A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, November 30, 2012

Two Versions of Morsi's Friday Prayer

 President Morsi had a curious experience at Friday Prayer today, though there are varying accounts of what precisely occurred. The state-run Ahram Online says only this:
The president had to intervene to contain the anger of some worshippers during Friday prayers in an upscale district of Cairo, when the mosque’s preacher dedicated his sermon to defending Morsi’s latest decisions. "My dear brother, the one who is angry, please come and explain to me why you are angry. It’s your right and it’s my duty [to explain]," Morsi said in the mosque, drawing applause from worshippers. "After prayers, we will talk for a few minutes," the president said. "I hope you will all listen."
So the President conciliated some dissidents gathered for Friday prayer. The story the Egypt Independent tells is much more confrontational:
Worshippers at Hassan al-Sharbatly Mosque in New Cairo protested against President Mohamed Morsy while he was attending prayers there Friday, when the imam of the mosque tried to justify the president’s recent decisions.
“Prophet Mohamed and the Caliphs used to dismiss and appoint judges, and there is no problem with Morsy doing that,” the imam said, according to an eyewitness. The imam was referring to Morsy’s dismissal of the prosecutor general, which was deemed a staggering interference of the president in judicial matters.  
But worshippers stopped the imam and protested his likening Morsy to the Prophet.
The atmosphere was charged following the prayers, with some worshippers chanting, “Down with the rule of the supreme guide,” referring to the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsy hails.
Meanwhile, Morsy supporters in the crowd chanted the president’s name.
“The imam made a mistake and the president is to be blamed,” retired professor Hassan Abdel Kader, who was praying close to the president, told Egypt Independent. “What the imam said angered the people and created a hubbub,” he added. “His sermon was immediately interrupted by angry worshippers.”
The ensuing chaos remained for a few minutes following the prayer. The imam asked people to calm down, saying, “No voice should be louder than the chant of ‘There is no God but Allah.’”
To end the chaos, some people called for prayer. As soon as the prayer ended, “the hubbub returned again, even more strongly,” said Hassan Awad, a retired army general, who attended the prayer.
After the end of the prayer, Morsy took the microphone and talked to the worshippers, assuring them of the independence of the judiciary.
“Morsy contained the protesters smartly, and acknowledged the judges’ rights, but at the same time his decisions are not in line with what he said in the mosque,” said Awad. Abdel Kader said Morsy asked to talk with some of the protesters, and four young men went to talk with him for about 15 minutes.

Adel Ibrahim, a journalist at Al-Ahram state daily, who attended the prayer, said four buses carrying pro-Morsy people came to attend the prayer. A security guard confirmed that. Ibrahim added that worshippers were annoyed before the start of the prayer because of the tight security measures.   
That would seem to tell a rather different story.  I wasn't there, but have seen versions where Presidential security had to protect Morsi, at least initially. Strictly speaking, the two accounts are not directly in conflict,  but they certainly paint different pictures.

No comments: