Islamists gather in Cairo as divisions deepen
21 June 2013, 16:10
Cairo - Egyptian Islamists gathered for a show of strength
in Cairo on Friday ahead of planned opposition protests calling for President
Mohamed Morsi to step down, highlighting the tense political divide in the Arab
world's most populous state.
Dozens of parties including Morsi's Freedom and Justice
Party - the political arm of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood - have called for
a demonstration outside the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo's Nasr City
neighbourhood after noon prayers.
The rally is intended as a show of support by the Islamists
ahead of planned 30 June protests to call for an early presidential election.
Morsi has been in office for just one year.
The Islamists have condemned the anti-Morsi protests as a
coup against democracy and accused the opposition of seeking to sow chaos.
"Democratically elected presidents are never removed
through protests," Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Gehad al-Haddad said.
A campaign dubbed Tamarod (rebellion in Arabic) first called
for the anti-Morsi rally to coincide with the first anniversary of his becoming
Morsi was elected after a military-led transition that
followed the ouster of long-time president Hosni Mubarak in a 2011 popular
As a senior leader of the Brotherhood, banned but tolerated
under Mubarak, Morsi vowed to be a president "to all Egyptians" in a
bid to allay fears of partisanship.
Millions of signatures
But since taking office, he has squared off with the
nation's judiciary, media, police and most recently artists, and his opponents
accuse him of giving the Islamists a monopoly over public institutions.
Tamarod rapidly picked up steam, and organisers said they
have collected millions of signatures demanding that Morsi quit, leaving the
government jittery and energising the fragmented opposition.
The president's supporters insist he is cleansing
institutions of decades of corruption, and have condemned the June 30 protests
as a "coup against democracy".
With bitter political divisions repeatedly spilling onto the
streets in violent and sometimes deadly clashes over the past year, the
Islamists have accused the opposition of seeking to sow chaos.
A spokesperson for the FJP, Ahmed Aqil, urged protesters
"to embrace peaceful expression of opinion".
"We seek stability in order to rebuild the nation.
Violent demonstrations cannot establish a stable regime. Those who say
'President Morsi will be toppled on June 30' live in an illusion they must give
up," he said on the FJP website.
US ambassador Anne Patterson weighed in, urging protesters
to organise rather than take to the streets, provoking fury in opposition
"Some say that street action will produce better
results than elections. To be honest, my government and I are deeply
sceptical," Patterson said in a speech this week.
Spirit of revolution
"We oppose chaos. Chaos is a breeding ground for
instability.....I recommend Egyptians get organised. Join or start a political
party that reflects your values and aspirations," she said.
In the latest move to roil the opposition, Morsi appointed
17 new provincial governors on Sunday, including seven from the Brotherhood.
He also named as governor of Luxor a member of an Islamist
group whose militants massacred 58 foreign tourists in the town in 1997,
prompting the tourism minister to resign in protest.
The move, which expands Islamist control of key
institutions, was seen by the opposition as a provocation.
The appointments led to clashes in several Nile delta
provinces between supporters and opponents of Morsi, in what some fear is a
prelude to more serious confrontations on June 30.
A leader of the opposition, former foreign minister and Arab
League chief Amr Mussa, recently said that "the regime is sending a
message that it is not willing to respond to the demands of the people and is
pushing forward with policies that are increasing anger and polarisation".
Another leading opposition figure, former UN nuclear
watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei, urged Egyptians to sign the Tamarod petition
and accused Morsi's "failed regime" of "killing the spirit of