It’s the latest in a series of clashes since Morsi, a longtime Brotherhood official, issued a Nov. 22 decree effectively placing himself above judicial oversight. He has said he will nullify it if voters approve a Dec. 15 referendum ratifying a controversial new draft constitution rammed through an Islamist-dominated assembly early Friday.
Although the document declares a right to freedom of speech, it also includes a prohibition on “insults” to “religious prophets.” Another provision would require government authorization to operate a website.
Wednesday’s clashes targeted several hundred anti-Morsi protesters who had camped out near the presidential palace.
Demonstrators say they will do everything possible to defeat the referendum. “Our marches are against tyranny … and we won’t retract our position,” Hussein Abdel Ghany, a spokesman for the protesters, said Tuesday. Eleven newspapers shut themselves down Tuesday to protest Morsi’s “dictatorship,” and banks said they would close three hours early in solidarity with the protesters.
The New York Times reported that Morsi’s Freedom and Justice Party warned three former presidential candidates, among them Amr Moussa and Mohammed ElBaradei, that they would be held accountable for any violence that occurred.
Egyptian riot police fired tear gas at demonstrators near the presidential palace in Cairo on Tuesday. Officials in Morsi’s office said the Islamist leader fled the palace as protesters broke through police lines.
While Egyptians take to the streets to oppose what they claim is a nascent tyranny, Morsi and his Islamist government can count on support from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). For example, CAIR-Los Angeles boss Hussam Ayloush praised Morsi for assuming more power in order to prevent “corrupt judges” from the “undermining and undoing of every democratic step.”
In a Facebook post, Ayloush blamed Egypt’s internal strife on the secular opposition: “Much of the Egyptian opposition seem to be more interested in opposing Morsi and the MB than actually helping Egypt become a stable and institutional democracy,”
CAIR-New York’s Cyrus McGoldrick disparaged criticism of Morsi as “a last stand by old pro-West/Mubarak/Israel crowd to keep power in judiciary.”
CAIR-San Francisco chief Zahra Billoo dismissed American concerns that the Islamist-backed draft constitution wouldn’t protect human rights. “Why do we care about what the Egyptian Constitution says about indefinite detention, when it is being practiced by the U.S. government?” she wrote in a Twitter post Monday.
Several oceans away in Tahrir Square, Egyptian women see things very differently. They charge that the Brotherhood is “paying gangs to go out and rape women and beat men” protesting Morsi’s policies.
Female protesters in Tahrir Square provided harrowing accounts of sexual assaults they say were carried out by thugs on the Islamist group’s payroll.