Egypt’s clerics warn of 'civil war' amid rallies

Egypt’s clerics warn of 'civil war' amid rallies

Egypt’s clerics warn of civil war amid rallies

Egyptians wave flags during an anti-Morsi rally in Tahrir Square. The opposition is planning to stage mass rallies on June 30 against the president, but clerics warn of ‘civil war’ and urge opponents to accept Morsi’s offer of dialogue. AA photo

Egypt’s leading religious authority warned of “civil war” on June 28 and called for calm after a member of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood was killed ahead of mass rallies aimed at forcing the president to quit.

“Vigilance is required to ensure we do not slide into civil war,” the al-Azhar clerical institution said in a statement reported by state media. It blamed “criminal gangs” who attacked mosques for street violence.

Clashes linked to the political tensions have killed five and wounded scores in the recent days. The Brotherhood said all those killed were President Mohamed Morsi supporters, though this could not be independently verified.

‘Accept dialogue offer’

The ancient Cairo academy, which traditionally maintains a distance from the political establishment, also urged opponents of Islamist President Morsi to accept his offer of dialogue rather than pressing on with plans for demonstrations.

In a speech on June 26, Morsi denounced his critics but admitted some mistakes and offered talks to ease polarization in politics that he said threatened Egypt’s new democratic system. Opposition leaders dismissed Morsi’s offer as a repeat of suggestions they say have gone nowhere because the Brotherhood refuses to dilute its power. “Dr. Mohamed Morsi’s speech only made us more determined in our call for an early presidential vote in order to achieve the goals of the revolution,” the liberal opposition coalition said after its leaders met to consider a response.

Welcoming Morsi’s offer, senior Al-Azhar scholar Hassan El-Shafei said they should accept “for the benefit of the nation instead of the insistence on confrontation.”

Opposition supporters gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, site of the 2011 revolution, and in other cities on June 28 and plan mass rallies on June 30, when Morsi will complete his first year in office. The Brotherhood also gathered supporters after Friday prayers near a mosque in northern Cairo to show their strength. The Islamists charge that opposition demands for Morsi’s departure amount to an attempted coup and accuse the opposition of sympathy with the ousted Mubarak. The army has urged both sides to reconcile and has warned that it could step back in to impose order if violence spins out of control, though it insists it will defend the democracy born out of the uprising against Hosni Mubarak in early 2011.