NEWS ANALYSIS: LIMITED ISLAMIST PROTESTS SHOW IRONFISTED SECURITY IN EGYPT

By Mahmoud Fouly

CAIRO, Egypt, Nov 29 — Friday’s limited protests staged by supporters of ousted Islamist President, Mohamed Morsi, showed off the ironfisted security in Egypt and the declining power of pro-Morsi Islamists, led by the currently-blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood group.

Islamist group, the Salafist Front, member of a pro-Morsi Islamist alliance, led by the Brotherhood, called late Oct, for anti-government protests to be staged on Nov 28.

It refers to them as “the Islamic Revolution,” “Raising the Holy Quran,” and “the Islamic Youth Uprising.”

In response, the Egyptian security forces managed to foil the Islamist activities, with intensifying security and deploying about 220,000 equipped military and police officers and soldiers across the country.

“It was expected that Friday Islamist protests will be contained by the security forces, regardless of few bloody attempts, and the Brotherhood should not be overestimated, as they turned out to be unable to mobilise for mass protests,” Saeed al-Lawindi, political researcher and expert at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, said.

Amid Friday’s protests and confrontations, at least two civilians and a military officer were killed, 224 people were arrested and ten explosive devices were defused.

The expert continued that the authorities act strictly, when social peace is threatened, yet he said that, Islamists, who would denounce violence could join civilian parties and be part of the society, noting the new constitution does not allow religion-based political parties.

Lawinidi described raising the Holy Quran during Islamist anti-government protests as “a step backward.”

“They should not deem the society disbelievers, by protesting for Islamic identity and raising the Holy Quarn, as it is a step backwards that blocks the advancement of society,” he added.

Egypt has been struggling to boost ailing economy, that has been deteriorating over the past few years, due to political turmoil that witnessed the downfall of two heads of state.

Since he took office, ex-military chief and now President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, has been trying to fix Egypt’s relations with regional and international powers, particularly the West, that rejected the Morsi’s overthrow.

“Egypt now is successfully moving forward, with improving foreign relations. Sisi’s recent tour in Italy and France was fruitful and the country is carrying out huge national projects,” Lawindi said, adding that, “So, the internal and external success of Egypt perplexed the Islamist supporters of Morsi.”

Following Morsi’s removal, the new leadership launched a massive security crackdown on his loyalists, leaving nearly 1,000 killed and thousands more arrested. The crackdown extended to reach those liberals who once supported Morsi’s overthrow but now are opposing the new leadership under Sisi.

Islamist militants also carried out numerous anti-government attacks that killed hundreds of police and military men across the country over the past 15 months.

Hazem Hosni, political science professor at Cairo University, said that, Friday’s Islamist protests were not “as massive as Islamists claimed beforehand.”

The professor described the massive police and military security presence in the streets, with such amounts of armored vehicles and other equipment as “an exorbitant price” paid by the state to confront such protests.

Over the past few weeks, the Egyptian media, particularly those affiliated with the government, have been intensively and repeatedly warning citizens, against possible violence during the intended Islamist protests.

“The media contributed to exaggerate the issue, and the government could be benefiting from this exaggeration too, to be given justification for further exceptional security measures, especially amid absence of a parliament and opposition,” Hosni said.

As for why Islamists chose Nov 28 for their protests, some experts believe it could be somehow related to the trial session of ousted President, Hosni Mubarak, on the following day. They say that Islamists might have wanted to pressure the court not to acquit Mubarak, before it issues its final verdict in the case.

“Maybe the timing is related to Mubarak’s trial but this is not so certain, as Morsi’s supporters might have only wanted to keep the authorities in a state of anxiety for a whole month,” the professor said.

Egypt has been delaying parliamentary elections, whose procedures should have been started in Aug, according to the new constitution. Now the legislative power is in the hand of President Sisi, until a parliament is elected.

“The security success in containing Islamist protests will be politically used to increase security measures and might eventually lead to delaying the parliamentary elections,” Hosni said.

The professor said that, both Islamists and the government, could partly benefit from the ongoing events, claiming that each would find an excuse for confronting the other.

“The Islamist groups benefit by perplexing the government and the government benefits by finding an excuse to escalate security in its anti-terrorism war,” the professor concluded

SOURCE: MENA