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Egypt's Sisi destroys Sufi holy site to make way for highway

Sufism is a set of practices within Islam often characterised as a focus on mysticism[Twitter]

Date of publication: 21 August, 2019

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Egypt's president has ordered the demolition of a Sufi mosque and shrine in the coastal city of Alexandria to make way for a highway despite protests from faithful.

Egypt's president has ordered the demolition of a Sufi mosque and shrine in the coastal city of Alexandria to make way for a highway despite protests from faithful.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi defended the move in a speech on Saturday, arguing that the Prophet Muhammad would not have opposed the destruction of the house of worship.

"Prophet Muhammad would not have accepted the suspension of a project just because people see the demolition of a mosque as unacceptable," local media quoted Sisi as saying.

The move comes despite opposition from followers of the Sufi order who congregate at the mosque, which houses the tomb of their sheikh, Abu al-Ikhlas al-Zarqani.

Zarqani's followers have long resisted government efforts to level the building to make way for development projects. Last year, they held a sit-in at the site to prevent its destruction.

A religious official told state media that accusations the demolition was sacrilegious were "plots hatched by enemies of the country".

"The place itself is not sacred," he said.

Officials have said Zarqani's body has been temporarily moved and that they will build a new shine for the Sufi order.

Sufism is a set of practices within Islam often characterised as a focus on spirituality or mysticism.

Tombs of Sufi saints are found adjacent to thousands of mosques across the country.

Extremists, such as Islamic State group accuse Sufis of polytheism - the greatest sin in Islam - for seeking the intercession of saints and visiting their graves.

In 2017, the IS carried out the deadliest terror attack in Egypt's modern history killed 305 people at Sufi mosque in the Sinai.

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