In Egypt, the crowds are back in Cairo's Tahrir Square, five months after the ousting of President Mubarak. Thousands have gathered in the city center, in what has been one of the largest demonstrations since the February uprising.
Tens of thousands held a mass Friday prayer session on Tahrir Square during the rally. Protesters carried banners, while many had umbrellas to protect themselves from the burning sun.
The rally comes as the country’s liberal and Islamist groups fail to agree on key issues. The demonstration on Friday is said to have further highlighted the rift.
The country’s liberal forces want guidelines to be agreed upon for drafting a new constitution, which is due to be adopted after parliamentary elections. Egyptian Islamic groups, including the influential Muslim Brotherhood, reject the idea for fear the liberals will do away with a provision in the constitution which stipulates that all law in Egypt is based on Sharia Law.
Islamic groups have rallied their supporters in large numbers to oppose the adoption of guidelines for the constitution that the liberals insist on. According to religious groups, nothing should restrict the rights of the new parliament to draft the document by itself. The liberals, in turn, fear disproportionate Islamist influence on the new constitution, as religious groups are expected to win a large portion of parliament seats at elections later this year.
Meanwhile, 28 moderate political movements and parties had to leave the Tahrir Square rally, due to their disagreement with the slogans put forward by Islamic groups. The demands in question included turning Egypt into an Islamic state, whereby Sharia Law should be considered “above the constitution”, RIA Novosti reported.
Despite major disagreements, all protesters do tend to agree on a number of important demands, including the end of military trials for civilians, a schedule for transition to civilian rules and quick trials for Mubarak and those found guilty of killing protesters during the uprising.
According to journalist and blogger Austin Mackell, despite protesters’ optimistic mood the feeling of uncertainty dominates on Tahrir Square.
”I think there is some sense of disillusionment, but people have not forgotten what a huge achievement it was to bring down this President Mubarak,” he said. “There is still definitely a sense of optimism, although now it is mixed with a lot of anxiety.”
”The liberal secular forces are worried about an Islamist takeover of the revolution, all of the army hijacking and then suppressing the revolution and democracy not coming as a result of either of those,” Mackell added. “The Islamic sector of society are worried that it is going to be only too much Western influence.”
“It is a period of immense uncertainty,” he concluded.