Ex-ji­hadists say op­po­si­tion try­ing to drag na­tion down

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - By Sarah El Deeb

CAIRO — The leader of a former ji­hadist group who is now a mem­ber of Egyp­tian par­lia­ment ac­cused the largely sec­u­lar op­po­si­tion on Mon­day of us­ing vi­o­lence in the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal strug­gle.

An­other mem­ber of the same group, who served 29 years in prison for his role as a con­spir­a­tor in the 1981 as­sas­si­na­tion of Pres­i­dent Sa­dat, charged that op­po­nents of Is­lamist Pres­i­dent Mo­hammed Morsi are try­ing to drag the coun­try into a civil war.

The two — Safwat Ab­del-Ghani and Tarek el-Zu­mor — are mem­bers of the Is­lamic Group, or Ga­maa Is­lamiya, which was among mil­i­tant groups be­hind one of the long­est waves of vi­o­lence against the Egyp­tian regime in the 1980s and 1990s. The group re­nounced vi­o­lence while most of its lead­ers were im­pris­oned un­der Hosni Mubarak’s regime.

Since Mubarak’s ouster in 2011 fol­low­ing a pop­u­lar upris­ing, the group has formed an Is­lamist po­lit­i­cal party and its lead­ers have be­come im­por­tant play­ers in the new po­lit­i­cal scene, dom­i­nated by Is­lamists.

The ac­cu­sa­tions come amid a highly charged at­mos­phere in Egypt af­ter a po­lar­iz­ing, month­long fight over the Is­lamist- drafted con­sti­tu­tion. The char­ter passed with 64 per­cent in a ref­er­en­dum, ac­cord­ing to unof­fi­cial re­sults.

Of­fi­cial re­sults had been ex­pected on Mon­day but did not come out. An of­fi­cial at the elec­toral com­mis­sion said it is cur­rently re­view­ing more than 400 com­plaints of fraud and vi­o­la­tions by the op­po­si­tion be­fore an­nounc­ing the re­sults to­day. He spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause he was not au­tho­rized to speak to the me­dia.

Ab­del-Ghani was speak­ing at a news con­fer­ence to launch his group’s ini­tia­tive for a na­tional di­a­logue aimed at bridg­ing the deep rifts.

“There is no doubt that the op­po­si­tion has failed mis­er­ably in achiev­ing its goals. This fail­ure has rea­sons,” Ab­del-Ghani told a news con­fer­ence. “The first of th­ese rea­sons is that it re­sorted to vi­o­lence and used thugs to ex­press its opin­ions.”

Ab­del-Ghani was de­tained in 1981 as a sus­pect in Sa­dat’s as­sas­si­na­tion but was re­leased a few years later and not charged. He served other prison sen­tences in a later as­sas­si­na­tion of the par­lia­ment speaker in the 1990s. Pres­i­dent Mo­hammed Morsi ap­pointed him over the week­end to the up­per house of par­lia­ment, just days be­fore the cham­ber as­sumes tem­po­rary leg­isla­tive pow­ers.

Is­lamist groups have risen to dom­i­na­tion over Egypt’s government in the wake of the upris­ing, and some of them have threat­ened to push their own vig­i­lantes to pro­tect them against vi­o­lent clashes. Is­lamist groups also ac­cuse former regime of­fi­cials of us­ing the charged po­lit­i­cal at­mos­phere to cre­ate chaos and un­der­mine Morsi.

The op­po­si­tion, made up of lib­eral and left­ist groups, has ac­cused Is­lamists of try­ing to clamp down on dis­sent­ing voices and spread­ing fear.

“We call on all po­lit­i­cal forces in Egypt ... to im­me­di­ately give up all el­e­ments that al­most led Egypt to civil war and for all those who par­tic­i­pated in this to apol­o­gize,” said el-Zu­mor of Ga­maa Is­lamiya.

Hos­sam Mounes, a mem­ber of the op­po­si­tion Na­tional Sal­va­tion Front, said the ac­cu­sa­tions of us­ing vi­o­lence are “clumsy” and not based on ev­i­dence.

“The his­tory of Is­lamist groups was based on bear­ing arms, and now they speak of democ­racy,” he said. “Some of the Is­lamist groups are really feel­ing the ten­sion against them and they can’t un­der­stand that democ­racy is a prac­tice and is not only a means to get to power.”

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