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Middle East

Islamist rhetoric becomes more intransigent

As Egypt's Islamists protest against the removal of their leader as the country's president, their tone is becoming increasingly extreme. They see conspiracies behind all their setbacks.

Hundreds of thousands of Islamists were out on the streets in the Cairo suburb of Nasr City on Sunday night (07.07.2013) again, when a variety of Salafist groups joined the Muslim Brotherhood in protest. The flag of Saudi Arabia could occasionally be seen among the Egyptian flags, as could the black flag with the Muslim declaration of faith written on it, which is often used by al Qaeda.

As they arrived, the leaders of each of the groups shouted, "Muslim, Muslim!" and, "We will sacrifice our life and our blood for Islam!" - and the slogans were taken up by the crowd and repeated.

Suddenly eight Egyptian air-force fighters thundered overhead, split into two groups of four and drew a heart in the blue sky with their vapor trails. For a few seconds, the crowd stopped shouting - everyone looked up, amazed at the heart in the heavens. There were smiles on many faces, some people cheered. But an announcement from the stage ended the moment of joy: "The heart is intended for the anti-Morsi demonstrators in front of the presidential palace."

The demonstrators returned to their chants quieter and a little disappointed: "Al-Sissi, disappear," they shout again, referring to the defense minister and head of the armed forces, Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, who announced the removal of President Mohammed Morsi last Wednesday (03.07.2013).

Masri, a 25-year-old demonstrator, refuses to be deceived by the show: "We're staying until our President Morsi is back in office. Defense Minister Al-Sissi is not our president. What has happened is a military putsch."

The heart in the sky seen through the banners Photo: DW/Matthias Sailer

The air-force's token could only briefly soften the Islamists' hearts

Hate speech against opponents and journalists

It's not clear whether the show in the sky was an attempt to divide the demonstrators or whether it was directed only at the anti-Morsi protest.

Just before 7 pm, it's time for evening prayers, and the masses line up.

What follows can only be described as hate preaching: the imam calls on Allah to conquer Al-Sissi, to "freeze the blood in the veins" of his supporters and to "cripple their arms and legs." God should revenge himself on Al-Sissi and his helpers. And above all, God should help Morsi and protect him. Finally he adds, "May Allah take revenge on all the journalists who want to destroy the country."

Masri is clear about whom the imam is referring to when he talks about Al-Sissi's supporters: "That's everyone who has been attacking and shooting at us, like [opposition leader] Mohammed ElBaradei, the opposition politician Hamdien Sabahi, the interior minister and the police chief - but the ordinary policemen are our sons."

Men at prayer at the demonstration Photo:DW/Matthias Sailer

Prayers were mixed with extremist, unconciliatory rhetoric from the preachers

Some of those praying are almost in tears as the imam speaks. The behavior of the fundamentalists has become more extreme in recent days. Three days ago, preachers and imams in Nasr City were speaking far more moderately.

The security teams of the Islamists also seem to have turned more fundamentalist: they stand two by two, armed in military formation. Their leader starts a question and answer game: "What is your book?" "The Koran!" "Who is your prophet?" Mohammed!" What do you want?" "We want to die for Allah!" Then they march on the spot, before running in step to their positions.

'They stuck on artificial beards'

Almost every demonstrator insists on the peaceful nature of the Islamists here. On Friday, over 1,000 Islamists marched almost right up to Tahrir Square, which is occupied by the anti-Morsi elements. There was a good chance that the confrontation might have ended in bloody clashes in the street. But when pro-Morsi demonstrator Ahmed Gamal is asked why they took that risk, he replies, "It's not true - none of the pro-Morsi people marched to Tahrir Square. These people were paid by the interior ministry and Mubarak regime to cause unrest. They were paid so that the people would hate Morsi even more. They stuck artificial beards on them." Many Islamists can be identified by their long beards.

A woman holds up a banner with the portrait of Mohammed Morsi Photo: DW/Matthias Sailer

The Islamists feel their democratic victory has been stolen from them

Other demonstrators gave the same bizarre answer to the question, and they added that the action was coordinated by the defense ministry with the Americans and Israelis. Such conspiracy theories are widespread among the demonstrators.

How the Islamists can be reintegrated into political life when they hold such views and hear such hate speech remains an open question. The pro-Morsi camp, with only a few exceptions is uncompromising.

Mohammed al-Gazar is demonstrating against the Islamists a few kilometers away. He has no illusions: "It'll take a long time. There will probably be conflict and they will resist. But even if there are terrorist actions for a time, that will only prove that we anti-Morsi demonstrators were right to be mistrustful."

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