Cairo/London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Tens of thousands of Islamists gathered in Cairo’s Rabaa Square on Friday to show their support for under-fire Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi ahead of massive anti-Mursi protests scheduled for June 30.
Friday’s rally, organized by Islamist preachers affiliated with Mursi’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), included Mursi supporters bussed in from several Egyptian provinces. The protestors carried banners reading: “We chose president Mursi” and “Islam is the solution,” vowing to carry out an “Islamic revolution” to crush Mursi’s opponents.
Last month, an opposition campaign dubbed Tamarod (Rebellion) vowed to hold massive anti-Mursi protests in a bid to pressure the president to step down and hold early elections.
The campaign organizers claimed to have collected 15 million signatures in favor of holding early elections to oust Mursi.
Safwat Hegazi, a well-known Islamic preacher in Egypt and a member of the FJP, led one of the protests and addressed the crowds by saying that that the majority of Egyptians support Mursi, not the opposition.
Dr. Alaa Abu Nasr, the secretary-general of the Islamist Building and Development Party, the political wing of Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya, claimed that “protestors came from everywhere to support the legitimacy and pursue the goals of the revolution.”
He described calls for holding early presidential elections as “nonsense,” saying this would only serve to destroy Egypt’s legitimacy.
Tarek El-Zumar, a Salafist former militant who served 30 years in prison for his role in the assassination of president Anwar Sadat, pledged to “crush” the Tamarod protesters.
Mohammed El-Beltagy, a senior leader of the FJP, declaired: “We will protect the legitimacy with our blood and souls.”
Pro-Mursi protestors staged several martial arts demonstrations in a park near Rabaa Square in a show of force against anti-Mursi protestors. They stressed that they respect Mursi’s legitimacy and support his recent decisions against those “who represent the former regime,” a reference to the June 30 protests.
The Salafist Al-Nour Party—Egypt’s second-largest Islamist political party after the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party—announced that its supporters had not taken part in Friday’s pro-Mursi rally.
“The Nour Party denounces the false claim by some that the party’s youth had taken part in [Friday’s] protests in Rabaa Square,” spokesman Nader Bakkar tweeted on Friday evening.
Meanwhile, anti-Mursi protestors massed in Tahrir Square and several other public squares in Egypt in preparation for massive anti-Mursi protests scheduled for June 30.
On Saturday, the Egyptian president called for dialogue with the opposition.
“I urge everyone to sit together to discuss what would achieve the interests of our nation,” he said in an interview with the state-run Akhbar Al-Youm newspaper.