Fundamentalists accused of hijacking rallies

 

EGYPTIAN MUSLIM fundamentalists have been accused by the democracy movement of hijacking unity rallies in the country’s squares and streets by calling for Egypt to adopt Muslim canon law and become an Islamic state.

Ignoring an agreement with the secular camp barring such divisive slogans, hundreds of thousands of Muslim Brothers and ultra-orthodox Salafis swamped rallies meant to press for common demands.

These include prosecuting ousted president Hosni Mubarak and his entourage for abuse of power and corruption, an end to military trials for activists and the release of political prisoners.

Twenty-eight secular groups, including those who organised the uprising that toppled Mubarak, took the decision to end participation in rallies in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

Secular activists however stayed on in encampments established on July 8th with the aim of remaining until demands are met.

The secular camp was also incensed by chants supporting the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces taken up by fundamentalists, who are suspected of collaborating with the generals to prevent the emergence of democratic governance.

Secularists fear that fundamentalists could secure a large number or even a majority of seats in the coming parliamentary election. This could give fundamentalists the opportunity to secure appointments to the commission due to draft a new constitution.

Over the past two weeks, the supreme council has alienated secularists by accusing April 6 and Kefaya, two opposition groups that helped organise the uprising, of accepting foreign funding and betraying Egypt.

The supreme council made these charges after activists criticised the generals for obstructing reforms and for refusing to meet key demands.

The fundamentalist show of strength in Tahrir Square and elsewhere is certain to alarm Egyptians who want the country to remain a “civil” (secular) state and boost critics of the uprising.

They warned that the Brotherhood and the Salafis could be the main beneficiaries of the overthrow of Mubarak, who kept fundamentalism in check.

With the aim of mollifying Egyptians of all persuasions ahead of yesterday’s demonstrations, justice minister Abdel Aziz al-Guindi announced that Mubarak’s trial for ordering attacks on opponents would take place as scheduled on August 3rd.

The venue is to be a conference hall at the international fair grounds in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis and the proceedings are to be televised, meeting the activists’ demand for public accountability.

However, Mubarak, who is hospitalised in Sharm el-Sheikh, may not appear along with alleged co-conspirators, ousted interior minister Habib el-Adly and six police commanders.

While the health ministry insists Mubarak is well enough to be moved from hospital to court and stand trial, his doctors claim he cannot be put in the dock because he has been weakened by a hunger strike.

In Syria, meanwhile, thousands of anti-regime protesters took to the streets in the port city of Latakia, the southern opposition hub of Deraa and towns around Damascus, in demonstrations addressed to the uninvolved majority and Arab rulers with chants of “Your silence is killing us”.

Opposition organisations say that 1,400-1,600 people have died during the four-month revolt.

In the west of the country, a bomb damaged an oil pipeline in the second incident of sabotage since protests began in mid-March.