5 August 2011
Under the motto “For the love of Egypt”, several non-Islamist Egyptian political movements decided to launch a million-person demonstration next Friday, 12 August, to call for a civil State in Egypt. Prominent among these movements are the Coptic youth group Maspero Youth Union, several Muslim Sufi groups, the National Society for Change, the 6 April and the Socialist Youth movements, the political parties al-Ghadd (Tomorrow) and al-Misry al-Dimocrati al-Igtimaie (the Communal Democratic Egyptian party). Representatives of these movements met over a Ramadan iftar at the sheikhdom of Azmi Sufis in Cairo where Sheikh Alaa’ Abul-Azayem later presided over the meeting.
The participants unanimously criticised the Islamists’ behaviour on Friday 29 July, a day which was earmarked for “unifying the ranks” but which notoriously ended in exposing the deep rift between the Islamist and liberal forces on the Egyptian arena. The Islamists banished the flag of Egypt from the scene, and raised instead flags of Saudi Arabia and banners which depicted the famous double swords of Islam.
Sheikh Abul-Azayem said that, since the revolution last January, Egypt has been living through an increasingly perilous phase in which Islamists strive to suppress non-Islamists. Coptic churches and Sufi shrines were attacked, he reminded, and the North Sinai towns of Arish and Rafah were the targets of vicious assaults with the objective of instating an Islamic emirate. Islamists rode the bandwagon of the revolution, he said, and furthermore sought to gain the support of the poorer masses by offering them aid in money and in kind. It thus came as no surprise that they were able to mobilise huge numbers for their notorious show of force on 29 July. They transported them from their villages and towns to Cairo’s Tahrir Square in air-conditioned buses and provided them with free meals for the day. “The Sufis and the Copts,” Sheikh Abul-Azayem said, “are also capable of mobilising their supporters in large numbers, but for the sake of principle not financial aid.
“The Muslim Brothers and the Salafis,” he explained, “are strong in the Delta but not in Upper Egypt. There, we retain a majority.”
It was decided that the stand “For the love of Egypt” which will be held in Tahrir on Friday 12 August should begin at 5:00pm and continue through iftar and sohour (the sunset and pre-dawn meals that mark the end and beginning of the daily fast during Ramadan) till dawn of the following day. The choice of timing was made to evade the sweltering midday heat in Cairo, and the accompanying Ramadan fast. The organisers said they would make clean up Tahrir before leaving.
The Coptic participants stressed they were participating in the 12 August rally in their capacity as Egyptians not as Copts. No religious slogans would be used, they confirmed, since they will not be there to express Coptic protest or demands, but to call for an Egyptian civil State that would be based on equality, justice, and citizenship rights; and that would aim to end poverty, disease, and unemployment; thereby creating a better life for Egyptians.