Islamist show of force in Egypt's Tahrir Square angers activists
Salafis, who follow an ultraconservative brand of Islam, had agreed to a set of unified demands for today's rally with secular activists. But they reneged, even shouting pro-military chants.
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“The people want sharia!” many chanted. Some liberal and secular activist groups said their members had largely retreated out of the square to avoid “provocation” and possible clashes.Skip to next paragraph
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Some of the liberal activists, who have been highly critical of the military's rule, argue that Islamist groups – particularly the Muslim Brotherhood – have cut a deal with the military. The Brotherhood has not participated in the Tahrir sit-in, and has been reluctant to criticize the military, a stance that could also reflect a growing public frustration with protests. A top general said in remarks at the US Institute of Peace this week that the Brotherhood did not pose a threat to democracy.
Muslim Brotherhood leaders appeared to stick to the agreement with secular and liberal forces. Some were even in the square trying to persuade Salafi leaders to stop the religious slogans Friday.
Mr. Houdaiby says another outcome of Friday’s protest may be a widening of the gap between more extreme Islamist groups like the Salafis from more moderate groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood will likely now distance itself from the Salafis, and “the breadth of the Egyptian national movement will be redefined to include some Islamist elements, and clearly exclude others,” he says.
'We're here to demand the rights of all Egyptians'
The tens of thousands who came to the square Friday braved scorching weather. Every shred of shade was occupied by sweating protesters.
Among the protesters was Mustafa El Damasy, who sat in the shade of a tent with his daughter, Fatima. A member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s new Freedom and Justice party, he had come by bus from Mansoura, in the Nile Delta region. He said his group included at least 10 buses of party members.
“We’re here to demand the rights of all Egyptians,” he said, before agreeing with the speech coming from a nearby stage that called for Egypt to become an Islamic state ruled by sharia. “We’ve also come to say no to the constitutional declaration,” he said.
He was referring to a declaration of supra-constitutional principles that the Army has said it will issue to ensure certain rights before parliamentary elections in the fall. The declaration is seen as a concession to liberal groups, which had called for the constitution to be drafted before elections are held. Some worry that if Islamists dominate the parliament due to be elected in November, they will influence the writing of the constitution.
Islamists had originally called today's rally to oppose the constitutional declaration, before making the deal with liberal and secular activists for unified demands.
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