The destroyed home in Zawiyat Abu Musallam where four Shia were killed (Photo: Reuters)

The destroyed home in Zawiyat Abu Musallam where four Shia were killed (Photo: Reuters)

This video from the non-profit media collective Mosireen features eyewitness Hazem Barakat’s account of the deadly attack of Shia Egyptians in Zawiyat Abu Musallam, in Egypt’s Giza governorate, last Sunday, June 23.

Prominent Shia cleric Hassan Shehata and other worshippers were gathered in his home when an angry mob besieged the house along with those of other local Shia families.

While some managed to escape, over 30 Shia were badly injured and 4 killed, including Shehata, in a prolonged attack described as a public lynching.

Since Sunday, eight people have been arrested in connection with the murders, which President Morsi condemned the “heinous crime.”

The video account of the scene is disturbing on a number of levels. Although men feature prominently in the actual, physical beatings, women also played a role. In this clip, there is a group of women violently chanting together against the Shias and encouraging their murder.

There are a number of people standing by or engaging in the brutal attacks as crowds amassed to witness the events. This alarming violence-as-spectacle aspects of these extremely public murders reveals a spectrum of emotions from fear of involvement, to passive acquiescence, incitement, or active participation in destruction and murder.

This incident is also part of a growing trend of mob violence characterized by an absence of security or police action. In the video security forces are present, yet unwilling to protect those being attacked, fueling increasing distrust of the government’s ability and/or willingness to protect minorities.

Salafi groups in Egypt have previously incited sectarianism, from sermons to Parliament speeches. At last week’s Syria conference, President Morsi silently sat through the speeches of Salafist sheikhs stirring up hatred toward Shias. The murders this week attest to the power of this discourse and how rhetoric swiftly turns to action.

As anger with the Morsi regime grows, this horrific attack highlights the opposition’s concerns with current trends in Egyptian society. Flagrant sectarianism, mob violence, and lack of government will to intervene are all feeding the apocalyptic fervor leading up to anti-Morsi demonstrations on June 30.

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