11/18/2011, 00.00
EGYPT
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Islamist parties take to the street against the military, threaten violence

Led by the Muslim Brotherhood, thousands protested today in Tahrir Square, hurling slogans against the military, which they accuse of claiming too much power. Pro-democracy parties boycott the event because of its confrontational nature. For the spokesman of the Egyptian Catholic Church, Islamists are using demonstrations as “a show of force”. Salafis disrupt memorial procession for massacred Copts, throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails. Thirty-two people are injured.
Cairo (AsiaNews) – Thousands of supporters of Islamist parties rallied today in Tahrir Square to protest against excessive power wielded by the military. Led by the Muslim Brotherhood, the demonstration saw pro-democracy parties stay away. Although they too are against the military, they also oppose Islamist parties’ strong-arm tactics. The latter object to plans that would make the military the guardian of ‘constitutional legitimacy’, and thus give them a final say on the 28 November elections. Unless the proposed constitutional change is not shelved, Islamists say they would escalate their campaign.

“The Muslim Brotherhood are provocateurs,” said Fr Rafic Greiche, spokesman of the Egyptian catholic Church. “They are using these demonstrations to flex their muscle vis-à-vis the military and the nation. However, they are also showing their truer, most intransigent face, which they have cloaked so far under a veneer of moderate Islamic political activism. This could play in favour of pro-democracy parties who have Egypt’s interests at heart, and are not just vying for power.”

Public opinion polls indicate that the Muslim Brotherhood is leading among voters, especially in country’s poorest region, with about 30 per cent. Their camp includes some of the most intransigent and radical Islamic groups like Salafis who are the main instigators of anti-Christian violence.

For example, dozens of Salafis, hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails, yesterday disrupted the memorial service for the victims of the massacre of Christians of 9 October, traditionally held 40 days after death.

For four hours, the procession of 500 people was blocked on a road that leads from a Coptic neighbourhood to the square where Egyptian state TV is located. Eventually, mourners were able to leave but could not make it to site of the memorial service. The attack left 32 people injured, Copts but also police agents brought in to stop the violence.

“Unfortunately, it is too early to know what will happen over the next few months or if, as some analysts predict, the Muslim Brotherhood will win the elections,” Fr Greiche said.

Egypt, the clergyman added, is very different from Tunisia, Algeria or Libya where Muslim represent more than 90 per cent of the population, and Christians are few and usually foreign-born.

“In our country, the Christian community is ancient and represents more than 10 per cent of the population, which is more than 8,000,000 people. Despite their divisions, Liberal parties are winning people over, especially the better educated,” the clergyman explained.

Nevertheless, “The situation remains very critical. We must be ready for any scenario and support those who are willing to take a stand for their country.” (S.C.)
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