The members of Egypt's constitution committee meet at the Shura Council in Cairo September 11, 2012 (Photo: Reuters)
Members of the culture committee of Egypt's Shura Council discussed their concerns on Monday about the possibility of Iranian tourism to Egypt, with some expressing fears that it could spread Shiism in the country.
According to Ahram's Arabic news website, members of the committee called on Tourism Minister Hesham Zaazou to discuss the issue in the council, the country's upper house of parliament which is holding legislative powers until a house of representatives is elected.
The committee, headed by Fathy Shehab El-Din of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), engaged in a heated argument on the effects Iranian tourists could have on Egypt.
"The Shias are more dangerous than naked [women]," MP Tharwat Attallah of the Salafist Nour Party said during the meeting.
"They are a danger to Egypt's national security; Egyptians could be deceived into [converting to] Shiism, giving it a chance to spread in Egypt," he added.
Attallah also called upon the current ruling regime to limit Egypt's relationship with Iran, as the previous regime of ousted president Hosni Mubarak had done.
Similarly, MP Abd El-Galeil El-Qassem, also of the Nour Party, said that Shiism would undermine the "essence of religion and the [Sunni] doctrine."
He said that Egypt should put restrictions on Iranian tourism in Egypt because, according to him, Iranians aim to create strife in the country.
However, MP Yehia Abo El-Hassan from the Islamist Al-Wasat Party disagreed with their concerns, saying that "the countries that cut off relations with Iran are the US and Israel." He added that tourists only come to Egypt for a limited time.
The Salafist Call and the Nour Party, its political arm, held a conference in April against the spread of the Shia doctrine in Egypt.
The Salafists and several other Islamic groups have expressed their concerns recently at potential Iranian Shia influence in the country.
Diplomatic relations between the two countries were cut following Tehran’s Islamic revolution in 1979, but relations have improved since the election of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in 2012. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Egypt in February 2013.
In April, more than 50 Iranians – the first official group of Iranians 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.