News Column

Morsi Backers Dig in Despite Warnings

August 21, 2013

Instead of rushing for the exits, Islamist supporters of Egypt's ousted president are replacing tents with wooden huts in their sprawling Cairo encampment. Barbershops have sprung up and many tents now have satellite dishes.

There's little sign of alarm over the potential for violence if security forces move to clear this ground zero of resistance to the coup six weeks ago. On Tuesday, solar power panels were added to the encampment's several generators in case authorities cut off power.

The postcoup government has repeatedly warned that the sit-ins outside the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque and a smaller one on the other side of the city cannot stay. They portray them as a threat to national security and launch pads for terrorism. The protesters say their vigils are peaceful and will end only when Mohammed Morsi is reinstated as president.

As the faceoff has dragged on, participants in the larger of the two vigils have had time to weave a narrative about their cause immersed in religious fervor, revolutionary rhetoric and martyrdom.

Thrown into the mix is the evolution of the protest camp into a sort of autonomous entity with its own institutions and social order.

Many protesters frame the standoff as pitting Islam's true followers against enemies of the faith or between revolutionaries and forces of darkness determined to rob Egyptians of their freedom.

"We are here standing up to a world of infidels that refuses to follow Islam," shouted a speaker on the sit-in's main stage.

"Victory may come late because society is not equipped to accommodate righteousness, goodness and justice represented by the nation of the faithful," declares a sign outside a tent that housed a group of men discussing Shariah Islamic laws.

"The people here are on the right side of history," said Gehad el- Haddad, a spokesman for Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood. "We are not going to let go of the revolution. We are here for as long as it is needed. It is all up to the will of the people."

Little is said about the millions of Egyptians who took to the streets on June 30 to call on Morsi to step down, and even less about the former president's widely perceived failure to effectively tackle any of Egypt's many problems.

Source: Copyright Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

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