Egypt's top religious authority: It's not anti-Islam to be anti-Morsi

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.
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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.
Read more about Tamarod's bid to boot
Morsi from office
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.
At the rally last week, Assem Abdel Maged, a
GI leader, warned that the opposition sought
to overturn a democratic mandate to
implement Islamic law in Egypt. "Some who
lost at the ballot box want to take power
through anarchy," he said.
Mr. Abdel Maged has previously said the
Tamarod campaign is led by “communists,
[Mubarak loyalists], and Coptic extremists,”
who are “hostile to Islam.” Safwat Abdel
Ghany, a leading member of the group, said
earlier this month that the Tamarod
campaign was not a campaign in response to
economic problems, but a “war on Islam.”
Not everyone agrees. “Egypt is a religious
country, we love Islam,” said Ahmed
Marghani, a dentist from Alexandria who
attended the pro-Morsi rally. “But we do not
need sharia … people do not need laws to
control them.”
Marghani said he simply wanted to make
sure Morsi, a democratically elected
president, was not toppled by an opposition
that did not respect the country's
constitution.
Amal Sharaf is one of the founding members
of the April 6 Youth Movement, which began
as a campaign to support factory workers in
2008. It helped organize the 2011 protests
that toppled Mr. Mubarak and backed Morsi
in the 2012 elections because his only
opponent was Ahmad Shafiq, a former
Mubarak regime member.
She rejected the claims that the opposition is
predominantly secular, implying the
accusation was merely a vote-getting tactic.
“[The Brotherhood] is mixing politics with
religion,” Sharaf says. “To win people's votes,
their attention, their sympathy. The 15 million
signatures we have are not
from atheists..they are using religion in a
very cheap way.”
In fact, acknowledgment, if
not support, of the opposition's
grievances has come from a number of
Islamist quarters.
The Al Nour party, the country's
largest party of ultra-conservative salafis and
the second-largest party in the government
after the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and
Justice Party – has refused to participate in
the pro-Brotherhood campaign. While he does
not support calls for a fresh election, Al Nour
spokesman Nadr Bakr denounced pro-
Brotherhood rallies by Islamists as “only
fostering the current crisis, which harms the
country and its economy."
“We hoped Morsi would turn Egypt into a
new country,” says Ramy El-Swissy , another
founder of April 6, “A sovereign country
based on human rights and equality for
everyone....but he started to work for his own
benefit, for his own Brotherhood.”
“We will never accept this, after two years of
fighting the old regime and then the military
council.”