Maybe the first ever Islamist rally titled, “No to violence.”
CAIRO (AP) — Several thousand hard-line Islamists rallied in Cairo on Friday against a recent wave of violent anti-government protests, while liberal activists staged a smaller demonstration across town to call for accountability and justice from the country’s leaders.
The parallel rallies mirror the deep divisions that have plagued Egypt in the two years since longtime autocrat Hosni Mubark’s ouster, leaving the country’s politics polarized, its people frustrated and its economy battered by the continuous turmoil.
The current cycle of unrest erupted three weeks ago around the second anniversary of the uprising that toppled Mubarak. The opposition accuses Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, who was elected in June, and his Muslim Brotherhood party of trying to monopolize power.
In a show of support for the president on Friday, around 5,000 Islamist supporters gathered in front of Cairo University for a rally dubbed “No to violence.” Some of the demonstrators carried aloft banners that read: “People want an iron fist” and “Yes to Islamic law,” while others chanted, “People want the law of God to be implemented.”
The protest was largely seen as a denunciation of the anti-government demonstrations in recent weeks that have frequently turned violent, leaving more than 70 people dead.
“I would like to tell the people who are attacking the police by throwing firebombs at them that this is unacceptable,” said Mahmoud Mamdouh, who was protesting outside the university. “These are our people and these buildings that are getting destroyed are our property.”
In Cairo, prominent figures such as Mohammed el-Beltagi of the Muslim Brotherhood, spoke to the Islamist crowd atop a stage erected in the square that had a large banner with the image of Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman on it. Known as the blind sheik, Abdel-Rahman is serving a life sentence in the United States for being the spiritual leader of men convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.