Monday, 1 July 2013

Egypt: The struggle against the Brotherhood continues

No one could fail to be impressed by the size of the demonstration in Cairo and numerous other cities across Egypt yesterday. These of course are continuing as Morsi has achieved something his opponents have seemingly been albeit to do on their own, that of unity of the opposition. Well to a point anyway.

Without a doubt Morsi is under considerable pressure despite the obvious fact he does have electoral legitimacy on his side having been as most of the media have described him, the "first democratically elected leader of Egypt in 5,000 years. That statement in itself shows how long Egyptian history stretches across time and indicates in a way how difficult the road to an open and truly free society is going to be.

The Muslim Brotherhood have attempted to hijack the events of the "Arab Spring" back in 2011 which ousted former President Hosni Mubarak and turn Egypt into an "Islamic state" by manipulating and rushing throughout the country's new new constitution. This document actually goes a bit further in specifically making Egypt a Sunni state, a dangerous development at the time that sectarian conflict between the main Shia and Sunni sects within Islam is growing as a result of the Syrian civil war.

Violence has already begun along sectarian lines as Alakhbar reports:
Four Egyptian Shia Muslims were killed on Sunday when they were attacked by a hostile Sunni mob in a village in Giza province near the capital, police said.
Residents of the town of Zawiyat Abu Muslim in Giza province on the outskirts of Cairo surrounded the home of a prominent Shia figure Hassan Shehata, after learning he was hosting a religious gathering, witnesses and security sources told Reuters, and asked them to get out.
When they refused, a crowd of several hundred people stormed the building, beat the guests and threw petrol bombs at the house, setting it on fire, the sources said.
The state newspaper al-Ahram said that the mob stabbed, beat and dragged the bodies of the victims. Around 30 were badly injured and four were pronounced dead by the Health Ministry.
The newspaper also said that the mob was led by a Salafi sheikh and that five houses were set on fire.
The Egyptian police showed up late at the scene and did not intervene in the public beatings, eyewitnesses told al-Ahram.
Such events do not bode well for the future.

In the event violence seems for the moment to have been restricted to an attack on the headquarters of  the Brotherhood in Cairo by youths of unknown political persuasion. It could have been a lot worse, but Morsi seems to have learnt from the mistakes made by his co-thinker Erdogan in Turkey and kept the police away from the demonstrations and left any possible intervention to the army, which remains respected by both sides.

The army itself has remained neutral  thus far despite both sides claiming to have its' support. Certainly if the situation got out of hand it is the only force that could restore order. Intervention on the side of the opposition would cause problems for the future as many Brotherhood supporters were proclaiming their willingness for martyrdom in support of Morsi, which could plunge the most populous Arab state into civil war.

Certainly the Brotherhoods all-too numerous supporters have the ability to fight back as the Daily Telegraph reports:

A repeat of the violence at Moqattam could see the start of a slide to further violence, prompting either the army to step in or the Brotherhood to unleash its own supporters, who are taking on an increasingly militaristic aspect with parades of men wielding staves and helmets prominent at their counter-rally on Sunday.

The Brotherhood paraded its own militia of young and middle aged men, many carrying staves and wearing crash or construction helmets, saying they were needed in self-defence.
"If the thugs attack us the police should be showing up to protect us but they are not," Gehad al-Haddad, a senior Brotherhood adviser, told The Daily Telegraph. "To a large extent they are treasonous.
How the situation will develop over the next few days remains to be seen.

UPDATE: The Financial Times has just reported that the Army are giving the political leaders 48 hours to resolve the crisis and “meet the demands of the people or it will impose a road map”

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