Conflict & Justice

Egypt Opposition Rejects Morsi Call for Dialogue

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Protesters in Cairo (Photo: Matthew Bell)

Protesters returned to the presidential palace in Cairo today by the tens of thousands. They went to say "no" to President Mohammed Morsi. "No" to the new presidential powers he has granted himself. And "no" to the draft constitution Morsi wants to put to a referendum in one week.

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For their part, Morsi's Islamist supporters are not backing down either.

Egypt's rival political factions have been bitterly divided since the elections in June. But listen to voices from different groups and a common theme jumps out: no compromise.

One of Egypt's leading secular opposition politicians and former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi spoke to afew hundred people in Tahrir Square this morning. He said, it's too late. Too late to negotiate with President Morsi, now that Egyptian blood has been spilled. Even if the president backs down, cancels the decree that grants him sweeping powers and postpones the constitutional referendum, he said Mursi must go.

The crowd answered back with a chant, "Irhal! Irhal!" In Arabic, it means simply, "Leave!"

At a mosque on the outskirts of the square, a Muslim preacher with wildy different views from Sabahi nevertheless agrees that Morsi must go. The preacher provided religious justification for opposing the president. "Sharia law is not compatible with this government," the imam said. "Our goal is to build an Islamic state, not a democracy with liberals and secular people."

But many Islamists, of course, still support Mohammed Morsi, a former leader of Egypt's influential Muslim Brotherhood. At Cairo's al-Azhar mosque Friday, mourners attended the funeral of two men said to be Brotherhood members. They were killed during violent clashes near the presidential palace on Wednesday night. The faithful chanted in support of Islamic law. And they denounced those responsible for the deaths, chanting that only God can have mercy on them.

In recent demonstrations, several offices of the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party have been vandalized, including the group's Cairo headquarters last night. Standing next to a pile of burned up office furniture outside the building, 18 year-old Mohab said he joined the crowd that broke inside, grabbed anything they could carry and then built a bonfire with it.

"We want to let Mohammed Morsi go like Mubarak. Mohammed Morsi not good," the young man said. He went on to say that Morsi was elected by fraud and that the Brotherhood is not good for Egypt.

It was a similar message that thousands of demonstrators delivered to Mohammed Morsi's presidential palace again on Friday. Numerous marches from around Cairo converged on the area into the evening.

One protestor told me that he decided to join the march because, "Morsi is trying to make himself the God of Egypt."

Another said the president has crossed a line and needs to be stopped. "After we saw people attacked and killed at the palace," he said. "People will not allow dictatorship anymore."

As the crowds grew into the tens of thousands near the presidential palace tonight, reports came in from across Egypt of more demonstrations and counter-demonstrations — some of them violent. Most opposition leaders are rejecting any negotiations with President Morsi.
For now, the two sides remain on a collision course.