Islamists to stamp mark on revolutionary demands at Tahrir demo as tensions with leftists mount

EGYPTIAN Islamists are set to stamp their mark on the revolutionary debate that up until now has been dominated by secular and leftist groups with a mass demonstration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square today (Friday).

Islamists angered activists by building a separate stage despite calls for unity

Islamists angered activists by building a separate stage despite calls for unity

The Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis, who follow a more orthodox form of Islam, will acknowledge their support for the revolution while making clear their differences with liberal groups, which have occupied the square for the past three weeks.

After Friday prayer the Islamists will use the platform to send a message backing the army’s leadership, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, in its current role as the country’s president in contrast to the half-dozen revolutionary groups staging a sit-in who want to see it withdraw from public life.

The religious groups will also call for the new constitution, that is yet to be written, to be guided by Islamic law.

Differences between the two groups sparked heated arguments in the square, where hundreds of people were killed during the uprising against former dictator Hosni Mubarak in January, on Thursday over a separate religious stage and banners calling for Sharia law.

The secularists and leftists camped out in the square had called for a united front on their revolutionary demands with one stage for all and religion kept off the agenda.

Both religious and liberal groups agree on calling for those responsible for the killing of innocent protesters and state corruption dealt with quickly and transparently by the civil justice system.

But during the night activists tweeted their fears of a confrontation between the two groups as the square was taken over by Islamists.

The mood towards the square’s occupants has changed in recent weeks with much of the country growing tired of the disruption to tourism, the economy and public life they believe the revolutionaries are causing.

Calls are growing louder for the army and interim government to be trusted to run the country until presidential elections are held at an unspecified time next year despite the slow pace of reform.

Last Saturday a peaceful protest to the Ministry of Defence calling for the head of SCAF to stand down came under attack in the district of Abassia for the second day in a row from alleged paid ‘thugs’ and army loyalists armed with knives, rocks and petrol bombs.

However it emerged that some of their assailants were local residents and shopkeepers angry over the disruption and damage to property and business.

Much of the country lived in poverty before the revolution with unemployment at around 20 per cent, but since the uprising, tourism, which employed around five million people, has all but ceased while direct foreign investment dropped by 75 per cent between the first and last quarters of 2011 and 2010 respectively.

Combined with around a million Egyptians returning from Libya, due to the civil war, looking for work and 12 per cent inflation due to external factors life is tougher than ever for many people.

But committed activists, who have little faith in SCAF, say these pressures should not be allowed to derail their efforts to ensure the crimes of the past are dealt with and a new constitution is written based on social justice free and from religious and military influence.

However left-leaning political analyst Mostafa Kamel al-Sayyed has called for the revolutionaries to ditch the sit-in and start organising for the upcoming elections to prevent Mubarak loyalists and Islamists from hijacking them, a local paper reported.

The SCAF has been accused of purposely inflaming tensions with provocative statements claiming liberal groups in Tahrir Square are being funded by and include foreigners intent on causing trouble and dividing the country.

The activists say it is the army creating the rift between the people and the revolution.

However many people have little interest in the political upheaval gripping the country.

Saied, a former government worker from Cairo, said: “I don’t care about the revolution. Fifty years ago I had no electricity or water in my house but life was good and it was the same after I got them. The government is the same; it changes but life is the same.”

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