CAIRO — Thousands of Islamists rallied in the Egyptian capital this weekend in support of calls by Sunni Muslim clerics for a holy war against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The demonstration took place outside a Cairo mosque on Friday where Saudi preacher Mohammed Al Oreifi called in a sermon for a “jihad in the cause of Allah in Syria”.
Oreifi urged worshippers to “unite against their enemy.”
Saudi Arabia, like Egypt, is an overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim country, and Sunnis are the backbone of the revolt against Assad, whose Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
Demonstrators, most of them bearded and wearing the traditional white galabiya, shouted “there is no God but Allah, and Bashar is his enemy”.
People waved not only the Egyptian flag but also the one adopted by the Syrian opposition.
On Thursday, influential Sunni clerics from several Arab states called for a holy war against the “sectarian” regime in Syria.
“We must undertake jihad to help our brothers in Syria by sending them money and arms, and providing all aid to save the Syrian people from this sectarian regime,” they said in a statement at the end of a gathering in Cairo.
They called the “flagrant aggression” of Iran and the Lebanese movement Hizbollah — both Shiite — and their “sectarian allies” in Syria “a declaration of war against Islam and Muslims”.
Hizbollah has been fighting alongside Assad’s forces, and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said on Friday it would continue to do so.
Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia’s top cleric Abdulaziz Al Shaikh has urged governments to punish the “repulsive sectarian group” while Qatar-based Sunni cleric Yusuf Al Qaradawi has called on Sunnis to join the rebels.