CAIRO – There are flecks of blood on Muhammad H’s blue dress shirt, remnants of
last night’s battle.
Like almost every man lounging in Tahrir Square on
Thursday morning, the morning after a fierce 16-hour battle with stones and
clubs, he has a bloodied bandage on his head from where he was hit by a rock.
He’s visibly exhausted. He hasn’t left the square since Saturday.
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used knives, horses and camels. Our protests here were totally peaceful; we had
no weapons, so we used stones, but what happened yesterday was the last card,”
said Muhammad, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, as he sat on a traffic
divider along with two friends.
“Last Friday, the police used the most
powerful weapons they could use. They were shooting us while we were praying.
After that, they used criminals to shoot us. They know we’re peaceful, and they
press on that.”
The Muslim Brotherhood’s power, or lack thereof, is one
of the most discussed undercurrents of the January 25 revolution among media
pundits and international leaders. For years, Hosni Mubarak has held onto his
international support by stating firmly: It’s me, or it’s them.
Mubarak will be out of the picture in the near future, Israel and the United
States are worried about a government controlled by the Muslim
“All of us hate Israel,” said Muhammad, who is a lecture
assistant in the engineering faculty at a government university in Cairo.
“Israel is the best friend for Mubarak, they said clearly that he’s strategic
But he cautioned that Egypt needed to concentrate on its
internal politics before dealing with the problem of Israel.
Israel, Egypt has a peace agreement with Israel and any new government should
respect that agreement,” Muhammad said. “However, if the government wanted to
change that agreement, it has the right after taking the opinion of the people.
No agreement is eternal.”
Throughout the week, many religious Muslims
insisted that they do not want a government headed by the Muslim
“I can practice Islam in my home, not in my government,” one
demonstrator wearing a head scarf told the media.
Indeed, many moderates
denounced the Brotherhood and insisted that its importance has been overblown by
the foreign media looking for a villain. Even Muhammad explained that the
Brotherhood was only one group of many calling for change in Egypt. “The Muslim
Brotherhood did not organize this,” he said, gesturing around the square. “All
of us in the square represent all the colors in the Egyptian political
But some conspiracy theorists blamed the Brotherhood for the
violence that has beset Cairo in the past 24 hours. One prominent blogger who
also works in the Egyptian stock market told The Jerusalem Post
that it was in
the Muslim Brotherhood’s interest that the city descend into
“After Mubarak’s speech on Tuesday [when he announced he
would not seek reelection], many of the people that tried to protest calmed
down,” said the blogger. “But this does not sit too well with Muslim
Brotherhood, which is trying to create a place for themselves and take advantage
of everything. They’re trying to be a political party, but they’re not accepted
by many people. If protesters stop, we will continue in a more civilized
situation, but they won’t let this happen at any cost.”
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