Services resume at attacked North Sinai mosque – without its imam

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Services resume at attacked North Sinai mosque – without its imam

The Sinai mosque that was the scene of Egypt’s deadliest terror attack is welcoming back worshippers—without its imam. Sheikh Mohamed Rozeik was badly wounded and is still recovering. CGTN’s Adel El Mahrouky has the story.

Follow Adel El Mahrouky on Twitter @AdelMahrouky

In a remote village in Eastern Egypt, two hours’ drive from Cairo, lies a small village called Geziret Saud in el Hussieniyah area.

That is where Sheikh Mohamed Rozeik, the preacher of the Sinai al Rawda Mosque, lives. He was injured in the brutal attack on the mosque that left more than 300 killed.

As tragic as the attack was, it has brought out the best in the Egyptian people. As soon as Sheikh Mohamed was released from the hospital, scores of residents in his village and the neighboring villages came to welcome him. And Christians living there gave him a Quran as a sign of unity.

It’s been a week, yet the 26 years old Sheikh is still getting many visitors every day. They squeeze in to the tiny bedroom of his humble home. Together, they go over what happened in the deadliest attack Egypt has seen—not to mention the first against a mosque.

“A year ago I heard that this mosque would be targeted, along with other mosques as well, because of its Sufi rituals,” Rozeik said.

“I never imagined that anyone would attack a mosque. Even when I heard the bullets at first, I hid, thinking they’re after a certain person and they’ll leave. I never imagined something like that.”

Mohamed got injured during the stampede that followed the first minutes of the attack. “On the stairs of the mosque I fell. On top of me were many who were trying to have shelter and flee from the rain of bullets. I rested on the ground and above me were two or three dead bodies,” he recalled.

“Then I felt someone from the attackers coming up the stairs. He stepped on my leg on his way up, then he stepped on my head, I think he may have been looking for survivors. He thought we were all dead.”

Preaching at the Al Rawda mosque was his first assignment after graduating from Al Azhar University. It has become an unforgettable, terrifying memory.

“I was afraid for sure,” he said. “I’m just 26 years old, and my only son is just 15 months old. All what I could think of during the attack was him. Couldn’t stop imagining, if I die, who would have looked after him?”

Once he recovers, Sheikh Mohamed says he may return to North Sinai. He’s sure, though, that he’ll continue his graduate studies in Islamic Laws, to fight the puritanical ideologies of militant groups with the moderate values of Islam.