Saturday,22 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1154, (27 June - 3 July 2013)
Saturday,22 September, 2018
Issue 1154, (27 June - 3 July 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Ambiguous tactics

What are the Islamists’ plans for 30 June? Amany Maged tries to find out

Al-Ahram Weekly

Egypt’s Islamist forces are gearing up for 30 June, the date set by the Tamarod (Rebel) movement for massive demonstrations calling on President Mohamed Morsi to step aside and make way for snap presidential elections. Some factions, most notably the Muslim Brotherhood and some Salafist groups, will be out in force from 28 June in support of Morsi. Others will remain on the sidelines, not least Al-Azhar whose grand imam has appealed to Egyptians to shun violence while decreeing that peaceful opposition to the ruler is religiously acceptable.

The Muslim Brotherhood, from whose ranks Morsi hails, will stand firmly behind the government. It has already drawn up plans which included last Friday’s show of strength — a mass rally in front of Rabaa Al-Adawiya Mosque in Nasr City. The Muslim Brotherhood was supported by Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya in that demonstration, the aim of which was to intimidate the opposition. Opposition forces are nonetheless pressing ahead with their own preparations to mark Morsi’s first year in office.

The Muslim Brotherhood has scheduled another rally for 28 June and is in the process of coordinating other Islamist forces in the hope of amassing hundreds of thousands in front of the presidential palace. Muslim Brotherhood sources say Friday’s rally will bring “many surprises”. Whether they will include Morsi’s supporters remaining camped outside the palace until 30 June is not yet clear. Several weeks ago anti-Morsi/Muslim Brotherhood opposition forces announced that the presidential palace would be one of the venues for the mass rallies they are scheduling.

The Muslim Brotherhood has launched a campaign highlighting Morsi’s achievements. It has instructed its rank and file to talk with people in the street and enumerate the president’s successes, especially with respect to the economy. In has also organised visits to government bodies during which Muslim Brotherhood leaders expressed their appreciation of the way in which staff members have served the interests of the people.

Islamist forces, with the exception of some Salafist groups, are stressing the need to turn out on 28 June in order to guard the presidential palace, leading to the inevitable conclusion that Friday’s mass rally to “safeguard legitimacy” is intended not only to celebrate the president’s first year in office but also to counter demonstrations by the opposition.

Muslim Brotherhood youth have been instructed to take up positions around the presidential palace. Muslim Brotherhood sources also indicate that members of the group living in the capital have been instructed to host others from outside Cairo who will be arriving in the city ahead of 30 June. They also say members will be stationed in the Rabaa Al-Adawiya Mosque several days in advance of 30 June to prevent possible attempts on the part of anti-Morsi demonstrators to storm the presidential palace. Some Islamist forces are said to have advised the president to deliver a public address different in tone and substance to its predecessors, one in which he tells the public explicitly about domestic and foreign conspiracies to derail his rule at which he has only hinted in the past.

Last week the Ministry of Interior announced that it would only secure strategic government installations and not the offices of political parties. Islamist forces have been working to create their own security network to protect the headquarters and premises of Islamist political parties and organisations, while securing the presidential palace, officially at least, remains the responsibility of the Republican Guard.

Yehia Al-Sherbini, coordinator of the Muslim Revolutionaries Movement, said an emergency plan had gone into effect today to “prevent acts of chaos and destruction”. He claimed that Islamist groups had information that “supporters of the counter-revolution were recruiting armies of thugs in order to undermine the stability of the nation.”

The Islamic Law Committee for Rights and Reform, an umbrella group comprising several Islamist factions, has announced that it will not take place in pro-Morsi demonstrations but would be ready to act against “excesses” intended to spread anarchy and destruction. A spokesman for the organisation said its role was to unify Islamic ranks and safeguard the legitimacy of the elected president. The committee, in coordination with other Islamist groups, plans a series of conferences to urge Egyptians “to protect Egypt and counter chaos and saboteurs”. Other Islamist leaders have been holding periodic meetings coordinated by the Nour Party to discuss how to respond to any clashes.

In response to the Tamarod (Rebel) campaign to gather 15 million signatures in a vote of no-confidence in the president the Muslim Brotherhood set up its own petition, Tagarod, in support of Morsi. Its organisers now say they will set up “Islamist central operation rooms” to monitor events on the ground during Sunday’s demonstrations and determine “appropriate action” in the event of clashes. They also say Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya has agreed to bus in its members from Upper Egypt to take part in the pro-Morsi demonstrations in Cairo starting on 28 June.

The Nour Party, which will not take part in the demonstrations, remains determined to seek a way out of the current impasse. Nour Party leaders stress the “opportunity is still available to resolve the situation before the ultimate word is given to arms and violence”. They have urged all parties to show flexibility and caution against incendiary language, hate speech and other polarising rhetoric.

The Alexandria-based Salafist Calling, the largest Salafist organisation with branches throughout Egypt, has also announced that it will steer clear of the street protests, a move some analysts put down to anger at the way Salafis were overlooked in the recent cabinet reshuffle and the unceremonious dismissal of Khaled Alameddin as presidential advisor.

 Although Al-Azhar remains aloof from the Islamist camp many of its professors and students are affiliated to Islamist political forces. Al-Azhar is determined to remain neutral and preserve its status as an institution that serves the Egyptian nation and its people. Accordingly, it renewed its appeal for demonstrations to remain peaceful.

Al-Azhar officials have also announced that they are studying the possibility of inviting all parties to a meeting in the next few days in an attempt to affirm a number of basic principles and avert clashes between opposing forces.

The Freedom and Justice Party’s Sobhi Saleh, a member of the Shura Council, anticipates that Al-Azhar will seek to rally political forces behind a single initiative to renounce violence. Saleh accuses secularist forces of being “determined to engage in acts of violence and promote chaos in the streets”.

How Minister of Defence Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s statement on Sunday in which he urged political forces to seek reconciliation will affect the Islamists’ declared plans is uncertain. Al-Sisi stressed that much can be done in a week and as long as there are still opportunities for consensus crisis can be averted.

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