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Egypt: Islamists, secularists vie for control of Tahrir Square

Tahrir Square

As promised, Egypt's self-declared "Salafists" marched en masse on Tahrir Square, where secular opposition groups were holding a thousands-strong rally on Friday July 29. No violence was reported, but the Salafists were clearly vying with the secularists for control of the square—and the message. While the secularists chanted "The people want to topple the regime," the Salafists responded, "The people want to implement Sharia." As the secularists chanted "Peaceful, peaceful," the Salafists responded, "Islamic, Islamic." The Salafists also chanted "There is no God but Allah" and "Islamiya, Islamiya"; they also waved banners reading "Islamic Egypt," and Saudi flags.

Plans for a new constitution is the new point of conflict. "Islamic law above the Constitution" was another popular Salafists chant. While the Muslim Brotherhood has continued to stay away from the Tahrir Square protests, the more radical Salafists have apparently opted for a strategy of confrontation with the protesters. Over the course of the evening, more and more of the secularists were intimidated into leaving the square, which was increasingly given over to the Salafists. (Radio Australia's AM, July 30; Egyptian Gazette, July 29)

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