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A Friday of national unity in Egypt

Thousands gather in Tahrir Square and in front of the state television building Friday, protesting sectarianism and pledging national unity

Yassin Gaber, Friday 11 Mar 2011
Friday of National Unity
Egyptians shout slogans during a rally to support Muslims and Christians national unity at Tahrir Square, the focal point of the January Egyptian uprising in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, March 11, 2011. The Arabic on banner reads:" Muslim plus Christian equals Egypt." (AP Photo/Grace Kassab)

As has been the case every Friday since the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak, protestors gathered in Tahrir Square to press the revolution’s demands. 

This week demonstrators are calling for national unity following days of sectarian violence, while some are gathering to say No to proposed constitutional amendments they deem inadequate.

Friday prayers were held in the square and in Omar Makram, the mosque adjacent to it, where the iman centred his speech on religious harmony, saying “suspicious hands behind sectarian violence are attempting to halt the revolution.”

Thousands gathered with banners emphasising national unity. Drawings of the cross and crescent side by side and banners reading “We are all Egyptians” and “The revolution will succeed if we are all united” were carried by protestors.    

Only a handful of traffic police were present on the square and a number of military police stood in nearby streets, at their usual daily locations.

Some of the protestors also held banners against the proposed constitutional amendments, inciting people to vote No.

Several intellectuals and political figures have called for delaying the constitutional amendments referendum to allow for wider debate concerning the proposed changes and the addition of further amendments. 

Some also argued that more time is needed to allow for more diverse political life in Egypt to emerge, to ensure that the next elections would not be dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood or a reconstituted National Democratic Party.

A few metres away from Tahrir, thousands of protestors, including actor Hani Ramzi, assembled in front of the national television building, joining hundreds of Copts who have been staging a sit-in for days. The sit-in started following the burning of a church following a dispute between two families over a romance between a Muslim daughter and a young Christian man. Many Muslims during the past days have also joined in solidarity.

The sit-in’s demands include the rebuilding of the church in its original location and the resignation of Helwan’s governor, where the incidence took place. 

Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and new Prime Minster Essam Sharaf already promised on Monday to fulfil these demands. Regardless, protestors have announced that they will not leave before the demands are materialised. Demonstrators gathered on Friday chanted slogans urging the military to act against sectarianism.

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