CAIRO — More than 100,000 supporters of Egypt’s Islamist president staged a show of force Friday ahead of massive protests planned for later this month by the opposition, chanting “Islamic revolution!” and warning of a new and bloody bout of turmoil.
Adding to the combustible mix, comments by the U.S. ambassador that were interpreted as critical of the opposition’s planned protests sparked outrage, with one activist telling the diplomat to “shut up and mind your own business.”
Friday’s mass gathering was ostensibly called by Islamists to denounce violence, but it took on the appearance of a war rally instead. Participants vowed in chants to protect President Mohamed Morsi against his opponents. Some who addressed the crowd spoke of smashing opposition protesters on June 30, the anniversary of Morsi’s assumption of power.
“We want to stress that we will protect the legitimacy with our blood and souls,” declared Mohammed el-Beltagi, a senior leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group from which Morsi hails.
Most participants were bused in from elsewhere in the Egyptian capital or from far-flung provinces. They waved Egypt’s red, white and black flag as well as the green banner of the Muslim Brotherhood and posters of Morsi.