Egypt: cries for revolution against ‘pharaoh’ Morsi

Clashes between opponents and supporters of President Mohamed Morsi were reported throughout Egypt Nov. 23, as protesters filled the streets to decry Morsi's decree exempting his decisions from legal challenge until a new parliament is elected. Street-fighting erupted in the governorates of Alexandria, Ismailia, Assiut, Port-Said, Suez, Mahalla, Damietta, Daqahilya, Menya and Aswan. Protesters attacked Muslim Brotherhood offices in several cities, including Alexandria. In Cairo's Tahrir Square, thousands chanted "Morsi is Mubarak, revolution everywhere!" When police tried to clear the square with tear-gas, protesters fought back with hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails. At least 18 were injured across the country.

While opponents accused him of launching a "coup" and derided him as a "new pharaoh," Morsi told a crowd of supporters outside the presidential palace that Egypt is on the path to "freedom and democracy." Said Morsi: "Political stability, social stability and economic stability are what I want and that is what I am working for. I have always been, and still am, and will always be, God willing, with the pulse of the people, what the people want, with clear legitimacy."

The protests came the day after Morsi undercut a hostile judiciary that had been considering whether to scrap an Islamist-dominated panel drawing up a new constitution, stripping judges of the right to rule on the case or to challenge his decrees. The move effectively places Morsi above judicial oversight until a new constitution is ratified. "Morsi is a 'Temporary' Dictator," read the banner headline in the Friday edition of independent daily al-Masry al-Youm.

A spokesman for Morsi's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) said the decree was necessary to ensure the transitional period. "We need to move things in the right direction," said Murad Ali. "We need stability. That's not going to happen if we go back again to allowing the judges, who have personal reasons, to dissolve the constituent assembly in order to prolong the transitional phase." (Reuters, Nov. 24; Ahram OnlineMiddle East Online, BBC News, al-Masry al-Youm, Nov. 23)

  1. Egypt: new Coptic pope on political highwire
    The new pope of Egypt’s Orthodox Coptic church was enthroned Nov. 18 in an elaborate ceremony  attended by Prime Minister Hesham Kandil and a host of Cabinet ministers and politician—although not President Morsi. 

    Pope Tawadros II was chosen Nov. 4, his name pulled from a glass bowl by a blindfolded boy at a ceremony in Cairo’s St Mark’s Cathedral. He was among three candidates a council of some 2,400 Church and community officials. He replaced Shenouda III, who died in March after leading the ancient church for 40 years. Tawadros did not address the televised ceremony, but had a brief speech read on his behalf by one of the church’s leaders in which he pledged to work for the good of Egypt, with its Muslims and Christians alike. Egypt’s Christians make up about 10% of the nation’s estimated 83 million people, making them the largest single Christian community in the Middle East. They have come under increasing attack from militant Muslims since Egypt’s revolution last year. (AP, al-Arabiya, Nov. 18; BBC News, Nov. 4)

    Days after his enthronement, Tawadros II commented on the controversy over the constitution-drafting body, saying that he hoped that the Constituent Assembly can write a charter that unites all Egyptians. He expressed support for Article 2 of the 1971 constitution, which states that the principles of Islamic sharia are the main source of legislation. But he added that “a constitution that hints at imposing a religious state in Egypt is absolutely rejected.”  Despite weighing in the question, he has repeatedly stressed that the church has “no political role.”  (Ahram Online, Nov. 22)

    Interviewed on a Coptic TV station before his enthronement, then-Bishop Tawadros said his priorities included “living with our brothers, the Muslims” and “the responsibility of preserving our shared life.” As if to reassure Islamist militants, he said: “Integrating in the society is a fundamental scriptural Christian trait. This integration is a must—moderate constructive integration. All of us, as Egyptians, have to participate.” (NYT, Nov. 4)

  2. Egypt courts suspend work to protest presidential decree
    The Egyptian Court of Cassation on Wednesday suspended work until President Mohammed Morsi rescinds a decree he issued last week that removes judicial review of his actions and vastly expands his power, according to Egypt’s state television. In addition to these highest appeals courts, the lower appeals courts have resolved to suspend work  as well. The nation’s Supreme Constitutional Court also announced its discontent with Morsi’s decree on Wednesday, calling the move an attack on the judiciary Morsi’s decree extends protection from judicial review to the lower chamber of parliament and to a panel charged with drafting the nation’s new constitution. These legislators are largely composed of Muslim Brotherhood  members and Islamists. (Jurist, Nov. 28)

    More than 200,000 people filled Tahrir square on Nov. 27 to oppose Morsi’s power grab. Police tried to drive them from the square, and one protester died after inhaling tear gas. Clashes between Morsi’s opponents and supporters were reported at various places around the country. (AP, Nov. 27)

  3. Sectarian clashes rock Cairo
    Clashes broke out between Coptic Christians and Muslims in central Cairo on April 7 after the funeral of four Copts killed in sectarian violence outside the Egyptian capital on Friday night, April 5. The state news agency MENA said 17 people were injured in fighting after a funeral ceremony at the city’s Coptic Orthodox cathedral. Public TV showed riot police firing tear gas to disperse the crowd. In some of the worst sectarian violence for months on Friday, four Christians and one Muslim were killed in El Khusus, north of Cairo, when members of both communities started shooting at each other. (Reuters, April 7)