Police surround supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi outside al-Fateh Mosque in Cairo, following their sweep of the mosque. (Source: Reuters)
The assault by Egyptian military and police of protesters encamped at two mosques in Cairo and subsequent has now reached more than 800 people dead officially, with the real numbers much higher. The protesters, fighting over the July 3 coup of President Mohammed Morsi by the military, have only recently been cleared from the al-Fateh and Rabaa al-Adawiya mosques by the military, with the transitional government claiming 1,000 arrests of members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Now, the Egyptian government is attempting to justify the violence against Morsi supporters and the Muslim Brotherhood as anti-terrorism, with words that indicate that the country seems intent on becoming Syria.
Speaking at a news conference, presidential adviser Mostafa Hegazi referred to the violence as being invoked by "extremists," and that the actions are "escalating everyday into a terrorist war." Hegazi said that the actions of Morsi supporters could not be described as "political difference," and that Egyptians are "united against terrorism and darkness." In declaring war against the protesters and the Muslim Brotherhood, Hegazi believes that the state will end up "triumphant" through the use of the military and police.
If these words sound familiar, that is because they sound a lot like the words of one Bashar al-Assad, who is leading his regime in Syria through a civil war against rebels inspired by the Arab Spring of 2011. Assad has repeatedly referred to the rebels as "terrorists" and followers of "extremism," and he believes his efforts are anti-terrorism. Given the drawn-out nature of the Syrian Civil War, and the fact that Islamist forces linked to al-Qaeda have joined the rebel cause, eventually Assad's statements turned out to be at least partly true. But such a motivation has allowed him to remain adamant on maintaining power.
Will Egypt descend into a civil war? Such a thought was initially impossible to fathom, even in the days following the July 3 coup. But now that the Muslim Brotherhood is seeking to invoke a "week of rage" in response to the actions of the Egyptian military on Friday's "day of rage," and that Hegazi believes the Morsi administration undertook a form of "theological and religious fascism," the odds that Morsi supporters and other factions, especially those in the nearly lawless Sinai Peninsula, may begin to fight with the military directly becomes ever more likely. Still, the notion that both Syria and Egypt, once united under the banner of the secular United Arab Republic, now both face internal strife from Islamic forces, remains surprising, if horrifying.