Protests planned in Egypt's second city ahead of second polling day
A number of Islamist groups are calling for a rally "to defend scholars and mosques" in front of the Qaed Ibrahim mosque in Alexandria on Friday.
The protest comes after iconic Alexandria sheikh Ahmed El-Mahalawy was trapped inside the mosque for 14 hours on Friday, 14 December by worshippers angry at his sermon, which called for a 'Yes' vote in the national constitutional referendum.
According to a statement released on the Muslim Brotherhood’s Facebook page on Tuesday, the groups who plan to participate include the Brotherhood and its political arm the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the Salafist Calling and its political arm Nour Party, Asala Party, Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya, and Building and Development Party.
The Islamist forces blamed the liberal Constitution Party, headed by Mohamed ElBaradei, and the opposition group Egyptian Popular Current, led by former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi, for spearheading the attacks on the mosque.
The Brotherhood statement said that the rally will be in “response to the attacks by the militias of the Popular Current and the Constitution Party on the Qaed Ibrahim mosque, siege of Sheikh El-Mahalawy for more than 14 hours inside the mosque, and attempt to assault more than 100 worshippers, including women and children.”
Anas El-Kady, the official spokesperson of the Brotherhood’s Alexandria branch, said the rally will be against the “thuggery” of the two opposition groups.
“It began with attacking the (Brotherhood’s) headquarters, then with the assaulting of Brotherhood leaders' homes and houses of worship and Islamic preachers,” El-Kady said.
Several Brotherhood headquarters were torched by protesters, following President Mohamed Morsi’s controversial 22 November constitutional decree, in which he placed himself above judicial review.
El-Kady added that the siege of El-Mahalawy showed the “ugly face” of Egypt's "secular groups" hostile to Islam.
“Yet, the Egyptian people are religious by nature. Egyptians are protective of Islam and will not accept this kind of behavior,” he said.
He also accused the leaders of Egypt’s opposition groups of forcing the Islamists to resort to violence.
“However, Islamist leaders were able to exercise self-control. They managed to maintain their non-violent ideology and their belief in dialogue and peaceful work,” El-Kady said. “This is different than the secular groups, who prefer violence than dialogue and democracy.”
The Preacher’s Syndicate has also released a statement on their official website, announcing their planned participation in Friday’s rally after what they called a “savage attack by seculars, liberals, and members of the old regime, which culminated in the attack on the Qaed Ibrahim mosque, an icon of the revolution, and the siege of El-Mahalawy, a revolutionary preacher.”
The syndicate accused these forces of trying to drag Egypt into a civil war after they failed attempt to destroy the legitimacy of the regime and obstruct the path of the revolution.
The syndicate also urged the Egyptian people to protect places of worship. It asked the Ministry of Interior to protect houses of worship and arrest and punish all those responsible for this “heinous act.”
El-Mahalawy is a staunch supporter of President Mohamed Morsi.
Shortly after he was released, he revealed in a press conference that his supporters had wanted to violently disperse the siege but he told them to "wait."
“My sons [supporters] gave me a call and said that they are on their way to save me with automatic weapons, but I told them to wait for my instructions," he said.
Several vehicles were set ablaze in the ensuing violent clashes, and on-the-scene videos suggested anti-Brotherhood protesters destroyed cars carrying the logo of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party.
The planned Islamist protest in Alexandria is scheduled to be held one day before the second stage of the constitutional referendum, where 17 governorates will cast their vote.
Unofficial final results of the constitution referendum's first round, held on 15 December, show a 56.5 per cent approval for the draft charter while 'No' votes reached 43.5 per cent.