Intervention deepens leadership dispute in Egypt

Religious leader does not recognise interim president Adly Mansour and wants Mohamed Morsi reinstated

Egypt's grand mufti Abdulrahman Albir yesterday deepened the gulf between the country's secular and fundamentalist political camps by announcing, on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan, that he does not recognise interim president Adly Mansour and will not negotiate with him until deposed president Mohamed Morsi is reinstated.

Sheikh Albir's comments were at odds with the stance of Shaikh al-Azhar Ahmed El-Tayeb, the supreme religious authority in the Sunni Muslim world, who has attempted to end the increasingly dangerous polarisation in the country by adopting a tactic employed by Mahatma Gandhi and withdrawn from society until the sides agree to talk.

The Muslim Brotherhood, to which Mr Morsi belongs, has rejected calls for dialogue from Mr Mansour as well as his offer of government posts from interim prime minister Hazem El-Beblawi, who declared he intends to form a competent, inclusive cabinet that could be the "most important.. in Egypt's history".

“We do not deal with putchists. We reject all that comes from this coup,” said Brotherhood spokesman Tareq El-Morsi.


Egypt's state prosecutor has ordered arrest of Muslim Brotherhood supreme guide Mohamed Badie and 10 senior figures accused of inciting violence. Spokesman Gehad El- Haddad said charges against Mr Badie and the others were "an attempt by the police state to dismantle" the mass Brotherhood protest at Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in Nasr City.

'Safe place'
Foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdul Atti said the ousted president is being detained in "a very dignified manner" in a "safe place".

At least 103 people have died in clashes since June 30th when up to 14 million protested against Mr Morsi’s rule, 51 of whom were killed early Monday in violence involving his supporters and the police and troops. The authorities have released 446 of 652 suspects arrested at the time; 206 remain in police custody for 15 days, pending investigation of charges of murder, incitement, carrying unlicensed weapons and disrupting public order.

Meanwhile the main opposition alliance, the National Salvation Front, withdrew its rejection of Mr Mansour's constitutional declaration. Front members still express reservations about the document which is seen as conceding too much to the ultra-orthodox Salafi Nour party by referring to Egypt as an "Islamic state" where Muslim Sharia is the primary source of law.

The revolutionaries understand that the wording of the decree was meant to keep the Nour party, the sole fundamentalist faction to call for Mr Morsi to resign, in the opposition camp.

"We can negotiate changes in the permanent constitution," said Ahmed Hawary, speaking to The Irish Times as an analyst rather than as a representative of any group.

The wording was, apparently, worked out by the army and Mr Mansour without input from opposition parties or the Tamarod (Rebel) movement which mobilised millions against Mr Morsi.

Mr Hawary said the army is in charge now as there is “no government to assume power. The real test for the army will come when it is time to hand over to civilians.”

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen contributes news from and analysis of the Middle East to The Irish Times