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Protestors in Egypt call for Islamic state ahead of elections

Country/Region: Middle East and North Africa, Egypt

As thousands of protestors occupied Tahrir Square in Egypt this week, Islamist demonstrators called for an Islamic state in “a show of force” ahead of the country’s elections due to start on Monday.

They asserted their intentions for the country’s future amid the intensifying protests against the military council’s continued grip on power.

Tahrir-square-18Nov_4X3.jpg
A scene from Tahrir Square
on 18 November
CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 / Muhammad Moneib

Many chanted “Islamic, Islamic, we don’t want secular!”, while some were waving Saudi Arabian flags displaying Islamic slogans.

Speaking on the first day of the demonstrations on Friday (18 November), Muslim leader Imam Mazhar Shahin said:

Those who fear Islamist movements in Egypt, I tell them don’t be scared of Islam in Egypt. Egypt is Islamic, like it or not.

He said that they wanted “a civic democratic state with an Islamic vision that allows people to practise their rights and democracy” – but these values run contrary to Islamic teaching.

An Egyptian church leader said that the Islamists were using the demonstrations as “a show of force”.

However, Islamist group leaders were reportedly removed forcibly from the protests in Tahrir Square on Monday (21 November).

Pre-election clashes

The protests were sparked after the military-led government set out plans for the drafting of a new constitution that would preserve its powerful position in Egypt long into the future. Many Egyptians have become frustrated with the slow pace of political reforms since the fall of Hosni Mubarak.

The resignation of the cabinet and an offer from the military for a speedier handover to civilian rule have failed to placate the protestors as clashes between them and the security forces continue.

The protests come ahead of the three-phase vote for the lower house of Egypt’s parliament, which is due to begin on Monday (28 November). Islamist parties, notably the Muslim Brotherhood and a coalition of Salafi parties, are expected to emerge with the largest share of the vote.

This is likely to lead to the formation of a state that is even more hostile towards Egypt’s Christian community, who comprise around ten per cent of the population. Already persecuted and discriminated against, they have suffered an increase in violent attacks since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in February; at least 67 people, mostly Christians, have been killed in religious clashes.

Last Thursday (17 November), Christians who were marching peacefully through Cairo to commemorate those killed in Maspero in October came under attack. It is thought that Salafis were among those who hurled rocks, glass bottles and fire bombs at the Christians, who were marking – as is traditional in Egyptian culture – the 40th day after a death. Around 30 people were injured.

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