Friday of anger turns irritable
Posted on January 27, 2012
Jan. 25 is the date that the revolution began, and hundreds of thousands of Egyptians marked its anniversary this week. But ask anyone who participated in the uprising and they will likely tell you than Jan. 28 was when Egypt changed irrevocably. It was a violent and damaging day, but one full of significant and tangible gains for the revolutionaries.
Today was again dubbed the Friday of Rage, and saw protestors convene in their thousands in Tahrir and outside Maspero after coordinating several marches across Cairo.
I mentioned in my Jan. 25 post that the various motivations of the million or so people in Tahrir had produced tension, and today I saw a continuation – indeed, an escalation – of that.
In the centre of the square, the Muslim Brotherhood had erected a stage. Right next to it was a stage for The Revolution Continues. Both competed for attention through deafeningly loud PA systems, as MB supporters clashed with other revolutionaries. At the time of writing, these were nothing more than sporadic fist-fights that were soon enough broken up by the masses.
Whereas Jan. 25 saw a very large turnout for MB supporters, today saw them far outnumbered by partisans of other groups. At one point, the MB stage began blaring out Quranic suras, presumably in an attempt to drown out some the abuse it had received throughout the afternoon. The crowd responded with a hail of jeers and a volley of water bottles and other projectiles.
I spoke with Ahmed, a shopkeeper who had travelled to Cairo from Mansoura. In a view shared by the hundreds of civilians hurling more than just insults at the stage, he was disparaging of the MBs attempts to religionize the protests.
“Religion is for a man and his God. I came here from the mosque, but what place does Islam have in the square?” he asked. “The ikhwan are making a mistake. We all love our religion; it is a vital part of all our lives. But it has no place in government, and no place in politics.”
More generally, there was hostility aimed at the MB in the form of allegations that the party were carrying out the whims of the Scaf (“Get down, you are one of Tantawi’s dogs” went the chant).
Not even an attempt by once emcee to find common ground (“yaskot yaskot 7okm el 3askar” ["Down with Scaf"]) could silence the critics. The MB has scouts deployed across the square, and they were having a hard time of it today; several exchanged heated words with small groups before hurrying off with tails between legs (not that I endorse the accusation of them being dogs. It’s a figure of speech).
Just as it’s easier to tear a building down that put one up, so the unity of the people of Tahrir is getting harder to piece back together as Egypt’s transition to democracy progresses. Protestors from various groups have vowed to stay in the square and continue their marches across the country. Tomorrow is Jan. 28, a year to the day since the Army stormed anti-Mubarak protests as the NDP building went up in flames. Expect some fireworks.