the religious doctrine.
Egypt’s tourism minister has said in previous interview with Al Arabiya that Cairo will take “very strict measures” to ensure that Iranian tourists are coming only for tourists.
Tourism Minister Hisham Zazou insisted however that boosting tourism relations with Iran will benefit Egypt.
Egypt’s tourism sector has been negatively affected by the country’s political crisis.
The proposal has been well-studied, and takes into consideration all concerns Egyptians may have, Zazou said.
Some 10 million Iranian tourists travel every year, mostly to Iraq and Gulf countries, he added.
“All countries have relations with Iran except for Egypt, Israel and the United States. No problems have occurred because of any Iranian tourists in any country,” Zazou said.
There will be “very strict measures” to guarantee that Iranians will only visit Egypt for the purpose of tourism, he said.
Iran’s request to boost tourism relations was not made out of religious motives, but out of interest in different civilizations, including Egyptian history and monuments, Zazou added.
Tourism programs will not include visits to religious sites, and demand will be predominantly for Nile River cruises, said the minister, who met with Iran’s president last week.
Small groups will be allowed into Egypt to begin with, and if there are any problems, “Iranian tourism will be immediately cancelled,” said Zazou, who signed a memorandum of understanding during his visit to Iran.