Christians, Moderates Push Onward for Freedoms in Egypt
Washington (ICC) --- Protestors numbering in the thousands are pushing onward in their 15th day of demonstrations in Tahrir Square in an ongoing bid for immediate transition to civilian rule.
Labeled the 'days of warning,' the protests that began July 8 condemn interim Prime Minister Essam Sharaf for failing to implement much needed reforms six months after his appointment by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). The SCAF took control of the country after the 18-day revolution that ousted President Hosni Mubarak on February 11.
Most protestors believe the moment of opportunity to repeal Egypt's repressive laws will be lost once free elections are held, as Islamist-based parties are expected to take the majority seat in parliament.
While the SCAF has stated their support for free elections without military interference, protestors remain suspicious, viewing the SCAF as their final road block before their self-determination for a free society is fully realized.
"I'm not going to leave the square before I see the head of SCAF, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, cede power to a civilian presidential council that would rule Egypt during the current transitional period," protestor Ragi Eskandar told The Los Angeles Times.
Yet, for some, a government detached from military inference is unimaginable. "The president will likely come from the military institution," a Coptic protestor told ICC. "It has been this way since 1952. But what we want is a country like Turkey; for the military to protect a civilian country, but not have all the power."
Unlike Turkey, whose democracy has been agitated by tensions between a powerful secular military and Islamist-leaning politicians, Egypt's military is believed by many leftists and moderates to be backing the Muslim Brotherhood. "There's no doubt they're allied," said Coptic activist Wagih Yacoub. "If they weren't, than the military would be supporting the people's will to draft a new constitution before the parliamentary elections are held. Instead, there will be elections first so that the Muslim Brotherhood will have more leverage in developing an Islamist-leaning constitution."
"The Muslim Brotherhood is the primary party insisting that elections be held before the constitution is drafted," reiterated Coptic scholar Magdi Khalil. "Other parties support immediate constitutional reform. So why is it that the military council is stalling? The obvious answer is that there's a deal between the Brotherhood and the military."
Thousands of Coptic Christians are among those revolting alongside Muslim moderates and secularists in Tahrir Square. Perhaps more than other groups, however, Copts understand the peril minorities will face under an Islamist-based government. On at least three occasions in 2011, Islamist mobs killed nine or more Coptic Christians in religious based attacks on churches or protestors.
"Copts are protesting very loudly," said Wagih Yacoub. "Copts and moderates together; we all fear an Islamist constitution and an Islamic state. We are protesting for our freedoms -- freedom from the military council and freedom from the Islamic agenda that the [Muslim] Brotherhood will use to dictate Egyptian law."
To ease the fears of moderates, the SCAF announced last week that it will set guidelines before the constitution is drafted to limit the influence of Islamists. However, moderates are not satisfied, viewing the military as dominating the process and granting themselves the authority to define the military's future role in Egypt.
Maj. Gen. Mamdouh Shaheen, a key member of the military council who is leading the process of drafting the guidelines, said the country's next constitution should safeguard the SCAF against future presidents, The Associated Press reported. The military council's recent actions signify their push for complete independence in the new Egypt and their desire to hold authority to guarantee constitutional reforms. The military's unchallenged role opposes Coptic and moderate demands to move toward democratic rule lead by a civilian government.
Today in Tahrir Square, Copts and moderates find themselves in the middle of what they view as two evils. "The [Muslim] Brotherhood's policies are evident through its history and culture of oppressing non-Muslims and opposing western civilization and democracy," said Magdi Khalil. "At the same time, the military council is continuing the same discrimination toward religious minorities that we saw under Mubarak. Neither the Brotherhood or the military council is good for us."
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