Mursi supporters push for ‘Pray for Egypt’ protests ahead of Eid

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Supporters of the deposed President Mohammad Mursi have announced plans for a “Pray for Egypt” protest day on Monday to coincide with the hajj pilgrimage Day of Arafat.

The planned protests fall on the same day as nearly 1.5 million Muslims from all over the world gathered on Mount Arafat in Saudi Arabia for prayers during this year’s hajj pilgrimage, ahead of the Eid al-Adha holiday which falls on Tuesday.

A statement from the Islamist anti-coup alliance states that plans for a million-man should “follow the example of the pilgrims performing hajj in their stand and prayers on that day.”

“The Alliance calls upon all honest and sincere people of Egypt to participate in the ‘Pray for Egypt' million-man march," the statement adds.

But critics are skeptical of the planned protests.

“Political mediation has failed between the country’s interim leaders and the Brotherhood,” Imad el-Din Hussein, executive editor of the independent al-Shorouk newspaper told Al Arabiya News on Monday.

Hussein says that while protests have emerged as the only way Brotherhood members and Mursi supporters can express their message, they are “bound to be limited as they face the obstacle of heightened security, as per orders from the interior ministry.”

The planned march comes after the deposed president, who has been held in a secret location and has not been seen since his overthrow on July 3, sent out a defiant message on Sunday.

Infographic: Mursi: down and out in four days (Design by Farwa Rizwan / Al Arabiya English)
Infographic: Mursi: down and out in four days (Design by Farwa Rizwan / Al Arabiya English)

Mursi’s family said he refused to enter any negotiations or accept any compromises following a deadly crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood by military-backed authorities in recent months.

"The president will not retreat, or negotiate or accept compromises especially after all the martyrs, the wounded, the arrested and missing," his family said in a statement carried on the Muslim Brotherhood's website.

The remarks may well be a boost to the Brotherhood’s protests, which have been scattered in recent weeks.

“Mursi’s statement has had a great impact on the Brotherhood’s resistance,” Ibrahim Sharqieh, conflict resolution analyst at the Brookings Doha Center, told Al Arabiya News on Monday.

“They want to put pressure on escalating the protests. Mursi is still an icon for the Brotherhood and he represents the core issue of the crisis.”

Since he was ousted by military General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, opponents and supporters of the first democratically-elected president have staunchly followed diverging paths.

Sisi emerged as one of the most powerful people in the country after he deposed Mursi, who hailed from the Brotherhood, sparking nationalist fervor and widespread resentment of the Islamists among his supporters.

All the while, the Muslim Brotherhood has vowed to continue fighting back, despite facing a judicial clampdown last month when the organization was officially banned from carrying out any activities in the country.

“The protests have been going strong since June 30,” Alaa al-Bahaar, the former editor of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party newspaper, told Al Arabiya News on Monday.

Oppositional groups beg to differ, however, citing smaller and fewer protests since Mursi supporters had come out in their thousands on June 30, when popular protests against the Islamist leader’s rule resulted in his overthrow.

“They have continued to protest, especially on national or religious holidays; the Oct. 6 war anniversary, this year’s Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr. There is a high sense of spirituality or patriotism on these days. Most people are off from work, so they have more time to press for a cause they believe in,” Bahaar said.

Paid to protest?

But Hussein, who has been closely observing the protests, the number of Brotherhood protests could continue to see a sharp decline and remain scattered.

“There’s now far less protesters coming out and reports have been circulating that people are being paid to protest [in support of the Brotherhood and Mursi].

“The general picture really isn’t in the Brotherhood’s favor at the moment,” Hussein added.

An Al Arabiya News correspondent reported that “Pray for Egypt” marches will take place across Cairo on Monday, particularly near Rabaa al-Adawiya Square, once a sit-in for thousands of pro-Mursi protesters that was dispersed in a deadly army crackdown last August.

Regardless of the eventual turnout of Monday's demonstrations, the regular calls to protest from the Islamist alliance appear to show that the Brotherhood and its supporters may be down, but not out.

“It’s a strong message from the Brotherhood and a way of reaffirming the group’s position, seeing as they recently haven’t been occupying the news headlines lately. This is a way to bring it all back to the spotlight, especially during the Eid celebrations,” says Sharqieh.

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