It looks as though the Islamists will stop at nothing in their vicious fight against the Egyptian people. Following the growing Islamist influence in the wake of the Arab Spring uprising in January 2011, Egyptians decided to give the Islamists a chance at ruling the country and, in June 2012, elected a Muslim Brother (MB) president. The disastrous culling of democracy and systematic whittling of Egyptian identity that followed, with the aim of making Egypt part of a pan-world Islamic caliphate, led to a massive Egyptian revolution on 30 June 2013. The military responded by backing the people and overthrowing the president on 3 July 2013. Ever since, the MB and their Islamist supporters have waged a war of vicious terrorism against Egypt, branding their overthrow as a coup against legitimacy.
Apparently eying IS (Islamic State) savagery in Syria and Iraq, Islamists in Egypt have recently carried their terrorist activity to new heights of belligerence and brutality.
Battle for identity
The Muslim Brotherhood (MB), now officially declared in Egypt a terrorist organisation, and its supporters from the Salafi Front and the Gamaa Islamiya, have called for what they term “The Uprising of the Muslim Youth … The Islamic Revolution” on 28 November. They have ordered their young people to carry copies of the Qur’an to demand the application of Islamic Sharia, and have brazenly threatened to carry arms and attack vital establishments.
Propaganda for the ‘Islamic revolution’ has extended outside the Egyptian border to the streets of Hamas-controlled Gaza; Hamas is an offshoot of the MB. “Await…Await…The Great Islamic event on 28 November” banners and posters all through Gaza have screamed.
The Salafi Front announced it would participate in the 28 November Muslim Youth uprising and said in a statement that the purpose was to uphold Islamic Sharia. “The Sharia is fundamental in the life of every righteous Muslim,” the statement said. “It is the core of the current conflict and a focal point for all Muslim youth keen to uphold their faith. We are in the midst of a ‘Battle for Identity’.”
The Salafi Front is an ultra-conservative Islamist group founded in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring uprising. It is different from the Salafi Call, a reportedly peaceful Islamist movement which has formed the political al-Nour party. This party took part in establishing Egypt’s Roadmap following the ouster of the MB Islamist regime in July 2013. The Salafi Call has condemned the Salafi Front’s uprising, describing the desire to reinstate religious identity as “deceptive” and an attempt “to exhaust the State”.
“Down with constitutions, parliaments…”
A statement issued by the ‘Islamic revolution’ carried the flag of IS and urged that 28 November should be a “Battle for Identity”, an Islamic revolution “in flesh and blood”. “Down with the sanctity of constitutions, parliaments, cabinets and governments. Ours is a battle of identity that lets nothing remain and leaves nothing unburned. One that raises the flag of Sharia to restore justice and apply qassaass (vengeful penalty), to establish it as the origin of all constitutions and the foundation of all laws, and reject American dominion,” the statement reads.
Fugitive Islamist Assem Abdel-Maged, a leader of the Gamaa Islamiya and the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy (NASL) who had fled to Qatar, made inciting statements on MB and Islamist satellite channels. “A war [meaning Egypt’s overthrow of the Islamists] can only be countered by another war,” he said. “Peaceful street protest will not deter the ‘coup’ regime [alluding to the current regime in Egypt and President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi]. 28 November will mark a qualitative shift in the revolution; it is a result of suppression and the oppression of peaceful protestors at the hands of the ‘coup’ regime even as it fails to provide the average [Egyptian] citizen with the basics of everyday life.”
Abdel-Maged threatened that the Islamists’ uprising will mark the end of the era of peacefulness in Egypt.
Out of line
Abdel-Maged’s words cannot be more out of line with reality. Islamist street protest in Egypt post 30 June 2013 was never ‘peaceful’; it was notoriously murderous and destructive. The Islamists rejected all notion of apologising for their crimes, reneging on their extremist principles, and integrating in the political process in Egypt. As for the average Egyptian citizen, a poll conducted by the Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research (Baseera) and published on 16 November 2014 revealed an increase in President Sisi’s popularity after five months in office. The percentage of those who approved the President’s performance reached 88 per cent compared to 82 per cent after 100 days in office. Those who disapproved his performance hardly reached 5 per cent. In addition, the local and foreign investment climate in Egypt has improved; no better proof to this than the American business delegation that visited Egypt earlier in November. The delegation’s visit was organised by the US-Egypt Business Council and hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham Egypt) and included executives from 70 major US companies who expressed their desire to invest in Egypt. The delegation was described by the US Embassy as “the US Chamber’s largest international trade delegation ever”.
General Sayed Shafik, Assistant Interior Minister, said the Armed Forces and police jointly set security plans to counter anticipated Islamist violence on 28 November. He warned that security forces would deal firmly with the protest, and would fire live bullets at attackers of vital State and security establishments. “We will not allow a reoccurrence of the lawlessness, burning, and destruction that took place on 28 January 2011 [the Arab Spring uprising],” he said. “The Egyptian people are well aware that these groups are out to contest the legitimacy of the State and terrorise the people.”
Salafi extension to MB
Many politicians and religious scholars have condemned the Salafi Front’s call for armed revolt and insisted that such calls for ruin must be confronted with a firm hand. Minister of Endowments Muhammad Mukhtar Gomaa said the call to carry copies of the Qur’an resembles a trick used during the early days of Islam to cause a dispute among the Muslims. Today, Dr Gomaa said, such a move constitutes an assault on the sanctity of the Qur’an. He believes that the youth who participate in such events are either misinformed and require guidance, or traitors in which case they should be dealt with in accordance with the law. “Whoever raises a weapon in the face of the people must have his hand severed before he gets the chance to raise it,” he said.
Al-Azhar scholar Sheikh Ibrahim Reda, member of the international forum “dialogue of civilizations and cultures” and the Permanent Committee for Dialogue Among Monotheistic Religions, insisted the Salafis were but an extension of the MB, and should be dealt with very firmly. Sheikh Reda saw the Front’s call for armed revolt as treason and a declaration of war against Egypt. “We must not be deceived by the statements made by some Salafis from the Nour Party; they only represent themselves, not the entire Salafi group.” Sheikh Reda believes that the Nour party seeks to forever polish the image of the Salafis, but other Salafi currents unabashedly wage a war against Egypt.
Former MP Margaret Azer believes the call for violence on 28 November to be no more than a show of force. “Playing the ‘religion card’ does not work anymore,” she said, “not after the year of Islamist rule revealed the true face of the Islamists.”
For Sarwat Bekheit, Attorney and member of the Coptic Consultative Council, Salafis are playing on all chords. They are negotiating with the State to guarantee seats in the upcoming parliament, even as they participate in Islamist protest and calls for armed jihad. “This is no surprise,” Mr Bekheit said, “their history says it all. They supported the 30 June anti-Islamist Revolution in 2013, yet they participated in the Islamist ‘anti-coup’ sit-ins in Nahda and Rabea al-Adawiya squares. They brand Copts as ‘infidels’ yet ask them to join their political party. Their ideology is no different than that of IS, yet they claim to have Egypt’s interest at heart. Their stances are a flux of perpetual contradiction, the predictable outcome of mixing religion and politics, and forming political parties on religious basis.”
An arrangement was made between a number of political parties, civil society movements and the Ministry of Interior to collaborate in guarding vital establishment and churches.
Lawyer Samir Sabri filed a complaint to the Military Prosecutor against Khaled al-Said, spokesperson of the Salafi Front, accusing him of issuing an inciting statement that calls for an Islamic revolution on 28 November. “The statement,” Mr Sabri said, “is a call for anarchy, overthrowing the regime, and terrorising citizens, all of which are acts of high treason.” He presented a portfolio of documents to the Military Prosecutor and demanded that Khaled al-Said face military trial.
The Egyptian street
On the street, only hard core Islamists are for the ‘Islamic revolution’. In the middle-class sprawling Cairo district of Shubra, the grocery vendor Umm Muhammad told Watani that she would take part in the Islamic revolution together with her sons. “We will raise copies of the Qur’an,” she said. “We were at the Rabaa Islamist sit-in, and we saw young people die during the dispersion by the police. We want justice for them.”
But another vendor, Umm Sayed who sells vegetables, was livid at the prospect of violent protest. “What protest are you talking of?” she said. “These people appear to have nothing serious to do! President Sisi should deal very firmly with them. Enough disruption to our lives! We need to work and make something of our lives and of our children’s.”
Several persons Watani talked to preferred to go by their initials. E.M., a clerk at the Postal Authority, insisted that President Sisi must show no mercy to the Islamist protestors. “We voted him in so that he would uproot those terrorists,” he said. “They are bent on seeing Egypt in ruins, and they cold-bloodedly and in the most brutal manner kill our sons who are on patriotic duty in the military and police to guard our country. We have given Sisi a mandate to deal with them, we even accepted that he lifts the subsidy that made our lives so much easier in order for him to fight these terrorists. Our President should answer our needs; he should not take into account what foreign countries are pressuring him to do, they all have their interests to look after, not Egypt’s.”
S.E. said he would be taking part in the Islamic revolution “to raise the banner of Islam and bring back legitimacy. President Mursi should be reinstated. We will raise the Qur’an to demand that.”
Many, especially mothers, expressed their fear of the violence threatened on Friday 28 November. “I fear for every one of us,” said N.A., a medical doctor. “And I especially fear for our sons in the military and the police. They are usually the prime targets, but they are there on duty. May God protect them!”
A.H., a university student, defends the right of the Islamists to wage protest. But M.S., a young teacher in a public school in Ain Shams, east of Cairo, displays utter amazement that the MB said they would cheer for IS. “Has their non-recognition of Egypt reached that low?” he sighed. “In the first place, these people claim to be Egyptian. How so?”
26 November 2014