Leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood Essam El-Erian denied Sunday that Egypt could be affected by Shias if tourism to the country among them were expanded, underlining that Egypt’s Sunni identity "is stronger than that."
“Egypt is greater than to penetrated by any thought or current ... Egypt has refused all forms of secularism and welcomed nationalism mixed with Islamism,” said El-Erian on his Facebook page.
There had been loud criticism by Egypt’s Salafists regarding the return of diplomatic ties between Egypt and Iran, with fears expressed of the rising influence of the Shia sect in the country.
Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s historic February visit to Egypt — the first visit of an Iranian leader to the country since the 1970s — met with severe criticism from Salafist groups who issued a statement warning Ahmedinejad not to visit Tahrir Square.
On Friday, Salafists protesters barred the Iranian envoy from attending a Sufi event at Al-Azhar.
“Egypt of Al-Azhar, Al-Awkaf [religious endowments], Salafists, Muslim Brotherhood and Sufis will preserve Sunni Egypt ...” added El-Erian.
Last Thursday, Egypt’s minister of tourism, Hisham Zazou, stated in interview with the Associated Press that Iranian tourists would help shore up Egypt's dilapidated tourism industry and would not pose a security challenge to the nation.
On Saturday, the first commercial flight to head to Iran from Egypt in 34 years took off from Cairo airport en route to Tehran.