Egypt Pulse

Morsi Calls for Referendum As Thousands Rally in Support

Article Summary
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has called for a referendum on the new constitution as thousands rallied in support of the president, while opposing demonstrations continued at Tahrir Square and elsewhere, Mohannad Sabry reports for Al-Monitor.

CAIRO — President Mohammed Morsi called on Egyptians to head to polling stations on Saturday, Dec. 15, to cast their votes on the country’s new constitution, as hundreds of thousands of supporters continued to rally in support of the president’s decisions. 

“After following the efforts of the Constituent Assembly, and after lovingly receiving this draft constitution from you today, I call the Egyptian people to vote on this constitution on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012,” said Morsi who was handed the final draft of the constitution by Judge Hossam El-Gheriany, head of the Constituent Assembly that passed the draft on Thursday Nov. 29.

“As for the national figures that preferred not to join the last conventions, I tell them that your efforts are appreciated and we will never forget it, despite the recent conflict of views,” said Morsi, referring to several withdrawing members of the constituent assembly.

“I hereby renew my call to open a serious national dialogue around the issues of the nation in order to end the transitional period as soon as possible,” said Morsi.

The ceremony held at Egypt’s International Conference Hall in eastern Cairo was attended by the remaining 85 members of the constituent assembly, Prime Minister Hisham Qandil, chairman of Al-Azhar Islamic Institution Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayyeb and several other members of the government.

Coinciding with the president’s third public appearance in 10 days, hundreds of thousands of his supporters continued a massive rally in Giza. Traffic was paralyzed as demonstrators clogged several major streets stretching for miles around the main campus of Cairo University.

Throughout the day, a main stage erected in front of the university’s main gate hosted dozens of Islamist clerics and top officers of the Islamic Group, the Salafist Call movement, the Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm the Freedom and Justice Party. A banner hung on the stage reading “Legitimacy and Shariah.”

Sheikh Yasser Burhami, Deputy Chairman of Egypt’s Salafist Call movement and member of the constituent assembly addressed the cheering crowds saying, “This million man demonstration demands the application of Allah’s Shariah.

“The Egyptian people chose the Islamists as their representatives in parliament and in the constituent assembly through which we suffered and tolerated a lot to produce a constitution that will pave the way for the people to apply Allah’s Shariah,” Burhami’s words echoed across the Egypt Renaissance Square in Giza.

“We tell the Constitutional Court that no one will defeat the people of Egypt. Thirty men and a woman who do not respect the laws of Allah will not rule Egypt by tailoring laws and regulations,” Burhami referred to the Constitutional Court’s judicial board that includes 30 male judges and only one female judge.

“The people demand the application of Allah’s Shariah,” thousands replied in roaring chants.

Among those on the stage was Abbod Al-Zomor, the Islamic Group leader who planned the assassination of former president Anwar Sadat in 1981, and his cousin and top officer of the group, Tarek Al-Zomor. Both prominent Islamists spent three decades in jail until the Jan. 25 uprising overthrew Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

The Islamist Group published a statement on Saturday calling for the “formation of a national front that will include Islamist and nationalist currents to defend the president’s policies and decisions and lead massive support rallies at the presidential palace and governorates across the country.”

Many of those rallying in support of President Morsi, who granted himself broad, unchecked executive powers and immunity from all state bodies on Thursday, Nov. 22, traveled for hundreds of miles to be at the center of the rally.

Ahmed Tamer, a 30-year-old doctor from Alexandria, missed his morning shift at a state-owned hospital, traveled some 200 miles and sat right beside the main stage.

“This is an important day in the history of Egypt,” Tamer told Al-Monitor. “We are proving to the whole world that we, the supporters of Morsi, are the majority of Egyptians.

“This is the democracy that everyone called for, we brought Morsi through a democratic process and now we are democratically calling for the application of Islamic Shariah. 

“There will never be agreement between us and whoever is in Tahrir Square, we want Shariah but they don’t,” said Tamer, referring to anti-Morsi protesters whose strike at Tahrir Square entered its ninth day on Saturday.

Earlier in the day, presidential spokesman Yasser Ali stated that “the presidency respects all opinions and the freedom of expression is guaranteed for everyone after Egypt’s great revolution.”

Despite affirming their respect to anti-Morsi protesters and calling for more dialogue, those who vowed to pass the constitution insisted that Tahrir Square is currently hosting the remnants of Hosni Mubarak’s thirty-year dictatorship.

Judges, lawyers and media figures who served Mubarak are now chanting in Tahrir Square, they are speaking in the name of the revolution,” said Mohamed Sobhi, a 24-year-old who introduced himself as a Morsi-lover.

“I came here to defend Islamic Shariah and support the president who fights for the success of the Jan. 25 revolution.”

Sobhi said he did not read the draft constitution, watch the assembly’s internal vote on articles of the final draft two days ago, or read the details of Morsi’s constitutional declaration that triggered the political crisis more than a week ago.

“But I blindly trust Morsi, I voted for him in the first round of presidential elections, in the run-offs and, with Allah’s blessing, I will vote yes for the constitution,” said Sobhi.

Mohannad Sabry is an Egyptian journalist based in Cairo. He has written for McClatchy Newspapers and The Washington Times, served as managing editor of Global Post's reporting fellowship "Covering the Revolution" in Cairo as well as a contributor to its special reports "Tahrir Square" and "Egypt: the military, the people." Sabry was nominated to the 2011 Livingston Award for International Reporting. Born in Saudi Arabia and raised around the world, Sabry returned to Cairo in 2001 and has been covering Egypt since 2005. Follow him on twitter @mmsabry.

Found in: shariah, islamists, demonstrations, anwar sadat

Mohannad Sabry is an Egyptian journalist based in Cairo. He was a finalist for the 2011 Livingston Award, and his writings have been published by The Miami Herald, several McClatchy newspapers, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Washington Times, GlobalPost and others. His new book is "Sinai: Egypt's Linchpin, Gaza's Lifeline, Israel's Nightmare." On Twitter: @mmsabry


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