Cairo (AsiaNews) – The Egyptian cabinet approved a decree that criminalises strikes, protests, demonstrations and sit-ins that interrupt private or state owned businesses or affect the economy in any way. It calls for severe punishment of those who call for or incite action, with a maximum sentence of one year in prison and fines of up to US$ 85,000. The new law still needs to be approved by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which took over following Mubarak’s fall from power.
Sources told AsiaNews that the measure is meant to stifle the voice of the people who led the Jasmine Revolution and oppose the results of the recent constitutional referendum, manipulated by the Muslim Brotherhood.
“This law confirms the Brotherhood’s attempt to take over the Jasmine Revolution,” the source said. The army and the Islamist party have struck a deal to maintain the country’s stability and the price is the ideals of democracy and democracy that brought down Mubarak. “The danger is the rise of an Islamic dictatorship that would replace the military regime that has governed the country in the past 40 years.”
Even economic groups that benefit from the decree have criticised it. In a statement issued today, the investment bank Beltone Financial said that the law is more likely to lead to more discontent. “The Egyptian public has only just found its political voice and will, most likely, view this decision as another attempt to silence it. We agree that there is a need for work to resume normally once again, for Egypt’s economy to begin its recovery process, but we also believe that the government’s decision to criminalise protests and strikes could provoke further discontentment and more protests.”
Sources told AsiaNews that the writing was already on the wall. “Four days after Mubarak’s fall, some members of the Muslim Brotherhood took over the platform set up in Tahrir to celebrate victory and took away the microphone from a young leader of the revolution in order to hail the Islamic Revolution.”
“Another factor is the lack of neutrality shown by the army during the fire that engulfed the Coptic church in Soul, destroyed by a group of Islamic extremists before the eyes of soldiers standing idly by and during the violent crackdown against the protest by Copts in suburban Cairo.”
The backward step taken by the military and the strengthening of the Muslim Brotherhood represent a great threat not only for Christians, who have seen a rise in cases of discrimination, but also for all those moderate Muslims opposed to a clerical regime.
“What is happening in Egypt is not a confrontation between Christians and Muslims but a struggle between traditionalists and obscurantists against liberals and modernists. This cleavage also exists within the Coptic community, between the hierarchy that tends to be conciliatory with those in power and young people who desire change and reject the prevailing line.”
The possibility that the Muslim Brotherhood might take power scares Copts around the world, who fear greater violence and discrimination.
In a letter to US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, American Copts described the current situation as a risk for the West. “The Muslim Brotherhood,” it said, “is not only a threat to the stability of Egypt, the Middle East and Israel, but constitutes a direct threat to the United States and Western civilisation”. (S.C.)