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Al-Azhar initiative equates state violence with protests, revolutionaries complain

Handful of 'revolutionary' figures blast new Al-Azhar initiative to end political crisis saying it legitimises security crackdowns on demonstrators

Ahram Online , Friday 1 Feb 2013
Tahrir square
Egyptian Protester flashes the victory sign during clashes with riot police near Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt. (Photo: AP)
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An Al-Azhar-proposed initiative to end Egypt's political crisis and ongoing violence, launched early Thursday, has triggered an uproar among some revolutionaries who perceive it as an attempt to criminalise protesters and legitimise security crackdowns on demonstrators.

A statement released late Thursday entitled 'Stop state violence," signed by tens of protesters, read: "Violence is referred to [in the initiative] as though the responsible figures for this violence were unknown, despite the fact that the interior ministry is directly responsible for the killing of tens of martyrs."

The statement added that the initiative equated assaults on state institutions carried out by protesters and those on people, which they claim were carried out by police.

The statement clarified that it was normal for people to be concerned with the increase in violence. However, the statement pointed out that the reason for the increase in uprisings across Egypt could only be blamed on the fact that no one has yet been held accountable for the killing of protesters, that torture continues to be practiced and that corruption remains rampant.

The statement also attributed the current political deadlock to the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood had responded to peaceful opposition protests by using "violent militias that attacked and tortured protesters" and that this had also contributed to the current crisis and anger.  

Egypt's Al-Azhar on Thursday declared its sponsorship of the initiative. It was signed by several political figures, including head of the Constitution Party Mohamed ElBaradei and former MP Amr Hamzawy.  

The initiative included the following points:

1- The right to life is guaranteed by all religions and laws; there is no good to any a nation or society that fails to recognise the sacred character of human life.

2- Distinctions must be drawn between political action and violent criminal action, with an emphasis on the sanctity of public and private property and blood.

3- Emphasis must be put on the duty of the state and its security apparatuses to protect the citizenry, their constitutional rights and freedoms, and public and private property without breaching human rights and laws.

4- The denunciation – along with the legal and religious criminalisation – of violence in all of its forms.

5- The condemnation of the incitement to violence.

6- The condemnation of all calls for violence, defamation of the other, spreading rumours against public figures and entities, and recognition of these actions as ethical breaches.

7- A commitment to peaceful means of engaging in politics and raising Egypt's next generation into a culture of peaceful political discourse.

8- A commitment to serious dialogue between different political groups, especially in times of crisis, aimed at reinforcing a culture of respect for diversity.

9- The protection of Egyptian society from sectarian and racist calls, illegal militant groups and illegal foreign intervention.

10- The protection of the Egyptian state is the responsibility of all parties: the government, opposition, the people, the youth, the elderly, political parties, groups and movements.

Meanwhile, Egyptian Popular Current founder and former presidential contender Hamdeen Sabbahi released a statement on Thursday clarifying his position vis-a-vis the initiative.

"I signed the [Al-Azhar] document to reject violence, which I believe is not the path to our revolution, which defeated [ousted president Honsi] Mubarak and [former interior minister Habib] El-Adly's Central Security Forces with their naked chests and bravery," he declared.

Sabbahi went on to say: "I assure you that I did not sign a deal that would equate the killing of the martyrs at the hands of the state and the angry reaction of protesters that it triggered."

He went on to stress that he would not engage in dialogue with the ruling government until those responsible for killing revolutionaries were put on trial, adding: "We [the opposition] will not be striking deals at the expense of the blood that has been shed or at the expense of the revolution."

Sabbahi finally called on all Egyptians to join the anti-government rallies planned Friday. The National Salvation Front (NSF), of which Sabbahi is a founding member, announced that "peaceful marches" would set out for the Presidential Palace in Cairo's Heliopolis district to reiterate "demands of the revolution."

Among these demands are the dismissal of the current government, amendment of the recently-approved constitution and the appointment of a new prosecutor-general.

A statement released by the NSF calling for protests further condemned the "use of the same repressive security practices employed by the old regime to suppress Egyptians' resentment against President Mohamed Morsi's policies and the Muslim Brotherhood," the group from which the president hails.

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