CAIRO Jan 5 Egypt stopped 61 Canadian Shi'ite
Muslim pilgrims from entering the country and decided to hold
them at Cairo airport until their onward flight, security
officials said on Sunday.
The Canadians landed in Egypt from Iraq to complete a
pilgrimage to Shi'ite sites in the region, but were kept out on
the orders of security authorities, said airport security
officials who gave no further explanation. Canadians are usually
allowed into Egypt with a visa bought upon arrival.
A spokesman for Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said
Ottawa would react later on Sunday.
The government of Egypt, an overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim
nation, has long been criticised for discriminating against the
country's small Shi'ite community. Egypt's official Islamic
establishment has previously warned against the spread of
The U.S. State Department's religious freedom report for
2012 said the government "continued to harass Shi'ites".
In June, four Egyptian Shi'ites were beaten to death by a
mob, a lynching blamed partly on sectarian passions whipped up
by ultra-orthodox Salafist Muslim allies of President Mohamed
Mursi, who was deposed by the army a few weeks later.
The Shi'ite denomination emerged in the earliest days of
Islam from a dispute over who should lead the Muslim community
after the death of the Prophet Mohammad. The Shi'ites believe
leadership should have passed to Ali, the prophet's son-in-law,
and his descendants.
(Additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Writing by
Tom Perry, Editing by Rosalind Russell)