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Egypt political rivals vie over Eid prayers

Tamarod, Muslim Brotherhood call for rival Eid rallies

Gulf News

Cairo: Egypt’s deepening political crisis has spilled over into the prayer areas with rivals urging their supporters to turn out in large numbers to perform prayers of Eid Al Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The anti-Islamist Tamarod movement, which mobilised large protests against the rule of Islamist president Mohammad Mursi in late June, has called on Egyptians to perform prayers of the Eid, expected to begin Thursday, in Tahrir Square and outside the presidential palace in Cairo.

The two sites were the epicentre of the mass protests organized by Tamarod on June 30, leading to the army’s ouster of Mursi one year after he took office. “The Eid gatherings will confirm the continuation of the revolution and support Egypt’s independence against foreign intervention in its affairs,” said the movement in a statement on Wednesday. “The people respect whoever respects their will and are hostile towards whoever is their enemy.” Tamarod’s reaction comes a day after US Senator John McCain on a visit to Cairo termed Mursi’s overthrow as a coup. “It is unacceptable for people like McCain or representatives from the European Union to meddle in Egyptian affairs,” said Mahmoud Badr, the Tamarod spokesman.

Presidential spokesman Ahmad Al Muslimani said McCain’s remarks were “ clumsy and unacceptable in form and substance”. Tamarod also said that its call for prayer congregations across the nation is also meant to “deny a certain faction will not control prayer areas,” referring to Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood.

The National Alliance in Support of Legitimacy, a pro-Mursi grouping led by the Brotherhood, has, meanwhile, called on followers to show up in major squares nationwide to join prayers and mass rallies dubbed the “ Eid of Victory”. Thousands of Islamists have been camping out for weeks in two major locations in Cairo, defying threats by the government to clear them. The Brotherhood has condemned ouster of Mursi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, as a military coup and vowed to persist in protests until he is restored to power.

Cairo has been in the past few days a hub for foreign envoys, including the UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed and US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, in bids to defuse the crisis. Both officials left Wednesday without a word on the outcome of their efforts. However, local media said Wednesday mediation efforts were doomed due what reports said was the Brotherhood’s insistence on demands “bigger” than the new rulers could accept.