What is Egypt’s Islamist uprising about?

The Muslim Brotherhood is supporting the protest movement.

The Muslim Brotherhood is supporting the protest movement.

By : Sonia Farid

Sonia Farid

Sonia Farid

Nov. 28 is the date set for the start of an Islamist uprising termed “the battle for Egyptian identity.” The call was first made in a YouTube video that explained the reasons why Egyptian Muslims should start a revolution.

The men and women in the video say a war is being waged against Islam and Islamic identity “when mosques in Sinai are razed to the ground by Apache helicopters,” when “Islamic studies courses are cancelled from schools,” and “when adultery and homosexuality become the norm.” A revolution, they add, is needed to restore values and morals, “without which no country can move forward.”

They say the revolution is not being organized by any specific party, group or faction, and does not condone bloodshed or sectarianism, but is rather about freedom and justice. Nov. 28 “is when you can defend your religion and liberate your country,” the video concludes.

The Muslim Brotherhood is supporting the protest movement, saying in a statement: “The Egyptian people will never accept to have their identity eliminated, their religion desecrated, their mosques destroyed, their Quran burnt, their youths killed, and their women dragged.”

The group added that the “coup,” in reference to the ouster of Brotherhood President Mohamed Mursi, is about to come to an end. The statement warned the authorities not to carry out acts of violence or vandalism then blame the protestors.

The Salafi Front also expressed its support for the protests, which the ultra-conservative movement said will start right after Friday dawn prayers. Protestors “will ask God for victory and prepare themselves for martyrdom,” the front said in a statement. “The 28th will not necessarily be the day of victory, but at least the start of a wave of protests that will continue till the anniversary of the January 25 Revolution” that toppled President Hosni Mubarak.

Opposition to protests

Not all Islamist factions adopt the same view. The Construction and Development Party, the political wing of the formerly militant Al-Gamaa al-Islamiya, objects to the protests. “Calling for an Islamic revolution will only create division among the members of Islamist movements, and will increase tensions between Islamists and non-Islamists,” said party leader Essam Derbala. “Moreover, it will lead to a violent crackdown on the part of the state.”

The Salafi Calling movement, and its political wing the Nour Party, have launched a campaign against the uprising.

“These protests will bring about guerrilla wars,” said Yasser Borhami, the movement’s vice-chairman. “The collapse of the state is what will actually lead to the desecration of religion.” Borhami added that protestors killed in the uprising would not be martyrs even if they were peaceful.

Several non-Islamist movements that are opposed to the current government are refusing to take part in the protests. “We are against all attempts at polarizing society whether on the sectarian or the political level,” the April 6 Youth Movement said in a statement. “We believe that every citizen has the right to freedom of faith.” The movement stressed its support for the right to peaceful protests, and condemned all forms of violence.

The Revolutionary Socialists denied allegations about its members taking part in the protests, which “revolve around demands by Islamist factions and totally ignore revolutionary demands.”

Political researcher Wessam Fouad said the protests would deepen the rift between opposition factions, which he saw as divided into two main groups. “The first group calls for a civilian state and is categorically against military rule. The second group sees Islamic identity as the main cause at the moment,” he wrote.

Fouad added that the protests would make it easier for the government to win over the secular opposition by playing on its members’ apprehensions about the Islamization of the revolutionary discourse. “The Islamist uprising will also give the regime the perfect pretext for endowing the war against terrorism with more credibility.”

Journalist Belal Fadl wrote that Nov. 28 marked the Brotherhood’s “political suicide,” as it was trying to “drag the country to an illusory battle for identity through promoting lies like the destruction of mosques and the burning of the Quran.”

He added: “As usual, the Brotherhood did not call upon its members to participate so that it can hijack the uprising if it yields fruit, or engage in more self-victimization if the regime stages another violent clampdown against Islamists.”



Egypt death toll rises in Mubarak clashes
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