Time Out for Egyptian Activists: To Fast, not Protest
Egyptian political groups said on Sunday they would suspend demonstrations during Ramadan, which starts on Monday, but would resume a campaign for swifter democratic reforms by the ruling army after the Muslim fasting month is over.
Many Egyptians have grown tired of the protests, which have disrupted traffic in city centers. Nerves are often frayed during Ramadan, when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. Ramadan this year falls during the height of the summer heat.
The groups said they would continue to demand that the army council, which took over after President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February, speed up reforms and the prosecution of former officials who face corruption and murder charges.
Most of the groups were among those who pulled out of a protest on Friday after accusing Islamist groups of having hijacked the event, which had been organized to send a united message to the army.
The groups’ supporters have been camped out in central Cairo’s Tahrir Square and other areas around the country since a protest on July 8.
“Several political parties and youth groups have decided to suspend sit-ins temporarily throughout the holy month of Ramadan, assuring a return ... for peaceful sit-in in Tahrir Square for other demands to be achieved,” 26 groups said in a joint statement distributed by e-mail.
More than 840 people died in the 18-day protest groundswell that overthrew Mubarak. Police used rubber bullets, live ammunition, tear gas and batons against demonstrators.
Many Egyptians have also criticized the way the head of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, has handled the transition ahead of what are supposed to be the country’s first free and fair elections later this year.
Islamists and more liberal groups have diverged on how hard to press the ruling generals for change. They have also been divided over the constitution, which is to be rewritten after a new parliament is elected.
Liberal groups fear the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s best organized group, and other Islamists will dominate the vote.
Friday’s protests by tens of thousands gathered in Tahrir were dominated by chants from Islamists, notably Salafists who follow a particularly strict interpretation of Islam.
The Muslim Brotherhood questioned the decision by other groups to quit Friday’s protest, saying Salafist slogans should not have prompted a withdrawal. The Brotherhood takes a conservative line but far less strict than Salafists.
In a statement on Saturday, the Brotherhood said Egypt’s Islamic identity is deep-rooted. It urged those who did not agree with Islamists “to respect the public will ... and to yield to the rules of democracy” but also urged fellow Islamists to respect equality and cooperate with others in “everything that serves the nation.”
By SARAH MIKHAIL
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