As I stumbled over the sandals and the men sleeping next to them at the Raba’a al-Adawiyya mosque in Nasser City, where the Muslim Brotherhood is holding its daily rallies, the beards and headscarves blended into a blurry monochrome pastel. But as I looked closer into a sea of Egyptians that Moses would have been hard pressed to part, one man’s tresses caught my attention. A cross between Don King’s stand-at-attention locks and Julius Erving’s flapping waves, they drew me in like a siren call.
“I’m Ibrahim al-Kazaz man,” the 23-year-old said in idiomatic English. Unlike the masses that have flocked here, Kazaz is no fan of deposed President Mohamed Morsi or his Muslim Brotherhood. The secularist does however support democracy and that is why his band of brothers from the Pro-Democracy Coalition have set up their protest tent in Nasser City. As Egypt grapples with its first threat to democracy, some here are putting aside their ideological beliefs to stand up for electoral legitimacy.
“I don’t support Morsi,” Kazaz says inside the Raba’a al-Adawiyya mosque, where Brotherhood leaders mingle with the media. “In fact I would not vote for him in general elections. I don’t believe in what he stands for.” What binds Kazaz to the protesters here is a sense that the army that overthrew President Morsi stripped him of the legitimacy Egyptians conferred upon him at the ballot box. “My right to vote and that of Egyptians was taken away from us.”
As Kazaz expounds on his indignation, the group’s leader, Mohamed Soltan, walks in with the latest poster he plans to hang around the mosque. “We chose, Egyptians had a choice, and the army took that away from us,” says the 25-year-old business development manager, his passion as ebullient as a Robin Williams sketch. “They closed the TV stations. The army is now calling us terrorists for being here.”
Soltan’s group formed in the days leading up to the June 30th demonstrations that toppled Morsi. Its members feared democracy was slipping away as quickly as it had arrived. “We tried going to Tahrir [Square],” where the anti-Morsi protesters gathered, says 29-year-old Abd al-Rahman Daour. “But they would not listen to us and chased us out. Here we feel more welcome even though we don’t all agree on ideology.”
Daour started a Facebook campaign and within a week, hundreds of Egyptians from other provinces were asking what they could do. “We told them to hold Friday rallies. Last week, there were events in Alexandria, Isma’iliyya, and Suez. Next week we will hopefully have more.”
Most of the coalition’s members are secular. Some spent time abroad, where they absorbed the vibrancy and heated debates that are an integral element of democracy. There, they say, they learned the importance of harmony rather than ideology.
The coalition has instructed field activists to encourage democracy promotion rather than harping on the divisive issues that are on everyone’s tongue. The organization is hoping that its non-sectarian and non-ideological message will foster a unity Egypt seems to have lost in the past few weeks. “No one is talking about Egypt anymore,” Kazaz explained. “It’s all me, me, me.” And until they do, the problems that plague the Arab world’s most important country are not likely to disappear.
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