Thousands of Egyptian Islamists gathered in Cairo on Friday in a mass show of support for Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi ahead of a planned opposition protest at the end of the month demanding the president quits.
Dozens of parties, including Mursi's Freedom and Justice Party, called for a demonstration outside the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo's Nasr City after Friday prayers.
The protest intends to demonstrate the Islamists' strength ahead of an anti-Mursi rally set for June 30, the first anniversary of the elected president.
Crowds packed the large square outside the mosque waving the national flag, while some carried pictures of the president.
“Yes to respecting the will of the people!” read banners.
“There are people seeking a coup against the lawful order,” demonstrator Gaber Nader, 22, told Reuters. “Dr. Mursi won in free and fair elections like in any state in the world,” Nader said.
A campaign dubbed Tamarod (rebellion in Arabic) initiated a signature drive calling for Mursi step down and began mobilizing people to take part in mass rallies on June 30.
Tamarod rapidly picked up steam, and organizers said they have collected millions of signatures demanding that Mursi quit, leaving the government jittery and energizing the fragmented opposition. It claims to have collected some 13 million signatures, almost equal to the number of votes that elected Mursi in 2012.
Opponents of the Islamist president accuse him of giving the Islamists a monopoly over public institutions. However, Mursi’s supporters insist he is cleansing institutions of decades of corruption, and have condemned the June 30 protests as a “coup against democracy”.
Al Arabiya’s Cairo correspondent reported that hundreds of protesters flocked to the country’s ministry of defense on Friday calling for Mursi’s ouster.
Tensions between Mursi's supporters and opponents spilled over into violence outside Cairo this week.
Around 100 people have been injured in scattered skirmishes triggered by Mursi's decision to appoint more Islamists as provincial governors.
Rhetoric has grown more toxic in recent days: one Islamist cleric referred to Mursi's opponents as “infidels” during a rally attended by the president last week. The opposition are billing it as Mursi's last days in office, hoping for a repeat of the uprising that toppled Mubarak two and half years ago.
(With Reuters and AFP)