“Will the Brotherhood see the reality of events — and they rarely see any reality other than the visions in their own minds — and step down under the pressure of tens of millions of Egyptians? Or will the country be pushed into a civil war?” asked the announcer who read Wednesday afternoon’s news broadcast on state television, ahead of the daily digest of army victories against “terrorists” opposing the government.
Meanwhile, in rebel-held portions of Syria, people are starting to chafe at the behavior of the Islamist groups who gained prominence on the battlefield and are now seeking to impose their authority on the areas they control.
The execution on the streets last month of a 14-year-old boy for making a blasphemous comment and a rule issued this week by the city’s self-appointed Sharia court banning women from wearing makeup have stirred anger in the northern city of Aleppo. Citizens in the northeastern city of Raqqah have staged small-scale demonstrations against the Islamists who hold sway there.
Some in Raqqah have watched with eager interest as the unrest unfolds in Cairo, said a resident who spoke via Skype on the condition that he not be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject. “The time will come when people realize that these groups don’t represent Islam, and they will kick them out,” he said.
Further afield, the recent mass demonstrations in Turkey, hailed as a model for emerging Arab democracies, were sparked by plans to chop down trees in a central Istanbul park but quickly grew into a wider expression of unease with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarian style and his policies of Islamicization.
In Tunisia, the ruling Ennahda party, a Brotherhood affiliate, has held the middle ground between the radical Salafis who have threatened to use force to impose Islamic law and secularist activists, in another reflection of the splits opening up across the region that could shape a new round of turmoil.
“There is a fundamental divide in the Arab world over big issues such as the role of religion in government . . . and the identity of the state,” Hamid said. “It is a real, fundamental divide, and there is a lot at stake.”
Ahmed Ramadan contributed to this report.