Egyptian Islamists have rallied to support Mohammed Morsi ahead of opposition protests demanding his removal. Tension has grown in the run-up to June 30, which marks the completion of Morsi's first year in office.
Government supporters ferried followers of Morsi's powerful Muslim Brotherhood and 16 other Islamist groups to the capital from several provinces. Some people carried the Egyptian banner and others waved the black flag of jihad.
"Morsi is our president and no one else," the demonstrators chanted as they waved pictures of the president and packed the streets around a major mosque in Nasr City in eastern Cairo.
The opposition accuses Morsi of failing to fulfill the objectives of the popular revolution that brought him to power. Tamarod (Rebellion), a protest group backed by the main opposition parties, has planned a massive sit-in June 30 outside the presidential palace in Cairo to call for Morsi's resignation and early elections.
The June 30 protest campaign comes after a months-long petition drive. Organizers announced on Thursday that they had collected up to 15 million signatures supporting Morsi's removal and an early presidential election. (He had won the presidency last year with just 13 million votes.)
In a recent interview, Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected president, called the demands "absurd and illegal." Still, his first year in power has seen constant political unrest and a sinking economy.
Protests and clashes also spread across the country earlier this week after Morsi appointed 17 new governors, 10 of them members of his Islamist bloc. The new governor of Luxor comes from a group that claimed responsibility for the murder of dozens of tourists in 1997.
‘For Egypt's sake'
Morsi's supporters have vowed that he will complete his four-year term, and some clerics have called the upcoming protests a "war on Islam." Supporters charge that the opposition has deliberately caused unrest on the streets to undercut the Islamist president's clout.
Pro-Morsi banners read, "No to demolition of legitimacy" and "For Egypt's sake, stay at home on June 30."
Though supporters dubbed Friday's gathering the "1 million people rally against violence," clerics sympathetic to Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood gave the green light for supporters to fight with the president's opponents, describing the opposition's June 30 protests as "religious war." Supporters and detractors of Morsi have held rival rallies in recent months that have occasionally descended into deadly clashes.
On Friday, Morsi's backers and opponents clashed outside a mosque in Alexandria, Egypt's second largest city, the state-run newspaper al-Ahram reported. Both sides threw stones before the opposition forced its rivals to take refuge in the mosque, according to the newspaper, which did not report any casualties.
mkg/dr (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)