On First Friday of Ramadan, Cairo Braces for Rival Protests

By Patrick Goodenough | July 12, 2013 | 5:03 AM EDT

Supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi protest in Nasr City, Cairo on Wednesday, July 10, 2013. The Muslim Brotherhood has called for a “million man march” on Friday to demand his reinstatement. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

(CNSNews.com) – Egyptians on both sides of their country’s political divide are preparing to hold more demonstrations on Friday – the Muslim Brotherhood protesting the ousting of President Mohammed Morsi and supporters of the military takeover celebrating his departure.

Being the first Friday of Ramadan, those planning the celebratory rally at Tahrir Square said it would include a mass end-of-fasting “iftar” meal after sundown.

For their part, the Muslim Brotherhood and other Morsi supporters, under the umbrella of the “National Alliance to Support Legitimacy,” are calling for a “million man march” in the capital to demand his reinstatement.

Despite a security crackdown on the Brotherhood, most of whose senior leadership are in custody along with Morsi himself, it is vowing to continue “peace resistance” against what it calls the “coup against constitutional legitimacy” and the “usurper government” installed by the military. A mass pro-Morsi sit-in protest at a Cairo mosque is continuing.

The Obama administration on Thursday made its strongest comments yet on the detentions, with State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki saying that arrests “targeting specific groups are not in line with the national reconciliation that the interim government and military say they are pursuing.”

“If politicized arrests and detentions continue, it is hard to see how Egypt will move beyond this crisis,” she said, adding that senior U.S. officials had conveyed that message to the military.

The administration has still not stated, one way or another, whether it views the ousting of Morsi as having amounted to a military coup, which under current U.S. law would require a suspension of aid.

Psaki repeated earlier statements to the effect that a review of U.S. policy towards Egypt is underway and that it includes, but is not limited to, the legal requirements under the legislation.

“In the meantime, obviously, we’re continuing to provide assistance and don’t see the benefit in changing that,” Psaki said.

White House press secretary Jay Carney also said the U.S. review would include an evaluation of progress being made towards a transition to democracy in Egypt, where developments “will, in part, inform how we make our determinations.”

Scores of people have been killed in clashes since the president was ousted on July 3, including more than 50 Morsi supporters and one soldier in one incident on Monday alone which the Muslim Brotherhood and army each blamed on the other.

Adly Mansour, the senior judge installed by the military as interim president, this week laid out a timeline for a transition to democratic rule. It includes the review of the controversial new constitution – with amendments put to a referendum within four months – parliamentary elections to be held early next year, following by presidential elections.

The Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party have already rejected the transition plan.

Psaki said U.S. officials remain in contact with people across the political spectrum, including the Muslim Brotherhood. “In all these conversations, we urge them to engage in the political process and to support the process to full civilian governance through elections.”

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow