11/09/2012, 00.00
EGYPT
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Islamists seize Tahrir Square to impose Sharia on Egypt

Thousands of Muslim extremists bussed in from around the country occupy the place that came to symbolise the January 2011 pro-democracy demonstrations. Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist al-Nour Party leaders stay away from the rally, but many of their rank and files are present. Pro-democracy parties and Egypt's Christians are running out of time to stop Egypt from becoming an Islamic republic.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - Thousands of Islamists from around Egypt have gathered in Tahrir Square to demand a constitution based on Sharia. Organised by the Salafi Front, the most extreme wing of the Salafist movement, the demonstration began today at the end of Friday prayers.

Egypt's main radical Islamic groups, including like Al-Jamiʿa al-Islamiyya, took part in the event. However, the leaders of the al-Nour (Salafist) party and Freedom and Justice (Muslim Brotherhood) party said they would not take part in the event; however, they would allow their members to do so if they wished.

In order to retain popular support, President Morsi and his supporters have not adopted a clear stance on the controversy over Islamic law. According to experts, an explicit reference to Sharia would radically change Egypt's future, limiting women's rights and the right of minorities to exercise freedom of religion, especially Christians who are about 10 per cent of the population.

Currently, the atmosphere in Tahrir Square is quite different from that of January 2011 when Christians and Muslims were united against President Mubarak and in favour of a new state based on civil and democratic rights.

In speaking today, Sheikh Mohamed El-Sagheer, a leader in Al-Jamiʿa al-Islamiyya and a member in the dissolved parliament, illustrated how the most radical extremist Islamic groups are taking an ever larger space in media and public forums. "The prophet Muhammad," he said before thousands of people, "fought the infidels, the same who today are represented by liberal parties."  Hence, the religious leader called on his fellow Egyptians to fight for Islamic law, stressing that there is no better law than Allah's law.

Speaking to AsiaNews, a source, anonymous for security reasons, said, "The situation is confusing. On the one hand you have extremist groups who are pushing hard for a constitution based on Islamic law. On the other, you have democrats and all those Egyptians who, although they voted for Muslim Brotherhood, are against a religious state."

"Unfortunately, Islamists won a majority in the elections, and have a stranglehold over the constituent assembly," the source explained. "These well-organised mass rallies, with people bussed in from around the country, are a show of force to instil fear in those who do not think like them."

"One example is the illegal Salafist takeover of land belonging to the Diocese of Shubra al-Kheima last Monday to build a mosque and threaten the new Coptic patriarch, Tawadros, for his statement against Islamic law."

"Today, the Procurator General Abdel Meguid Mahmoud confirmed that the land belongs to Coptic Orthodox Church. A few days ago, members of the Maspero Youth Movement, and leaders from various pro-democratic parties held protest torch vigils against the climate of intolerance and extremism that the Christian population has to face."

According to the source, the political climate in Egypt is going back to before the revolution. "Since Muslim Brotherhood took power and President Morsi was elected, secular movements, including pro-democracy parties established after the Jasmine Revolution, have been muzzled."

"Two weeks ago, members of the Muslim Brotherhood stopped by force a peaceful protest organised by pro-democracy parties against the Islamic law. The Islamists prevented their leaders from making any speech. Such events show that little or nothing has changed since Mubarak's times."

"Moderate Muslims, Christians and other groups opposed to Islamism are pushing for a new and more representative assembly. However, so far the Supreme Court has not ruled on the matter."

"If Islamists can get the constitution through in the next few months, Egypt will become a state based on Islamic law. And this," the source said, "could provoke a fight between Islamic groups and pro-democracy parties." (S.C.)

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