The Islamist factor

There were many religious folks at the demonstration, but the Muslim Brotherhood is treading very carefully lest anyone think they wish to hijack the revolution. I will write in more detail about them in a future column. But at the demonstration one could see that Islamists will be a factor in the new Egyptian polity.

The once-banned salafi group Gamal Islamiya had a group of supporters in the square with banners calling for the release of the blind sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, who was convicted of involvement in the first trade center bombing.

His followers and his son Mohammed insisted to me that he had been framed by the Egyptian secret police and the CIA and that the United States should send him home. They are also calling for the release of dozens of their followers in Egyptian prisons.

Gamal Islamiya renounced violence in 1997, after being smashed by Egyptian security, and one of their leaders told me that, were Islamist parties in power, they would adhere to international treaties (meaning the peace with Israel). Their presence in the square, however, as the Egyptian political scene opens up, reminds one that in a democracy, all kinds of voices will clamor to make themselves heard.