Robert Spencer cannot let any opportunity go by to find a way to make a negative statement about Islam and Muslims. Today, he used the occasion of the celebration of OUR nation’s Independence Day, the 4th of July to find a way to target American Muslims rather than to simply express his patriotism.
In his article, he lists four freedoms that “we” must defend. In his commentary on what “we” must defend against, he uses only examples that he thinks represent Muslim attitudes at variance with the Constitution, and most of the examples he gives are from other countries, and from ancient texts. According to the worldview Spencer is promoting, Muslims are anti-Constitution, anti-American, and untrustworthy and disloyal citizens. It is clear that the “we” he refers to does not include Muslims. He doesn’t mention any other individuals or groups who might pose a threat to our Constitution. He also doesn’t mention any positive contributions of Muslims toward defending the Constitution and our freedoms.
— 1. Freedom of religion, and non-establishment of religion. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” — First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
— 2. Freedom of speech “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…” — First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
— 3. Equality of rights before the law “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” — Declaration of Independence
— 4. Governments deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…” — Declaration of Independence
1. Freedom of religion, and non-establishment of religion. American Muslim Academics/Scholars/Imams/Professionals issued a statement upholding the Freedom of Faith and the Freedom to Change one’s Faith. And, many Muslims have spoken out about this issue. See Apostasy and Freedom of Faith in Islam which includes a collection of articles.
2. Freedom of speech. American and Canadian Muslims issued a Defense of Freedom of Speech. This statement specifically states that We uphold the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Both protect freedom of religion and speech, because both protections are fundamental to defending minorities from the whims of the majority.
3. Equality of rights before the law, and 4. Governments deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. See below.
I am unfamiliar with this scholar’s prominence but he seems to have some impact considering this was reported in AlArabiyya. What he said seems pretty uncontroversial, it is similar to what many other Muslims have said and is a point that Suwaidan himself made “three years ago.”
Suwaidan also said that, “If Islamists start to become tyrants in the countries that were hit by the Arab Spring, we will revolt against them just like we did against their predecessors.”
Islamophobes will likely say this is “taqiyaa” or that this man is not following Islam as he should because you know they are the experts on Islamic doctrine:
A prominent Kuwaiti scholar and popular TV talk show host reiterated his belief that freedom must come before Sharia.
Tariq al-Suwaidan, who is head of the Kuwait-based Al-Risala TV station, and has his own TV program, was speaking at the al-Nahdha conference for a graduates association in Kuwait on Saturday when he said “If Islamists start to become tyrants in the countries that were hit by the Arab Spring, we will revolt against them just like we did against their predecessors.”
“Freedom is a holy right and is one of the principles in Islam … Freedom is to do and say what a person wishes but in a polite manner and without hurting others.”
Suwaidan who was later defensive over his remarks, took to his Twitter page and wrote: “I gave the same lecture three years ago, and [my views] do not represent the views the graduates association or the al-Nahdha Conference, but are my beliefs.”
The scholar, who said that it was liberals who eradicated slavery in Islam and not the Islamists, added, “a human being is free in his movements and where he wants to belong, and convictions are what move people, and not force…”
Suwaidan has spoken before on freedom coming before Sharia on his TV program three years ago and was reiterating his belief.
He also questioned how Muslims shun Christian missionaries in their countries while Christians allow Muslims to propagate Islam on their lands.
He also expressed his disdain on not allowing churches to be built in some Muslim countries.
(Written by Dina al-Shibeeb)
*I’d also like to point out that we are not familiar with Suwaidan’s views, and as one commenter has pointed out he has said, “In 2006 he demanded that the European Union, as well as the rest of the world, enact “a law that forbids the insult to religious figures and religious sacred opinions.” A stance which Loonwatch certainly does not agree or support.
CUMMING, Ga. — Newt Gingrich turned the church pulpit into a history class when he addressed the congregation at First Redeemer Church, comparing the struggle of American colonies under British rule to what he sees as the modern day assault of religious freedom in America.
Gingrich said that the religious foundation of America is being attacked on two fronts: “We have a secular elitist wing that deeply, deeply disbelieves in America, that wants to create a different country based on a different set of principles,” he said. “And we have a radical Islamist one which legitimately and authentically hates us and should.”
He drew a standing ovation for slamming a State Department meeting with the Organization of Islamic countries, which Gingrich said had “the purpose of talking about how to protect Islam from being described inappropriately. I have passionate opposition to the government of the United States lying to us and censoring us as we try to understand those who would kill us.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said after the July 2011 OIC meeting “combating religious intolerance” that the United States remains “focused on interfaith education and collaboration, enforcing anti-discrimination laws, protecting the rights of all people to worship as they choose, and to use some old-fashioned techniques of peer pressure and shaming, so that people don’t feel that they have the support to do what we abhor.”
By contrast, Gingrich drew a stark picture of radical Islamists, saying, “Those people who want to kill us want to kill us because from their world view, we are the greatest threat they’ve ever faced because we represent freedom and freedom is the end of their religion.”
Gaddafi is killing his people, he has taken JihadWatch’s Roland Shirk’s advice for a “Tienanmen Square option.” No one knows what the end game will be, how this will all end but we know Gaddafi is weakened, his regime is tottering on the edge, diplomats and military officials have defected from the regime. God protect the Libyan people, they are seeking justice, an end to tyranny, a chance to choose their leaders, and freedom.
Also, I want to mention that there are a number of loonwatchers in Libya and I hope that they are safe and sound. One more thing Loonwatch also supports those who are peacefully assembling and seeking Democratic and economic change across the Arab and Muslim world. Algeria, Morocco, Bahrain, Yemen, Iran all are worthy of support and recognition. They are putting their lives on the line for a better future.
8.22pm: William Hague, British Foreign minister, said there are many indications that Gaddafi’s government is headed towards collapse, with diplomats resigning and the government in crisis.
8.20pm: The Brazilian Government called on Libyans to seek a solution to the crisis through dialogue and reiterated its repudiation to the use of violence.
8.18pm: Oliver Miles, the former British Ambassador to Libya, told Al Jazeera Gaddafi’s speech was “meant to make our blood run cold”. He said he would not rule out Gaddafi sticking it out to the very end.
8.15pm: Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal at Sidi Barani, a town on the Egyptian side of the border with Libya, said Egyptians were still returning home. He also said doctors carrying blood and other medical aid were crossing the border carrying supplies over into Libya.
8.11pm: German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called Gaddafi’s speech “very very frightening” and said he had declared war on his own people..
8.08pm: The Arab League put out an official statement condemning the events in Libya, but Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros reported from Cairo that leading Egyptian political figure Mohamed ElBaradei said he was disappointed that the League did not take a stronger stand against the injustices.
8.02pm: In his defiant speech, Gaddafi said he will “cleanse Libya house by house” if protesters did not surrender.
7.59pm: Libyan state television is still showing pictures of government supporters following Gaddafi’s speech:
7:57pm: Libya is suspended, immediately, from the Arab League. More details to follow.
7:51pm: We’re expecting a closed UN meeting at 8pm GMT. Any UN member can attend – and the plan is/was for Libya’s Deputy Ambassador to also give a briefing. However, the surprise appearance of Libya’s ambassador – who has been remarkably absent in the past few days – at late notice could cause a problem, our UN correspondent tells us.
UN protocol suggests they would have to defer to the ambassador for a briefing, whose position is in sharp contrast to the deputy ambassador, who told us yesterday that Gaddafi should face trial. Ambassador Abdel Rahman Shalgam to an earlier press conference:
I am with Gaddafi but I want the bloodshed to stop. I am not calling on him to step down. If one Libyan has been killed – not ten or 20 – but one- this is a crime. Gaddafi is brave, he will make a decision. There is confusion – I have spoken to a relative in Libya and there has been no airbombing.
7.49pm: Reports from our contacts on the ground tell us military vehicles and helicopters are headed toward towns outside Tripoli. Jeeps started rolling immediately the speech ended, we understand.
7.46pm: Gaddafi called on “all those who love Gaddafi” to come out and demonstrate in his support tomorrow. State TV shows uhge crowds waving green flags and holding pictures of Gaddafi. Much as with the YouTube videos we’ve been sent over the past few days, with limited media access to the country, there’s no way to independently verify when or where the pictures were recorded.
7.44pm: More reports emerging of protesters, quite literally, torn limb from limb durnig the past few days.
7.34pm: In case you missed it – the backdrop to Gaddafi’s speech – a piece of artwork showing a clenched fist crushing a US fighter jet, in front of the words “Allahu Akbar” [God is the greatest].
7.30pm: After the EU suspends its Libya Framework Ageement, and amid international condemnation of Gaddafi, where is President Obama? Rosalind Jordan, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Washington DC explains:
You didn’t need the translation to see how much Gaddafi was trying to blame this on the US, among others. So the White House doesn’t want to make any public speeeches – they’re very aware of how that could be seen across the country.
Gaddafi asked, in his speech: ‘Do you want the Americans to come and occupy you like in Afghanistan and Iraq?’ If the president weighs in now, the Libyan authorities may well use that against the protesters.
US senator John Kerry wants the UN to step in – and for the African Union to investigae alleged use of mercenaries.
7.29pm: Analyst Ashur Shamis tells Al Jazeera: “There is no doubt Gaddafi will follow through on his threats against the people of Libya.” Looking over the past 24hours of our Live Blog updates, we’ve had some incredibly violent reports already.
7.27pm: Following Gaddafi’s speech, online reports of gunfire being heard throughout Tripoli.
7.25pm: Earlier on Tuesday, Al Jazeera spoke to Yasmine, a Libyan student in the UAE. She said she had spoken to a friend who lives in Benghazi:
As we were speaking, she said there was an old lady that just walked out onto her balcony that was immediately shot at and died. She didn’t do anything, she didn’t protest, she didn’t even open her mouth and she was shot immediately.
People are very very scared and they are still out in the streets protesting because everybody is angry and they are fed up and they want a change and they don’t want this guy to lead the country anymore, neither him or his sons, nobody wants them anymore.
They have been suffering for 43 years in silence. this is out of fear and now they have had enough. They are angry they are willing to risk everything, their lives, absolutely everything to get this guy out of the country.
7.21pm: Ashur Shamis a Libyan journalist told Al Jazeera that Gaddafi will go down fighting. He saidthere was no way the Libyan people would take note of Gaddafi’s speech. “I don’t think people are frightened anymore, but those were serious threats of force,” he said.
In his speech, Gaddaafi said “when they are prosecuted they will be begging for mercy”.
7.19pm: All eyes are now on the Libyan military. Will we see another situation as we did in Egypt? Tonight?
7.18pm: He offered a new constitution, to be put in place from tomorrow. Offers the pople “whatever form of government they want”.
7.16pm His main point was an attempt to blame “drugged youth” and foreign imperialists. He used the chilling example of the 1989 massacre at Tianenman Square: “The integrity of China was more important than those in Tianenmen Square.
7.14pm So, he’s not stepping down – and will “die a martyr”, he says.
7.12pm: Gaddafi’s speech has finally finished. He gets his hand kissed by a loyalist and waves to what appears to be about half a dozen senior officers still listening. State TV now showing thousands of people cheering…
7.07pm: Talking about Gaddafi’s address on state television, Ibrahim Jibreel, a Libyan political analyst told Al Jazeera “we just watched a lunatic rant and rave for the last hour and a half”.
“There was no substance to this [speech].. There was really no message to this besides the threats”.
“The interesting thing is that Libya has no constitution but he has threatened the death penalty for people who fail to follow the constituion,” Jibreel said.
6.55pm: Carlos Latuff posted this image of “courageous Libyan people” on Twitpic:
6.52pm: Britain said it planned to send a charter plane to Libya to bring out British nationals and was dispatching a Royal Navy frigate to waters off Libya in case it was needed to help Britons.
6.50pm: French Prime Minister Francois Fillon on Tuesday said he was “horrified by the explosion of violence” in Libya.
6.48pm: Al Jazeera’s Nazanine Moshiri reports from Tunisia that 4000 people crossed the border at Ras Jedir on Tuesday, according to Tunisian border police, the majority of them Tunisians.
6.45pm Social networks were a-buzz during Gaddafi’s speech on state television. Here are some responses recorded on Twitter:
We can laugh, but never forget this is a sinister man who is threatening Libyans with even more massacres if they don’t do his bidding.
6.20pm: In his second television address since the start of the current unrest, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi says he will not leave Libya and will die a martyr. He criticised ‘Arab media’, saying it painted an insulting picture of Libyans.
Gaddafi says Libya has resisted Britain and the US previously, and it will not surrender now.
He also said:
Muammar Gaddafi is not the president, he is the leader of the revolution. He has nothing to lose. Revolution means sacrifice until the very end of your life
We challenge America with its mighty power, we challenge even the superpower
Muammar Gaddafi is not a normal person that you can poison.. or lead a revolution against
I will fight until the last drop of blood with the people behind me
I haven’t even started giving the orders to use bullets – any use of force against authority of state will be sentenced to death
They are just imitating Egypt and Tunisia
Protesters want to turn Libya into an Islamic state
If you love Muammar Gaddafi you will go out and secure Libya’s streets
5.49pm: Qassem Najaa, a former Libyan airforce colonel, tells Al Jazeera that the country’s army has been oppressed by Gaddafi for years, and is now turning against him.
5.39pm: Germany’s foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, says international sanctions against Libya will be inevitable if the country’s regime continues to put down protests violently.
5.32pm: Libyan soldiers in Tobruk told Reuters news agency that protesters are now in control of the city.
This map, posted on yfrog apparently shows other areas under citizen control:
5.28pm: Libyan anti-government protesters from across the UK have gathered outside Downing St in London. Protesters are angrily calling for Gaddafi to step down. One protester, Mohamed Maklouf, commented on the “hypocricy” of the West:
They don’t care about the Arabs, they don’t care about the Libyans, they only care about the oil.”
5.17pm Al Jazeera’s Cal Perry reports from Malta that the Italian navy is monitoring a Libyan naval vessel stalled in waters just off the coast of Malta. There are possible allegations that the vessel may have defected. More details are being sought.
“Malta has become a departure point and entry point for people trying to flee Tripoli [Libya's capital],” Perry said, “As the situation develops, it’s also becoming a place perhaps where we’ll see more and more Libyan officials coming here to defect, because it’s just geographically close.”
5.08pm The Italian Foreign minister has condemned the events in Libya, saying: “I strongly deplore, all violence against the demonstrators and the deaths of civilians in Libya”.
I call for, as does the Council of the European Union, an immediate end to the use of force against the demonstrators. And I underscore that the Libyan authorities must respond, through dialogue, to the legitimate aspirations and demands for reform voiced by the people. A dialogue that must be open, full, significant and national, and which must lead to a constructive future for the country and for its people.
The country’s defence minister, Ignazio La Russa, has also denied the news reported on some blogs and social networking sites of alleged raids by Italian fighter planes in Libya. He said:
I can deny the allegations in the firmest manner. Somebody is clearly not aware of the ethics of the Italian Government and Armed Forces
4.58pm: Ibrahim Jibreel, a Libyan political analyst, spoke told Al Jazeera the international community needs to take active steps in protecting the rights of the Libyan people.
“[Gaddafi] needs to feel the heat from the international community in one way or another,” he said.
He added that a no-fly zone around Libya was a good thing, but it was not enough. “We need troops on the ground to protect the people, and also to record what is happening on the ground.”
4.52pm: Libya’s side of the border with Egypt is in the hands of anti-government protesters. Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal at Sidi Barani, a town on the Egyptian side of the border reports that hundreds of Egyptians living in Libya continue to flee the country.
4.25pm Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, spoke to Al Jazeera about the recent events in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, saying:
The events in each country have been up to the people of that country …
From the standpoint of determining their own future, of meeting their needs in the future, that is principally up to the people in each country”.
The US, as every country throughout the world, would look to how to engage to see how we can support this kind of change in a way that is meaningful, but it is up to the people of the country to make the decisions about their own future.
4.11pm Twitter user Carlos Latuff posted this image of Gaddafi “drowning in the blood of martyrs” on Twitpic:
3.50pm Mona Rishmawi, legal adviser to UN high commissioner on human rights, told Al Jazeera they were extrememly concerned by allegations of the use of “hired guns” against civillian protesters in Libya. She said intergovernmental bodies must show a united front and send a clear message that what is going on in Libya must stop right now.
Any measures taken to protect the civillians in Libya are very important at this stage … if there are planes, if there are snipers, if there are civillians being killed indiscriminately.. it has to stop.
… Allegations of gross violations of human rights, allegations of crimes against humanity are extremely serious.. I think it is very important for this situtaion to stop now.
3.40pm The Arab League is to hold an emergency meeting in Cairo on Tuesday, to discuss the unrest in Libya. Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros, reporting from Cairo, said Amr Moussa, the League’s secretary-general, expressed concern about recent events, saying the Libyan people have a right to sk for regime change.
The Arab League is made up of leaders from other countries, some of which are also experiencing unrest, including Yemen, Algeria and Bahrain. Tadros noted:
It will be interesting to see exactly how they word that bit of the statement regarding regime change.
3.38pm Sources have told Al Jazeera that the bombing from warplanes on Monday had targeted ammunition depots in Libya. The aim was to apparently stop protesters getting hold of weapons.
3.26pm Al Jazeera’s Rosiland Jordan, reporting from Washington DC, said there is “widespread horror among the Libyan diplomatic core” about what is currently happeninig in the country, with many resigning and some even calling the government’s actions “genocide”.
Speaking about the resigned diplomats, Jordan said:
Certainly while they have been stepping aside from their official government roles, it is not clear whether or not they would be able to have any impact on events inside Libya, because if they are saying they now represent the people and not the Gaddafi government, it may very well be difficult for them to try to mobilise any sort of action on behalf of the people, other than from the images we have been seeing on television
3.01pm Libya’s ambassador to the United States has resigned from what he calls a “dictatorship” regime.
The Reuters news agency reported amabssador Ali Aujali, speaking to ABC’s “Good Morning America,” saying:
Let me start by saying that I resign from serving the current dictatorship regime, but I will never resign from serving our people until their voices reach the whole world, until their goals are achieved
2:47 pm A YouTube video uploaded today shows Benghazi “after the victory against Gaddafi”:
2:11 pm The first report from the Egyptian border with Libya by Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal:
As change sweeps Egypt and becomes imminent in Arab political life, Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, evaluates the speed and efficacy of the transition to democracy.
What are the chances that the transition could still go wrong in Egypt?
New decisions of the supreme military council such as dissolving the country’s unrepresentative parliament that came after rigged elections, bodes well for the dismantlement of the old regime and erecting a new one.
However, the military’s insistence to keep the Mubarak appointed Ahmad Shafiq government for the transitional period has raised concern. Likewise, freezing the constitution is a double edge sword.
While it allows for writing a new more democratic constitution, it could also enable the military leaders to act according to its own interest, rather than the interest of the revolution.
It also begs the question, why hasn’t the military command cancelled the emergency laws nor freed those arrested during the last three weeks, not to mention the political prisoners.
All of which underlines the importance of continued pressure on the military until the regime is completely dismantled and its calls for a new temporary government to oversee the transition to democratic elections are heeded.
Today, public pressure is crucial to maintain the momentum towards positive change. While working with the military is indispensable for peaceful change, progress can’t be held hostage to its prerogatives.
Those with leverage over the Egyptian military, such as the Obama administration, need to keep the pressure on the generals to act as the true guardians of the revolution and its transition to republican democracy.
Otherwise, matters could get out of hand once again if the military falls back to old way of doing business, as pressure builds up against the spirit and of the revolution and its potential to spread throughout the region as a whole. After all many are bound to lose because of the historic changes taking place in Egypt.
Who are the potential losers from the Egyptian revolution?
In the short term, the foremost loser are the region’s autocrats who most likely will face serious pressure as the spirit of peoples’ power spread around the Arab and even Muslim world. So will al-Qaeda and its ilk that preferred violence to peoples’ power.
In the long run, the three theocracies, or theocracy-based regimes - Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iran – could see their religious-based legitimacies falter in favour of civic and democratic legitimacy as more people rise and claim their governments as citizens and people not subjects and sects.
A united, democratic and strong Egypt can regain its long lost regional influence as an Arab leader. It will eclipse Saudi Arabia, put the belligerent Israeli occupation on notice, and curtail the Iranian Ayatollahs’ ambition for regional influence.
In reality none of these regimes would like to see the Egyptian revolution succeed, regardless of what they might say publicly. And if they can help reverse it or contain it, they will without any hesitation. Fortunately however, their conflicting agendas, animosity and differences will prevent these autocrats and theocrats from jointly conspiring against the young revolution.
How will the revolution attain its goals?
If the foremost winners from the revolution, peoples’ power and democracy, are to succeed, the revolutionaries must stay steadfast and continue to apply pressure for change.
Future praise of the military should be conditional on its performance.
The revolution has accomplished so much, but serious challenges lie ahead. It’s no picnic reversing decades of stagnation, corruption and nepotism.
They need to convince the military that they seek not merely cosmetic reform that encourages passivity and defuse the revolutionary spirit for change, nor mere change of faces and titles. Rather, they seek to wipe the table clean of the old ways and means.
It’s this only their revolutionary spirit and yearning for radical change that will insure their achievements are not lost or compromised. In the words of one American republican: Extremism in the pursuit of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.
Egyptian revolutionaries have at last changed their and the Arab long held Arab motto “In-shallah” or “God willing” that presumes lack of action and indecision. Today’s spirit is in the realm of Ma-shallah, or “God wills it”, and it’s up to the people to make it happen.
As the Egyptian military command tries to bring back “normalcy” - which invokes stagnation in the minds of many - Egyptians are seeking extraordinary.
Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, has resigned from his post, handing over power to the armed forces.
Omar Suleiman, the vice-president, announced in a televised address that the president was “waiving” his office, and had handed over authority to the Supreme Council of the armed forces.
Suleiman’s short statement was received with a roar of approval and by celebratory chanting and flag-waving from a crowd of hundreds of thousands in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, as well by pro-democracy campaigners who attended protests across the country on Friday.
The crowd in Tahrir chanted “We have brought down the regime”, while many were seen crying, cheering and embracing one another.
Mohamed ElBaradei, an opposition leader, hailed the moment as being the “greatest day of my life”, in comments to the Associated Press news agency.
“The country has been liberated after decades of repression,” he said.
“Tonight, after all of these weeks of frustration, of violence, of intimidation … today the people of Egypt undoubtedly [feel they] have been heard, not only by the president, but by people all around the world,” our correspondent at Tahrir Square reported, following the announcement.
“The sense of euphoria is simply indescribable,” our correspondent at Mubarak’s Heliopolis presidential palace, where at least ten thousand pro-democracy activists had gathered, said.
“I have waited, I have worked all my adult life to see the power of the people come to the fore and show itself. I am speechless.” Dina Magdi, a pro-democracy campaigner in Tahrir Square told Al Jazeera.
“The moment is not only about Mubarak stepping down, it is also about people’s power to bring about the change that no-one … thought possible.”
In Alexandria, Egypt’s second city, our correspondent described an “explosion of emotion”. He said that hundreds of thousands were celebrating in the streets.
Pro-democracy activists in the Egyptian capital and elsewhere had earlier marched on presidential palaces, state television buildings and other government installations on Friday, the 18th consecutive day of protests.
Anger at state television
At the state television building earlier in the day, thousands had blocked people from entering or leaving, accusing the broadcaster of supporting the current government and of not truthfully reporting on the protests.
“The military has stood aside and people are flooding through [a gap where barbed wire has been moved aside],” Al Jazeera’s correspondent at the state television building reported.
He said that “a lot of anger [was] generated” after Mubarak’s speech last night, where he repeated his vow to complete his term as president.
Outside the palace in Heliopolis, where at least ten thousand protesters had gathered in Cairo, another Al Jazeera correspondent reported that there was a strong military presence, but that there was “no indication that the military want[ed] to crack down on protesters”.
Click here for more of Al Jazeera’s special coverage
She said that army officers had engaged in dialogue with protesters, and that remarks had been largely “friendly”.
Tanks and military personnel had been deployed to bolster barricades around the palace.
Our correspondent said the crowd in Heliopolis was “gaining momentum by the moment”, and that the crowd had gone into a frenzy when two helicopters were seen in the air around the palace grounds.
“By all accounts this is a highly civilised gathering. people are separated from the palace by merely a barbed wire … but nobody has even attempted to cross that wire,” she said.
As crowds grew outside the palace, Mubarak left Cairo on Friday for the Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Shaikh, according to sources who spoke to Al Jazeera.
In Tahrir Square, hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered, chanting slogans against Mubarak and calling for the military to join them in their demands.
Our correspondent at the square said the “masses” of pro-democracy campaigners there appeared to have “clear resolution” and “bigger resolve” to achieve their goals than ever before.
However, he also said that protesters were “confused by mixed messages” coming from the army, which has at times told them that their demands will be met, yet in communiques and other statements supported Mubarak’s staying in power until at least September.
In a statement read out on state television at midday on Friday, the military announced that it would lift a 30-year-oldemergency law but only “as soon as the current circumstances end”.
Thousands are laying siege to state television’s office
The military said it would also guarantee changes to the constitution as well as a free and fair election, and it called for normal business activity to resume.
Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Tahrir Square said people there were hugely disappointed with that army statement, and had vowed to take the protests to “a last and final stage”.
“They’re frustrated, they’re angry, and they say protests need to go beyond Liberation [Tahrir] Square, to the doorstep of political institutions,” she said.
Protest organisers have called for 20 million people to come out on “Farewell Friday” in a final attempt to force Mubarak to step down.
Hossam El Hamalawy, a pro-democracy organiser and member of the Socialist Studies Centre, said protesters were heading towards the presidential palace from multiple directions, calling on the army to side with them and remove Mubarak.
“People are extremely angry after yesterday’s speech,” he told Al Jazeera. ”Anything can happen at the moment. There is self-restraint all over but at the same time I honestly can’t tell you what the next step will be … At this time, we don’t trust them [the army commanders] at all.”
An Al Jazeera reporter overlooking Tahrir said the side streets leading into the square were filling up with crowds.
“It’s an incredible scene. From what I can judge, there are more people here today than yesterday night,” she said.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters havehered
in the port city of Alexandria [AFP]
“The military has not gone into the square except some top commanders, one asking people to go home … I don’t see any kind of tensions between the people and the army but all of this might change very soon if the army is seen as not being on the side of the people.”
Hundreds of thousands were participating in Friday prayers outside a mosque in downtown Alexandria, Egypt’s second biggest city.
Thousands of pro-democracy campaigners also gathered outside a presidential palace in Alexandria.
Egyptian television reported that large angry crowds were heading from Giza, adjacent to Cairo, towards Tahrir Square and some would march on the presidential palace.
Protests are also being held in the cities of Mansoura, Mahala, Tanta, Ismailia, and Suez, with thousands in attendance.
Violence was reported in the north Sinai town of el-Arish, where protesters attempted to storm a police station. At least one person was killed, and 20 wounded in that attack, our correspondent said.
Dismay at earlier statement
In a televised address to the nation on Thursday, Mubarak said he was handing “the functions of the president” to Vice-President Omar Suleiman. But the move means he retains his title of president.
Halfway through his much-awaited speech late at night, anticipation turned into anger among protesters camped inTahrir Square who began taking off their shoes and waving them in the air.
Immediately after Mubarak’s speech, Suleiman called on the protesters to “go home” and asked Egyptians to “unite and look to the future.”
Union workers have joined the protests over the past few days, effectively crippling transportation and several industries, and dealing a sharper blow to Mubarak’s embattled regime.
“I am surprised that so many Democrats who supported an extension of these very same provisions last Congress suddenly changed their votes,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas. “President Obama supports a reauthorization of these important national security tools. And the House bill provides Congress with the opportunity to engage in a thorough review of the provisions as we consider a longer reauthorization. It’s unfortunate that partisan politics seems to have prevented so many Democrats from doing what’s best for America’s national security.”
GOP aides, however, were pointing the finger at House Majority WhipKevin McCarthy, R-Calif. Aides said McCarthy failed to whip the vote, which led to the embarrassment of the bill falling short and leaders being caught off guard.
For Democrats, it was an opportunity for a little payback, to bloody the noses of the House’s new GOP managers.
But the vote also demonstrated the impact of the House losing so many of its more centrist Democrats. Some of those who were defeated in the mid-terms or retired would have likely provided the necessary votes to pass the extension. But they weren’t there.
Instead, the House Democrats who remain are more liberal. And they could hardly contain their joy at the House leadership’s failure to pass the bill.
Veteran Democratic Rep. Barney Frank (Mass.) exited the House chamber boasting that the GOP unsuccessfully held the scheduled 15-minute vote open for a total of 35 minutes to twist enough Republican arms to change the outcome.
“They didn’t have the votes! They kept trying to get them to switch, but couldn’t get them,” Frank exclaimed as he walked through reporters in the Speaker’s Lobby, which is just off the House floor.
Democratic Rep. Lacy Clay (Mo.) laughed as he told The Hill, “We’re so happy, I’m so happy. I voted against it. They tried to get enough Rs to switch their votes, because the Tea Party voted ‘no’ also… but it wasn’t enough.”
Robert Spencer cannot stand that democracy is at the doorstep of the Arab world. In his latest hit piece, Spencer follows the lead of Frank Gaffney’s paranoid fearmongering by greatly exaggerating the role of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest Islamist organization:
Game over: Barack Obama has endorsed a role for the Muslim Brotherhood in a new, post-Mubarak government for Egypt.
Game over! The end is neigh! The sky is falling! Why? Because President Obama’s spokesperson Robert Gibbs said that a post-Mubarak Egyptian ruling group “has to include a whole host of important non-secular actors that give Egypt a strong chance to continue to be [a] stable and reliable partner.” In other words, the Obama administration would no longer like to continue the undemocratic policies of Hosni Mubarak that outlawed peaceful democratic opposition to his pro-torture regime.
This is the nature of democracy. Everyone should be allowed to participate peacefully in a free and fair election, even candidates or parties we disagree with. For the record, the Muslim Brotherhood has officially and consistently renounced terrorism and embraced democracy. However, Islamophobes like Spencer have always been very selective and self-serving in their advocacy of freedom.
Nevertheless, Mohamed Elbaradei, the noble-prize winning nuclear watchdog and a possible key leader in the new interim government, completely rejects the arguments of those who exploit fears of the Brotherhood to stifle Egyptian democracy:
ElBaradei himself says he is willing to work with the Muslim Brotherhood, denying that they want to replicate Khomeini’s Iran.
“The Muslim Brotherhood has nothing to do with the Iranian model, has nothing to do with extremism as we have seen it in Afghanistan and other places. The Muslim Brotherhood is a religiously conservative group. They are a minority in Egypt,” he told CNN.
“I have been reaching out to them. We need to include them. They are part of the Egyptian society, as much as the Marxist party here,” he said.
He rejected the idea that Islamic fundamentalists are set to undermine Egypt.
“This is a myth that was sold by the Mubarak regime — that it’s either us, the ruthless dictators, or… the al Qaeda types,” he said.
In reality, Obama is simply putting America’s democratic rhetoric into practice. The Muslim Brotherhood has a right to peacefully participate in Egypt’s new political landscape, even if you strongly disagree with their platform. Let the voters decide. That’s democracy!
However, even if the Brotherhood is the “prototypical Islamic supremacist, pro-Sharia group of the modern age,” rather than a conservative religious group, as Spencer claims, the reality is that the organization is simply too weak to overtake the secular opposition.
Analyst Abulhimal is convinced Egyptians would not let the Muslim Brotherhood seize power — not least because the military would stand in its way.
“Neither the people nor the secular leaders would allow the Muslim Brotherhood to take it, and more importantly the army would never allow the Muslim Brotherhood to take it,” he said. “If the army said, ‘We would support the people in the street and we would have a deal with President Mubarak to have an orderly transition,’ as the Americans said yesterday — this would definitely not include the Muslim Brotherhood.”
A similar sentiment is repeated in Justin Elliot’s excellent interview at Salon with Nathan Brown, a political science professor at George Washington University and director of its Institute for Middle East Studies:
We’ve got a big headache in Egypt. The regime in its current form is toast. Our regional policy has been based on a very close working relationship with the Egyptian government since 1974, so we’ve got fundamental rethinking to do. The Brotherhood is part of that headache. It’s not the biggest part. Is there cause for concern? Yes. Is there cause for fearful reaction? Absolutely not.
So, on both theoretical and practical grounds, Spencer has misrepresented the Islamist Brotherhood boogeyman to quietly push for the dictator’s victory in Egypt. Anshel Pfeffer of Haaretz calls it like it is:
The late Arab-American scholar Edward Said appears to have been right. We’re all suffering from Orientalism, not to say racism, if the sight of an entire people throwing off the yoke of tyranny and courageously demanding free elections fills us with fear rather than uplifting us, just because they’re Arabs…
People are scaring us with talk of an Islamist takeover of our big neighbor. The Muslim Brotherhood will certainly play an important role in any political democratic structure that emerges in Egypt, and that has to be dealt with. But then, we also have religious fundamentalists in the [Israeli] government. That is the price of a parliamentary democracy. And the previous U.S. administration was intimately linked to fundamentalists, but that’s okay too, because evangelical Christians love Israel.
Of course, Spencer’s double standards concerning democracy and the presence of fundamentalists in government abound (Jewish/Christian fundamentalists good, Muslim fundamentalists bad). What about the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel? This is a legitimate concern, but it appears the worst case scenario is avoidable. Pfeffer continues:
Hundred of Egyptians who were asked about that [peace treaty] this week on the streets of Cairo said that they support continued diplomatic relations between Israel and Egypt. Even among supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, it was difficult to find someone calling for the Israeli Embassy to get out of the country, though there were a few.
It is clear that democracy is on the march in Egypt and the Arab world, despite armies of fake democrats like Spencer who feed us specious arguments about why unelected dictators who torture are better for America’s security than a free and fair Egypt. Ultimately, whatever happens will determine what the future holds not only for Egypt, but for America and the world.
At this moment America has an important decision. As Dr. Maher Hathout expressed it in the L.A. Times:
The United States today has a clear choice. It can stand with the people or with the dictator.
In contradistinction to the vapid antagonizers who wish to see a religious war between Muslims and Christians there are those souls who are willing to stand up for religious freedom — and thankfully they are an overwhelming majority!