Friday 22 September 2017

Civil war fears grow in Egypt

Patrick Kingsley

Egypt's leading Islamic institution has warned of the possibility of civil war as clashes between supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Morsi have spread across Egypt – exactly one year after his inauguration as Egypt's first democratically elected president.

The country's fate feels as uncertain as at any point since the 2011 uprising which toppled Hosni Mubarak, with rumours of military intervention rife. At least seven people have died and more than 600 have been injured in fighting between Morsi's Islamist allies – who argue that his democratic legitimacy should be respected – and his often secular opponents, who feel that, while he was elected democratically, he has not shown respect for the wider values on which a successful democracy depends.

But with at least four attacks nationwide on offices of the Muslim Brotherhood – the Islamist group from which Morsi hails – divisions are also being increasingly drawn on ideological grounds.

Egypt's highest Islamic authority expressed its own concerns over the situation. "Vigilance is required to ensure we do not slide into civil war," said Sheikh Hassan al-Shafie, a senior cleric at al-Azhar, a 1,000-year-old university often considered the highest seat of learning in the Sunni Islam world.

"Egypt's current crisis goes beyond a reasonable political struggle that could be explained within the context of democratic dispute," argued Khalil al-Anani, an academic specialising in Egyptian politics. "It is more an attempt to banish and abort one party by the other."

"We're here to bring down the Murshid's regime," said Saad el-Aswany, a builder from Aswan attending an anti-Morsi protest in Tahrir Square yesterday. The Murshid is the Muslim Brotherhood's leader, and members of the opposition think his office is the real power behind Morsi's throne. "Banish the Murshid and all who are with him," shouted the thousands alongside him, many waving Egyptian flags.

Five miles away, hundreds of thousands of their fellow countrymen were also waving their national ensign – but with a very different vision of what it represented. "Islam, Islam," chanted the Islamists who had descended on the Egyptian capital to support their president. "Islam in spite of liberalism."

© Observer

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