Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Egypt's Top Religious Authority: It's Not Anti-Islam to Be Anti- Morsi

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Egypt's Top Religious Authority: It's Not Anti-Islam to Be Anti- Morsi

Article excerpt

As the Egyptian opposition's demands for the resignation of President Mohamed Morsi and fresh elections gain momentum, the beleaguered president's supporters are slamming the opposition as secular and hostile to Islam.

In the deeply religious country, it is a serious criticism, and it has brought many Egyptians to Mr. Morsi's side. But his opponents point to support from the leading voice of the Sunni establishment in Egypt.

Earlier this month, Ashraf Abdel-Moniem, a conservative preacher and a vocal supporter of Morsi, declared that it was obligatory for Muslims to confront, even kill, anyone protesting against the government. The head of Al Azhar University, Egypt's leading Sunni institution, disagreed saying "peaceful opposition to the government is acceptable in Islam."

Since, the political temperature in Egypt has only risen. At least two people were killed and scores injured in clashes over the weekend between supporters and opponents of Morsi.

The ongoing conflict between some Islamists - who see the attempt to topple Morsi as an affront to his electoral mandate - and the opposition has plunged Egypt into the "deepest crisis since the Jan. 25 revolution," says Khaled Fahmy, a professor at the American University in Cairo. (Editor's note: Khaled Fahmy's name has been corrected.)

A broad coalition of opposition groups - dubbed Tamarod or "Rebel" - is planning to hold protests beginning June 30 and lasting until Morsi is removed from office. They say Mr. Morsi has spent the last year shoring up his party's control of Egypt's institutions instead of stabilizing a shrinking economy and mounting energy shortages.

With his number of allies shrinking by the day, Morsi has turned to a handful of salafy Islamist groups who see his government as the first step towards an Egypt governed by their interpretation of Islamic law. Morsi's salafy allies have threatened to use violence to preserve his presidency. "Not necessarily the Brotherhood," says Mr. Fahmy, "but people to the right of the Brotherhood are taking things into that direction."

In a bid to show its street strength, the Muslim Brotherhood organized a day-long rally on June 21 in Cairo's Nasr City neighborhood.

"Yes to Islam, no to violence, no to secularism!" shouted supporters at the rally, which drew hundreds of thousands of people from all over Egypt. "There is no shame in sharia (Islamic law)," read a sign held by a protester.

Sabry Gaad, a teacher who attended the protest, said he is not a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but opposes Tamarod because "they are against sharia." He questioned the group's claim that it had widespread support - Tamarod says that its campaign to gather 15 million signatures on a petition calling for new elections is close to reaching its goal.

Former President Hosni Mubarak suppressed religious groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, routinely jailing the Brotherhood's members - including Morsi - and charged them with supporting violent Islamist groups.

Since his election Morsi has pushed for the release of many Islamists jailed under Mubarak, including leaders from Al Gamaa al- Islamiya (GI), a former militant group that renounced violence a decade ago after a 1990s insurgency that killed hundreds of civilians and security officials. …

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