Anglicans in Cairo share Ramadan meal with Muslims

02 August 2013

REUTERS

Smoked out: supporters of the deposed President, Mohammed Morsi, run from tear gas fired at them by police in Nasr city on Saturday

Smoked out: supporters of the deposed President, Mohammed Morsi, run from tear gas fired at them by police in Nasr city on Saturday

AGAINST a background of continuing violence in Egypt, the Anglican community in Cairo has made a strong gesture of friendship towards the country's Muslims.

The diocese in Egypt with North Africa & the Horn of Africa invited 130 leaders from different denominations to an Iftar celebration - a meal to mark the end of a day of fasting during Ramadan - in All Saints' Cathedral Hall last weekend. Guests included the Grand Mufti of Egypt, the former Grand Mufti, and the Deputy of the Grand Imam of al-Azhar Islamic centre, as well as Christian representatives.

A diocesan statement said that "several leaders affirmed that the resumption of national unity is of utmost importance for the future of Egypt, especially after the recent demonstrations and the appointment of a new civilian government."

Outside of such Iftar celebrations, however, a chasm has opened up between the mainly Muslim Brotherhood supporters of the deposed President, Mohammed Morsi, on the one side, and the military, and anti-Morsi groups on the other.

A turning point in the current crisis was the appeal by the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, for Egyptians to take to the streets in their millions last Friday to give the military a popular mandate to tackle the Islamist protests.

The unprecedented decision to use a show of public force rather than a conventional democratic mechanism, such as a referendum, as a measure of popular support, represented a blow to inclusive democratic hopes; for it was widely interpreted as a signal from the military that it had given up on the prospect of achieving accommodation with the Muslim Brotherhood. The subsequent killing and injuring of scores of Muslim Brotherhood protesters in clashes with the army last Friday night only reinforced the mutual hostility.

The most optimistic scenario would be that the military dropped charges against Mr Morsi, and, in return, the Brotherhood leadership called off its protests. But the Muslim Brotherhood is not likely to accept bargaining of this sort as long as it feels confident of widespread popular support for its claim to be the legitimately elected governing power.

The military is still betting on firm action to wear down the Muslim Brotherhood protests eventually. It is also counting on its tough stand towards the Brotherhood, and its emphasis on re-establishing security, keeping a broad section of the population on its side. But two domestic issues might force the military to rethink its policies: a mounting list of civilian casualties at the hands of the army, and growing poverty.

The EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Baroness Ashton, who was in Cairo on her second visit to Egypt in 12 days, was taken by helicopter on Tuesday to a secret location to meet Mr Morsi. The meeting lasted for two hours, during which he confirmed that he was well, and had access to news media.

The military is continuing to detain Mr Morsi and other senior Brotherhood figures, however, and warned on Sunday that it would take "firm and decisive action" against violent protesters.

 

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