A member of the Muslim Brotherhood punches an anti-Brotherhood protester in Tahrir Square, the focal point of the Egyptian uprising, in Cairo on Friday. Supporters and opponents of President Mursi threw stones and bottles at each other. Image Credit: Reuters

Cairo: The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s most powerful organisation, has dented its image by attacking opponents in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Friday, according to analysts.

“The way the Brotherhood followers dealt with their opponents in the square has nothing to do with democracy,” said Diaa Rashwan, an expert at the state-run Al Ahram Centre for Strategic Studies.

“The fact that the Brotherhood went to the same place where other political powers planned a protest [against the Brotherhood’s President Mohammad Mursi] clearly showed that the Brotherhood wanted to undermine the anti-Mursi demonstration,” he told Gulf News.

More than 100 people were injured on Friday in pitched battles in Tahrir, a focal point of mass protests that forced the long-standing strongman Hosni Mubarak to step down more than a year ago. The violence, the worst since Mursi took office in late June, was blamed by liberals on what they called the Brotherhood militias.

Liberals and leftists went to Tahrir to protest against what they described as Mursi’s unfulfilled promises in his first 100 days in office. The Brotherhood supporters rallied at the same venue to condemn a court ruling that acquitted senior officials and lawmakers from the old regime of masterminding a deadly attack on protesters during the uprising against Mubarak.

“By going to Tahrir where others planned a protest, the Brothers inflicted a major loss on themselves,” said Amar Ali Hassan, an analyst. “This move showed them as intolerant of the opposition. The Brothers have to realise that Egypt is bigger than them and that they do not represent all Egyptians,” he added.

The 84-year-old Brotherhood was officially banned in 1954. The group was a frequent target of security crackdown and imprisonment under Mubarak, who was toppled in February last year.

Following Mubarak’s ouster, the group was allowed to create the Freedom and Justice party, its first since it was established in 1928. Mursi, the party’s former head, was elected Egypt’s first civilian and Islamist president in June.

“We believe that Tahrir Square belongs to all Egyptians. So, no one has the right to deprive the Muslim Brotherhood of the right to gather and demonstrate there,” the group said in a statement.

It added that its followers acted in self-defence after they were allegedly attacked by other protesters in Tahrir on Friday.

“When a few number of the Brothers arrived in the square, they were subjected to a torrent of insults targeting their group and its supreme guide. They were then physically attacked, a matter that prompted some of them to defend themselves,” added the statement.

However, Essam Al Erian, a senior Brotherhood official, admitted it was a mistake for the group’s supporters to go to Tahrir. “The wrongdoer should be brought to account. Admitting mistakes are a virtue,” he added, declining to say who is to blame.

Several liberal groups have called for a mass protest against the Brotherhood in Tahrir on Friday, dubbing the rally “Egypt is not a private property. Egypt is for all Egyptians”.