Protester attack Iranian president with shoes in Cairo
By Meena Haseeb - 06 Feb 2013, 9:41 am
The Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was both kissed and scolded on Tuesday when he began the first visit to Egypt. His trip marks the first visit by an Iranian president to Egypt since Tehran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.
Ahamdinejad’s visit to Egypt was meant to underline a thaw in relations since Egyptians elected an Islamist head of state, President Mohamed Mursi, last June.
However the visit was also highlighted deep theological and geopolitical differences.
Egypt’s top cleric told visiting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday not to interfere in the affairs of Bahrain or other Gulf states, and to uphold the rights of his country’s Sunni minority.
Ahmed al-Tayyeb, the grand imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam’s highest seat of learning, also denounced what he described as the “spread of Shiaism in Sunni lands”.
An unscripted discord happened from Sunni protesters angry over Iran’s support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, as well as decades of sectarian animosity between Shiite-led Iran and the region’s Sunni majority despite the official welcome was warm.
Ahmadinejad was forced to flee an ancient mosque in downtown Cairo after a Syrian protester took off his shoes and threw them at him.
Protesters later blocked the main gates to Al-Azhar, the Sunni world’s most prestigious religious institution while raising their shoes up.
Egypt and Iran have taken opposite courses since the late 1970s. Egypt, under Mubarak’s predecessor Anwar Sadat, concluded a peace treaty with Israel in 1979 and became a close ally of the United States and Europe. Iran from 1979 turned into a center of opposition to Western influence in the Middle East.
The three-day visit, centered around an Islamic summit, were an attempt by Morsi to strike an independent foreign policy and reassert Egypt’s historic regional leadership role following the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, a close U.S. ally who shared Washington’s deep suspicions of Tehran.