Sunday,23 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1133, 31 Jan - 6 Feb 2013
Sunday,23 September, 2018
Issue 1133, 31 Jan - 6 Feb 2013

Ahram Weekly

Keeping the faith?

Islamist forces say they are practising restraint, but for how long? Omayma Abdel-Latif explores answers

Al-Ahram Weekly

A video claimed to be made by the Black Bloc explains why the group decided to come out of the closet now: “we had to go public,” it states categorically, “to face up to the tyrant fascist regime of the Muslim Brotherhood and its military wing.”
While the authenticity of the material cannot be verified Islamists who spoke to Al-Ahram Weekly have no doubt about the goals behind the appearance of groups which advocate using violence under the pretext of restoring a lost revolution.
“When they glorify acts of violence and vandalism of state institutions under the pretext of facing up to Ikhwan militias they are seeking to provoke a similar reaction from young and angry Islamists, dragging them into a vicious circle of violence,” said Mahmoud Hegazi, the Nour Party representative in Port Said, speaking to the Weekly by phone. But resort to violence, he insists, is a red line Islamists will not cross.  
The Weekly has learned strict instructions not to be provoked into committing any acts of violence went out to the rank and file of several Islamist parties.
Hegazi and others dismiss as baseless reports about Islamists forming committees to guard public property and state institutions.
“The army has taken over this task,” says Hegazi.
Had it not the spectre of massive civil strife would have loomed closer given the wafer-thin tolerance of Islamist presence in Port Said. Nour is one of the few Islamist-oriented parties that is continuing to operate in the city during the current crisis. It has set up an emergency unit to reach out to residents and provide them with basic amenities. Other Islamist forces, the Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) among them, have all but disappeared in the face of popular anger at President Mohamed Morsi’s handling of the crisis.
“The FJP has removed the sign from its offices,” says one Port Said resident.
At a time of startling volatility the FJP may be keen to reduce its visibility in the street but in the corridors of power it, and its parent organisation, has been busy flexing muscles, pushing for new legislation. Al-Masry Al-Youm quoted on Tuesday what it described as an informed source close to the Muslim Brotherhood saying the Brothers were behind the idea of giving the army power to detain civilians since the alternative was civil strife between the president’s opponents and supporters. Other Islamist forces have united around calls for a new law to regulate street protests.
There are growing signs of discontent among Islamists over President Morsi’s handling of the crisis. Morsi’s call for a national dialogue in his speech on Sunday was met with anger among some Islamists who claim leading figures of the National Salvation Front (NSF) — Amr Moussa, Mohamed Al-Baradei and Hamdeen Sabahi — are responsible for supporting violence.
“Any attempt to sit at the same table with Al-Baradei, Moussa and Sabahi means one thing, all the blood that has been shed has gone to waste,” said Mohamed Al-Azhari, a leading member of Al-Daawa Al-Salafiya (Salafist Calling). The president, he added, should not even think of speaking to such figures until the opposition’s role in supporting the tide of violence nationwide had been investigated.
Other Salafi figures have welcomed the call for national dialogue and shown flexibility towards some opposition demands, including revising the election law recently passed by the Shura Council and revisiting controversial articles in the constitution.
Whatever criticisms can be aimed at the president and cabinet over the handling of recent events there are those that argue the “people’s choice” must be respected.
“Those who want to bring down an elected president after only six months in office should realise that whoever comes after him will not be allowed to remain six days in office,” says Ahmed Badie, spokesperson of the Salafist-oriented Al-Watan Party.
It is a view shared by Yasser Burhami, deputy head of the Salafist Calling. In an interview with the daily Al-Ahram he warned that “bringing down an elected president outside of the ballot box makes it unlikely his successor will last long and pushes the country into a vicious circle.”
The Strong Egypt Party has tabled its own proposal for ending the bloodshed. The initiative includes Morsi calling for dialogue and forming a crisis management unit to include MB Deputy Supreme Guide Khairat Al-Shater, Mohamed Al-Baradei, former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi and former parliament speaker Saad Al-Katatni.
“The initiative,” says Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh, “is meant to bring to the table parties who have a strong say in shaping the political scene and restoring confidence.”
Issues up for discussion, says Abul-Fotouh, include the contentious articles of the constitution, transitional justice and appointing a caretaker government.
The FJP has welcomed calls for dialogue and praised Abul-Fotouh’s initiative as a way to end the bloodshed. Much of the opposition, though, refuses to talk to a president whom they say has repeatedly failed to keep his words in the absence of guarantees that the dialogue will be more than an empty talking shop.
A war of words has ensued between the FJP and other Islamists and the NSF over the roadmap out of current political impasse with the FJP accusing the opposition of “providing political cover for violence and vandalism”.
“This is an exercise in nihilism,” says Safwat Abdel-Ghani, a leading member of the political bureau of Al-Binaa Wal Tanmiya. “Both parties lack a minimum degree of confidence in the other. They are unable to make concessions and compromise and have lost touch with the reality of what is going on in the street.”

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