CAIRO, July 29 (UPI) — Thousands of religious activists led by the Muslim Brotherhood rallied in Cairo’s Tahrir Square Friday in a sharp shift from secular protests, witnesses said.
The demonstrators demanded an Islamic state based on Shariah law, the BBC reported.
Members of the liberal secular groups that led the revolution against ex-President Hosni Mubarak have been staging a sit-in in the square for 22 days, seeking faster reforms from the ruling military.
“We don’t want any clashes,” Brotherhood activist Ahmed Mokhtar told al-Masry al-Youm Thursday night before the rally.
Hassan Abu Okaily, part of the sit-in group, said the religious activists had the right to gather “but this is simply an exercise of showing muscles.”
“All the opposition movements will be in one unit against any division,” George Ishak of the Egyptian Movement for Change told the Voice of America Thursday. “So we will go to this demonstration with one vision. We will keep our revolution and we don’t permit anybody to divide us.”
More than 20 political forces, including the extremist Gamaa Islamia Islamist movement and the Muslim Brotherhood, said they would focus on unity and harmony during the mass protest after Jumu’ah, or Friday prayer, even while holding different visions for Egypt.
The Gamaa Islamia movement — which wants an Islamic state and is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and European Union — said it would align with other activists in a mass protest dubbed “The Popular Will and Unity Friday,” saying contrast did not have to lead to conflict.
The Muslim Brotherhood — which says the Koran, the sacred book of Islam, is its constitution and the Prophet Mohammed its leader — also agreed to act with unity, saying oneness did not mean sameness and variations in beliefs did not have to bring violence to people’s lives.
The unity pledges were made after a major protest against the military rulers Saturday ended in violence among competing groups that caused at least 300 injuries. Several dozen people required hospitalization.
Things will be different this time, Ishak told VOA.
“Nobody has all the reality. We are different. We have many visions,” he said. “And every group, every element, has his right to show himself without any objection. Without any talk about ‘you follow a foreign agenda’ or something like that. It is forbidden.”
The political groups aligned around common demands for faster public trials for Mubarak and his family and the prosecution of corrupt ex-officials and police officers and soldiers accused of killing protesters during the uprising that toppled the Mubarak regime, the Daily News Egypt reported.
Mubarak is set to stand trial starting Wednesday, despite a report from his lawyer that the 83-year-old had lapsed into a coma in a hospital near his palatial home in the Sinai resort city of Sharm el-Sheik.
Many political groups also want more power for the civilian government, which now works under the ruling military council, along with a timetable for elections to hand over the country to a civilian authority and a cleansing of official institutions of the remnants of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, dissolved by court order April 16.
The groups have differences about a proposed “supra-constitutional manifesto” that would be presented to the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces as a binding, unchangeable list of constitutional principles.
The National Council for Human Rights, led by former U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, put together a draft of the proposed charter last week that combines 10 similar documents.
Islamist groups denounced the manifesto, alleging it was an attempt to “circumvent the people’s will,” the Daily News Egypt said.