Last Updated: Thu Feb 09, 2012 23:11 pm (KSA) 20:11 pm (GMT)

Calls for strike divide Egypt as Muslim Brotherhood snubs government

The scale of response to a general strike, planned for Feb. 11, will offer clues to the appetite of Egyptians for more confrontation with the ruling army. (Reuters)
The scale of response to a general strike, planned for Feb. 11, will offer clues to the appetite of Egyptians for more confrontation with the ruling army. (Reuters)

Religious authorities in Egypt have called on unions and youth groups to scrap plans for a wave of strikes, saying the people must show duty to the nation and spare its frayed economy even more damage.

Protesters are planning mass walkouts and civil disobedience on Feb. 11 to demand a swifter transition from military to civilian rule.

“I appeal to you ... not to disrupt work even for one hour and commit yourselves to meet your duties toward yourselves, your families and your country,” Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayib, Grand Imam of Egypt’s highest Islamic authority al-Azhar, said in a message on Thursday to the nation of 80 million people.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood called on the ruling generals to sack the military-appointed government, saying it has failed to manage the deteriorating security and economic situation in the country.

The group controls nearly 50 percent of the seats in the new parliament, by far the single largest bloc to emerge from Egypt’s freest and fairest elections in decades.

Brotherhood spokesman Mahmoud Ghozlan said the military should appoint a Brotherhood representative as prime minister, who would then form a new government, the Associated Press reported.

“We call on the military council to sack this government that has failed to handle this big event and to form another government,” said Ghozlan.

“If there is a government in place that is really backed by the choice of the people, it will act without regard for any pressure from anyone. It will seek to reassure the people and provide it with security,” he added.

Despite its objections against the government, the Muslim Brotherhood has also refused to back a strike.

“This call is very dangerous to the interests of the nation and its future,” Mahmoud Hussein, general secretary of the Brotherhood, said in a statement on its website.

Fears over strike action have also been voiced by the country’s Christian authorities.

Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III said in a statement carried by newspapers: “Civil disobedience is not accepted by religion and the state does not accept it and there are many verses in the Holy Book that talk of following the ruler.”

An estimated 10 percent of Egypt’s population is Christian.

The scale of response to the strike call will offer clues to the appetite of Egyptians for more confrontation with the army, which oversaw the first free election in six decades and is pledging to hand full power to elected civilians by mid-year.

Critics say the military will try to keep wielding power from behind the scenes.

The army has deployed extra soldiers and tanks to protect state buildings and public property in the build-up to the strike, which has highlighted deep divisions between liberal and leftist youth groups on one side and the army, Islamist politicians and religious leaders on the other.

Activists say the strike will begin a wave of national disobedience to raise the heat on the military council that took power from Hosni Mubarak. They say the council stands in the way of democracy, social justice and individual freedoms.

Meanwhile, fears of escalating violence in Egypt also back the plea for calm.
Successive street clashes between riot police and revolutionary groups have drawn an angry response from citizens waiting for a return to stability in the hope it will lead to more jobs and less poverty.

At least 15 people were killed in the latest spate of street violence in Cairo and the eastern city of Suez, sparked by the death of 74 people after a soccer match.

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