Islamists, political forces negotiate stance on Friday protest

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By Marwa Al-A’Asar

CAIRO: Negotiations between several Islamist groups and political forces are currently underway to coordinate their stances ahead of a planned mass protest on Friday.

Al-Wasat party will host on Wednesday morning a meeting to bring together representatives of Islamist movements and the Muslim Brotherhood’s (MB) senior members as well as other political forces in a bid to avoid any confrontations.

“I cannot predict the results of the meeting before it is held…at this stage what we care about most is to avoid any clashes or confrontations whether all of us will join the demonstration or not,” Al-Wasat’s deputy head Essam Sultan told Daily News Egypt.

A number of Islamist groups, including the ultra-conservative Salafis, had earlier called for holding a million-man march to Tahrir Square and other parts of Egypt dubbed “Friday of Identity and Stability” to protest against the “manifesto of supra-constitutional principles.”

The manifesto was suggested by a number of political forces and leaders to be presented to the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) as a binding, unchangeable list of constitutional principles.
The National Council had put together a first draft of the proposed charter last week that combines 10 similar documents.

Islamists frequently denounced the proposed manifesto, describing it as an attempt to “circumvent the people’s will.”

El-Da’wa El-Salafiya (The Salafi Advocacy) had earlier said they expect the number of participants to be over five million in Tahrir and across Egypt.

The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) group as well as its mouthpiece the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) recently decided to join the protest.

“Several meetings have been held between [the two sides] where everybody spoke about reaching national consensus…while stressing that nobody should monopolize the revolutionary scene,” senior member of the Brotherhood Mohamed El-Beltagy told DNE, “Neither does anyone have the right to play the role of the guardian of the revolution and the people.”

Many fear that clashes may erupt between Islamist protesters and others in view of their differences over the proposed guidelines of the new constitution that will be drafted following the November parliamentary elections.

“There are attempts to convince Salafis and Islamist groups not to hold the ‘Friday of Identity’ as confrontations will likely take place between them and the protesters holding an open sit-in in Tahrir,” editor-in-chief of the Nasserist El-Araby newspaper Gamal Fahmy told DNE.

“Any clashes will lead to a major political loss to Islamist and Salafi groups who adopt political Islam,” he added.

Numerous political forces had called for drafting a new constitution ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections but Islamist groups rejected those calls.

After announcing their plans to join the protest, the FJP denounced in a statement Sunday the pressure exerted on the SCAF, and refused any attempts to violate the people’s legitimacy.

On March 19, 77.2 percent of voters approved a referendum on constitutional amendments which charted a clear political will of holding legislative elections before drafting a new constitution. Those who voted no accused the Brotherhood and other Islamsit groups of exploiting religion to sway people towards a yes vote, arguably to hasten parliamentary elections that would benefit them at the polls.

Presidential hopeful and former Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa called for holding a “Friday of Unity.”

“The source of power in this people is unity; and it’s also the starting point towards the future,” Moussa said on Twitter.

Another presidential hopeful, former MB senior member and physician Abdel-Moniem Aboul-Fotouh, called for holding a national consensus day and avoiding disagreements.

The Revolution Youth Union called on Egyptians to join what they called “The Friday of Unity and Persistence.”

Yet many had anticipated confrontations before negotiations started.

El-Gama’a El-Islamiya announced in recent media statements that it would form an emergency and crisis committee in cooperation with similar groups to face any clashes during the protest in Tahrir. The group said its participation will not extend into an open sit-in.

Islamists were criticized by other political currents for refusing to join sit-ins held in Tahrir and other squares across the country in objections to the performance of the caretaker government and SCAF.

On Saturday, hundreds of independent activists and protesters representing diverse political groups continued an open sit-in in Tahrir despite the attack on them during a march from the square to the defense ministry in Abbasiya earlier that day.

During the march the military police prevented thousands of protesters from moving towards the defense ministry men carrying knives and sticks attacked the demonstrators in the neighborhood resulting in the injury of over 300 protesters.

The official fact-finding committee investigating the incident announced on Tuesday that the assault was planned.


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