“Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood staged a show of strength in Cairo on Friday, rallying a huge crowd to demonstrate support for President Mohamed Morsi – and warn opponents who hope to force him out,” Reuters reports:
The opposition called it an attempt to “terrorize” them before mass rallies they plan for just over a week’s time.
Crowds waving the flags of Egypt and Islamist movements, including hardline allies, packed avenues around a suburban mosque to back the elected head of state before anti-Mursi protests planned for June 30, when he completes a first year in office marked by division and economic problems.
“We promise them, they will be crushed on this day,” Tarek al-Zumar, a Salafist former militant told the crowd. “It will be the final blow to anyone who claims that they have tens, thousands or hundreds of thousands with them,” said Zumar, who spent 30 years in jail for his role in killing President Anwar Sadat and was freed only after the next Egyptian leader, Hosni Mubarak, fell in 2011.
Opposition groups expressed outrage after US Ambassador Anne Patterson said that she is “deeply skeptical” about planned protests against the government.
“Some say that street action will produce better results than elections. To be honest, my government and I are deeply skeptical,” she told a seminar organized by the Ibn Khaldun Center. “Egypt needs stability to get its economic house in order, and more violence on the streets will do little more than add new names to the lists of martyrs.”
Her critics were also incensed by TV footage of what Patterson’s convoy of black SUVs reportedly en route to Khairat el-Shater (right), the Muslim Brotherhood’s deputy leader and principal strategist.
But Patterson defended the US stance of engagement, citing the government’s democratic credentials.
“This is the government that you and your fellow citizens elected. Even if you voted for others, I don’t think the elected nature of this government is seriously in doubt,” she told the seminar. “Throughout Egypt’s post-revolution series of elections, the United States took the position that we would work with whoever won elections that met international standards, and this is what we have done.”
Out of control
“Across Egypt, angry crowds have barred President Mohamed Morsi’s appointees from their offices, millions have signed petitions calling for his ouster and work crews have fortified the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood that propelled him to power to prevent attacks the police have failed to stop,” write The New York Times’ - Ben Hubbard and Mayy El Sheikh:
As the one-year anniversary of Mr. Morsi’s inauguration as Egypt’s first freely elected president approaches, he faces widespread discontent from a swath of society and stinging grass-roots campaigns that have undermined his ability to wield power and address the country’s most pressing problems.
“If I were a ruler, I would be very concerned about this, because the street is out of your control,” said Emad Shahin, a political science professor at the American University in Cairo. “It is out of everyone’s control.”
The two main Islamist parties—the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party and the Salafist Nour Party – enjoy the confidence of less than 30% of Egyptians, according to a poll by Zogby Research Associates.
“What our findings reveal is a deeply divided society fractured not along demographic lines, but on the basis of ideology and religion,” said Zogby.
The major opposition groups have the confidence of 35%, but almost 40% have no confidence in either the government or any of the parties.
Of these appointments, the naming of Adel al-Khayat as governor of Luxor inflamed controversy and sparked protests which have continued into the third day. Mr. al-Khayat is a member of the Building and Development party, the political arm of the Gamaa Islamiyya, a group responsible for a 1997 terrorist attack at a the Hatshepsut Temple in Luxor. Fifty-eight tourists and four Egyptians were gunned down by members of the Gamaa in the attack. Hundreds of Luxor residents took to the streets on Wednesday protesting al-Khayat’s appointment and vowing to keep him out of the governor’s office due to his affiliation with the party.
Khayat’s appointment “gives a terrible message that the Muslim Brotherhood government are against tourism simply by appointing someone who believes that monuments are idols and should be demolished,” said journalist and activist Hisham Kassem:
Luxor spokesman el-Masry says Khayat’s past comments about idolatry have been exaggerated. But Kassam also believes the government may have had the context of the nation’s deep polarization in mind when giving the post to an Islamist rival. He notes the call for early elections and mass demonstrations against President Mohamed Morsi on June 30.
“It’s a clear message they’re splitting things among the different Islamic factions hoping that they will support them in their upcoming battle with more or less the Egyptian nation,” Kassem told Voice of America.