Egypt′s Islamists refocus their protest message | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 13.07.2013
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Egypt's Islamists refocus their protest message

More protests came Friday (12.07.2013) both from Morsi supporters and non-Islamists. The supporters of the deposed government are increasingly distancing themselves from Mohammed Morsi as an individual.

It was almost a peaceful atmosphere on Friday (12.07.2013) when around 200 anti-Morsi demonstrators gathered to break their Ramadan fast together. Blankets covered the asphalt, and men, women and children of all ages placed food and drink on top of them. The mood, however, remained tense - after all, the picnic was being staged in front of Cairo's presidential palace.

Six combat vehicles stood behind a mess of barbed wire, protecting not just the palace but demonstrators, as well. Islamists had announced that they were organizing a protest march to the palace.

demonstrators breaking their fast in Cairo

Many Egyptians are wary of the West

Twenty-five-year-old Mohammed Hosni is a member of the Tamarod protest movement, which organized the mass anti-Morsi demonstrations on June 30. He is demonstrating this time because the military's constitutional declaration does not reflect his wishes.

"It was good, but not enough. I'm here as a representative of Tamarod. We have called for a few changes in the constitutional declaration, and now there will soon be a new constitutional decree," he said.

Meanwhile, many of the demonstrators have grown extremely skeptical toward foreigners. On one tent, there's a large tarp displaying a picture of the US ambassador to Egypt, in which she is taunted in vulgar terms.

New slogan, new protests

Around 10 minutes away by car, many hundreds of thousands of Islamists have been demonstrating for nearly two weeks. But the character of their protest has changed. Now there's less talk of the rally being pro-Morsi, and the number of signs favoring the country's deposed president has fallen. At one of the two stages for speakers, the new and more general slogan "No to military rule" can be seen.

Perhaps the leadership among the Islamists have now given up hope of seeing Mohammed Morsi reinstated as president and want to allow their supporters to get used to that idea. Presumably, negotiations between the Muslim Brotherhood's leadership and the country's military have been going on in the background for some time to find a solution to the conflict. But backing away from Morsi - much less abandoning the protest project altogether - would be a shock for many of the group's supporters.

Some, like 45-year-old Hussein, would like to see the confrontation come to a head. "We should start with civil disobedience. If that doesn't work, then we should break off relations with the West, which is letting all of this happen here. And if that dosen't work, then we should start an armed resistance."

Anger toward the US and the military

Some of those sitting near Hussein shook their heads in rejection of violence. One thing many share, however, is the view that the US and the West more generally should be rejected. It's an opinion shared even between the non-Islamists and the supporters of Morsi. Both groups believe that the US is damaging Egypt.

tanks and barbed wire

The military has been heavily involved in Egyptian politics since the 1950s

The non-Islamists cite the Americans' role in supporting the former government, while the Islamists say that the US simply let the Muslim Brotherhood-led government fall and that the country now supports Egypt's military.

Hussein goes a step further, saying the June 30 demonstrations were steered by the US and that the number of participants was then exaggerated by Western media.

The mood is also turning when it comes to the Egyptian military, despite having enjoyed praise from many until now. Fawzy Mohamed has no reservations about expressing his anger toward the military for having recently killed more than 50 Islamists. "Our army has transformed into an army of businesspeople. It is increasingly the army of Israel and the USA. Our army is now being paid to kill people. They are murderers and killers," he said.

Revolutionary image

Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood is making efforts to present itself as a revolutionary group - particularly to young people. The Islamist political alliance has been playing popular music at one of its two stages for speakers, while young people danced nearby.

From the podium came shouts of "Down, down with the military council!" They are words that recall the revolutionaries' cries at Tahrir Square during the military's reign in 2012. The speaker reminded the audience of crimes committed by the military council during that time, ignoring that it was often the Muslim Brotherhood that tolerated crimes against the demonstrators after the group won a majority in parliament.

The representative of the Muslim Brotherhood's political party went on to argue that non-Islamist activist groups - like the influential April 6 movement - had helped organize events on the stage at which he spoke. But Ayman Abdel Meguid, an organizer within the April 6 Movement, calls that assertion is complete nonsense and propaganda.

The Muslim Brotherhood seems willing to play fast and loose with the truth more generally at the moment. On their website, they have published a purportedly current photo that shows a large number of pro-Morsi demonstrators in Alexandria. In fact, however, the photo was taken at a protest in November 2012, which can be easily spotted due to the winter clothing worn by the demonstrators depicted.

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