Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets Friday in competing rallies for and against the military's July 3 ouster of President Mohamed Morsi.
The Muslim Brotherhood and other Morsi backers have held constant demonstrations since, many of which have turned violent. That prompted Army Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi to call for a rally Friday to show the depth of popular support for removing Morsi. The Brotherhood criticized that as a pretext for civil war and called for its own demonstration to show support for Morsi.
At least four people died in early clashes in Alexandria. They follow an edict by Brotherhood spiritual leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi that Morsi's power be defended violently. "If he, who has disobeyed the ruler, does not repent, then he must be killed," Qaradawi said on Al Jazeera Sunday.
Morsi has been in custody since being forced from office. Before Friday's rallies began, Egyptian prosecutors ordered him detained for more 15 days while they investigate espionage, murder and conspiracy charges against him in connection with a January 2011 jailbreak. Morsi was among 30 Muslim Brotherhood members freed in the jailbreak, while 14 security officers were killed.
The investigation seeks to determine if Morsi conspired with the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in the attack. Morsi has an association with Hamas that goes back at least a decade. A Brotherhood spokesman rejected the allegations as "nothing more than the fantasy of a few army generals and a military dictatorship."
But a former prominent member of the Brotherhood says the military had to force Morsi from office.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, the Brotherhood's former European spokesman Kamal Helbawy said Morsi's ouster was not a coup, but a response to massive popular sentiment that kept a tense situation from growing more violent. The Brotherhood, Helbawy said, brought this on themselves.
Morsi and the Brotherhood failed "to propose a vision for the country," Helbawy said. "Moreover, [Morsi] deepened the society's divisions, increased polarization, relied solely on his constituency, neglected to use those with expertise and experience here in Egypt, ignored requests to amend the constitution and change the government and the attorney general, issued the Pharaoh-esque constitutional declaration in November 2012, and refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Tamarod [Rebel] campaign and the June 30 revolution."
Helbawy quit the Brotherhood last year, saying the group broke its promise not to run a candidate for president and was trying to monopolize power in Egypt. It's fine for the Brotherhood to protest, he said in the interview, but criticized the violent rhetoric including chants of "Fight to the death," and "Victory or martyrdom." That message, and resulting violence, will further hurt the Islamist cause around the world, he said.