Huge pro-Morsi rally challenges opponents to ballot-box test
Demonstrators at the rally in Cairo in support of the president and his recent constitutional decree chanted for the implementation of Islamic sharia and slated opponents as old regime troublemakers
Randa Ali, Ekram Ibrahim, Sarah El-Rashidi, Saturday 1 Dec 2012
More than a three hundred thousand demonstrators took to the streets of Cairo on Saturday to support the constitutional declaration issued by President Mohamed Morsi last week, and to voice their demand for the implementation of Islamic sharia law.
"Morsi's declaration fulfils the revolution's demands. We wanted to remove the prosecutor-general and to retry the killers of the martyrs," spokesperson of the Egyptian Revolution Union, Khaled Said told Ahram Online.
According to Said it is necessary that Morsi render his decisions and the Constituent Assembly immune from challenges by the judiciary, "which, it is widely known, is full of remnants of the old regime."
Said, however, did not share the demand of thousands who were chanting around him for "the enforcement of sharia law."
"I'm not here to demand the implementation of sharia; this issue will lead to more division within Egyptian society and I believe it is not the right time to discuss such an issue," said Said.
Contrary to Said, Attia Mahmoud, a member of the Salafist Calling in Alexandria, said that he was there to call for the implementation of "God's law."
"It's like a refrigerator that comes with its manual; when God created us, our manual was the Quran and the Sunna [the prophet's teachings], and they are what we must follow," said Mahmoud, who added that Morsi's recent decisions are an example of the enforcement's of God's law.
In a festive-like atmosphere, buses carrying demonstrators from several governorates joined the rally near Cairo University while the crowd chanted "Islam is the solution" as they waved Egyptian flags and black flags emblazoned with "No God but God" – like those employed by Al-Qaeda.
A number of influential Islamist figures, mostly Salafist preachers, took the stage of the demonstration, including Yasser Borhami, Abdullah Badr, Mohamed Hassan and Abdel Moneim El-Shahat.
El-Shahat, a member of the Salafist Nour Party who failed to win a seat in last year's parliamentary elections, claimed that Egypt has only witnessed three million-man marches since the beginning of the January 25 revolution.
According to El-Shahat, these massive marches were on 11 February, the day Mubarak left power, on 29 July, referring to the Islamist protest known as Kandahar, and today's mass rally.
Notably, no popular figure from the Muslim Brotherhood was present on the stage all day.
Many of the pro-Morsi demonstrators cast accusations at protesters who have been occupying Tahrir Square for over a week in protest at the president's recent declaration.
Heba Mohamed, a 65-year-old member of the Muslim Brotherhood, accused protesters in Tahrir of being "against Islam and wanting the worst for Islam."
"No one here is smoking hash; no one here is being paid like those in Tahrir Square," Mahmoud Saleh, another member of the Muslim Brotherhood commented.
Several of those at the rally said that the current state of division in Egypt will be resolved through the ballot box, with a nationwide referendum on the controversial draft constitution expected soon.
"We say we want democracy; okay, then a referendum on the constitution will take place and people will get to vote yes or no - this is democracy," demonstrator Mohamed Kamal, 42, told Ahram Online.
Kamal, who works at the Ministry of Justice, argued that no matter how many millions protested in Tahrir, it is the constitution referendum that will count.
"After the referendum, Morsi will lose the powers from the decree and we can start parliamentary elections. With a parliament in place, if needed we can then debate articles of the constitution - it's possible to amend them after the constitution has been approved by the nation. At least we'll have something in place," said Kamal.
Kamal added that he saw the current opposition as wanting to oppose "for the sake of opposing."
"Look - ElBaradei, Hamdeen Sabbahi - they are both Egyptians and we need a healthy opposition, I welcome them. But stirring up trouble for trouble's sake is not acceptable. We've got to get Egypt moving somewhere; otherwise all of us will suffer. Financially we're losing every day. I believe this is the only way to restore calm to this country," he added.
As the president's decree continues to provoke conflicting reactions, the High Constitutional Court is expected to issue a verdict on the constitutionality of the Constituent Assembly on Sunday.
While Morsi's decree made the Constituent Assembly immune to judicial challenge, many judges in Egypt have gone on strike rejecting this and other provisions of the declaration.
Morsi is expected to meet on Saturday night with members of the Constituent Assembly to give his approval to the recently-finalised draft constitution and to set a date for the nationwide referendum required to ratify the charter.
This article was updated on 2 December, 2012