Abdel Moneim Abul-Fotouh (Photo: Reuters)
Egyptians should not feel threatened by tourists from Iran, Strong Egypt Party founder Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh has said.
"Around 1900 Israelis have visited Egypt over the past few days and nobody has objected," Abul-Fotouh, a former Muslim Brother, said during a visit to Luxor. "Since we receive those [Israeli tourists], it is our duty to welcome Iranian tourists."
Salafists have voiced opposition to normalising relations with Iran for fear it could lead to the growth of Shia Islam – the state religion of Iran – in Egypt.
Commenting on this notion, Abul-Fotouh said: "Shiism will never be common in Egypt. We are the country of Al-Azhar [the highest authority in Sunni Islam]."
He called on the media not to promote sectarian messages that could scare Iranians from visiting Egypt.
Early this month, Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil said Iranian tourists were very keen to visit Egypt for religious reasons. For example, to visit the tomb of the Prophet Mohamed's grandson, Imam Al-Hussein.
On 1 April, more than 50 Iranians – the first official group to visit Egypt for tourism in decades – arrived in Upper Egypt amid tight security. The visit came as part of a bilateral tourism agreement signed in February.
Tourism between the two countries has been almost non-existent since all bilateral relations were severed following Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution.