Tahrir Square is closed until Saturday. Al-Azhar tunnel, a vital traffic vein in a congested capital, is also closed.
Battalions from the army and police, meanwhile, have been deployed around government facilities, across the country. And state TV as well as private channels are filled patriotic songs, old and new.
Hysteria has been whipped up by the government, and its media pundits are occupying the airwaves, warning the public of “plots”, “conspiracies”, and the imminent demise of the Egyptian state on “Black Friday”.
Why? The state is reacting to a call for an “Muslim youth uprising,” on 28 November, by the Salafi Front, which was endorsed by the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies. The protest seeks to "impose Islamic identity without disguise".
The call for national demonstrations tomorrow predictably elicited a knee-jerk reaction from the state, with the troop deployments, daily incitement and a series of doomsday scenarios delivered by a variety of self-described strategic experts.
Interior ministry officials have already stated they are ready to use live ammunition against protesters. Al-Azhar and associated cliques of government-friendly sheikhs also did not waste the chance. They quickly weighed in with their fatwas excommunicating those planning to take part in the protests, and providing religious justification, in rubber-stamp fashion, for killing opposition activists.
Three years ago, the (same) Islamist leaders, mobilized their followers onto Tahrir Square to “preserve Egypt’s Islamic identity”, by supporting the ruling military junta. Today, “preserving Egypt’s Islamic identity” entails the overthrow of the (same) ruling military junta, they say.
Since the coup, Islamist leaders have not stopped calling for unity with the secular opposition, and they seem genuinely puzzled as to why their calls are not heeded. And I share their puzzlement. Why on earth would Copts resist the urge to support “imposing Islamic identity without disguise”? Why would leftists stay away from protests that call for the establishment of “Islamic Sharia”?
One must denounce firmly the abuses of the state against Islamists. Sisi is employing the “dirty war” manual by the letter. Yet, the hypocrisy and the sectarianism of Islamist leaders cannot also be forgiven.