As the latest crisis in Egypt continues to claim lives, some Egyptian leaders are putting aside religious differences in an attempt to resolve the conflicts fueling the violence.
On Thursday, January 31, Sarah Sirgany of CNN reported that members of a conservative Muslim faction that used to support Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi reached out to opposing factions, some of which represent people from other faiths, on Wednesday, January 30, to try to reach a peaceful compromise.
According to Sirgany, “The ultraconservative al-Nour party had backed Morsy and the Muslim Brotherhood, rallying support for the country’s new constitution and its emphasis on Sharia law.
“Secularists have opposed them.
“But on Wednesday, members of al-Nour met with the opposition National Salvation Front, a group composed primarily of non-Islamist parties opposed to Morsi. The two sides are discussing a proposal by al-Nour to end the crisis.”
On Friday, January 25, violent protests erupted in Egypt resulting in at least 52 and possibly more than 60 deaths. Rioters from several factions and the police have been fighting ever since.
According to Human Rights Watch, “In the past week clashes between the police and protesters in the cities of Port Said, Suez, Ismailia, and Cairo have left at least 52 dead, prompting the president to re-impose the state of emergency in the first three cities.
The conflicts have been blamed on two events that happened on January 25 and 26.
According to Amir Ahmed and Holly Yan of CNN, “Friday was the two-year anniversary of the 2011 Egyptian revolution. Protesters who have been angry with the slow pace of change and with some of the steps Morsi has taken clashed with his supporters and police in the cities such as Suez and Ismailia.
“At least seven people were killed in those clashes, including several by gunfire. It was not immediately clear who was responsible.
“Then on Saturday, a judge issued death sentences for 21 people from Port Said for their roles in a football game riot last year.
“The court rulings sparked deadly clashes between security forces and relatives of the convicted. Over the course of two days, at least 38 people — including civilians and soldiers — were killed in Port Said.”`
An article published by Al Jazeera English on Wednesday, January 30 provides more details.
According to Al Jazeera, “Violence has spiraled after first erupting in Cairo on eve of last Friday’s second anniversary of the uprising that toppled authoritarian president Hosni Mubarak.
“It since spread around the country, with the worst violence in the Suez Canal city of Port Said, which has virtually declared itself in revolt against Morsi’s government.
“In response, Morsi declared a 30-day state of emergency and night curfew in Port Said and two other Canal cities, Suez and Ismailiyah, and their surrounding provinces.
“But every night since it went into effect, tens of thousands of residents in the cities have defied the curfew with nighttime rallies and marches, chanting against Morsi and the Musllim Brotherhood, which forms the backbone of his rule.
“Officials in the presidency and the Brotherhood have blamed the opposition for instigating the violence, accusing them of trying to bring down Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president.”
In a recent speech, Morsi seemed to agree that mutual understanding would help end the violence. However, it may take concessions he is not willing to make in order to make real progress.
According to Sirgany, “In a speech this week, [Morsi] acknowledged the legitimate dissent in Egypt, saying ‘dialogue is the only way to bring about stability and security.’ He invited representatives from 11 political parties to a meeting to try to solve the conflict.
“But Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the Constitution Party and a member of the National Salvation Front, reiterated two demands before the front would engage in dialogue: the formation of a new government and a committee to amend the constitution.”
Egypt’s current constitution has been criticized because it does not protect freedom of speech or religion.
According to Human Rights Watch, “.. Broadly worded and vague provisions on speech, religion, and the family in the new constitution have dangerous implications for women’s rights and the free exercise of social freedoms protected under international law.
“Six months after President Mohamed Morsi assumed power, criminal defamation and blasphemy prosecutions are increasing, police torture with impunity remains endemic, and civilians continue to face trials before military courts.”
Putting aside religious differences and revising the constitution may be the only ways to finally end the fighting.
According to Sirgany, “On Tuesday, outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the unrest was not surprising. ‘It’s very difficult going from enclosed regime — essentially one-man rule — to a democracy that is trying to be born and learn to walk,’ she told CNN.
“‘The government must represent all of the people; the rule of law must apply to everyone; and the constitution must not marginalize any one group’, she said.”