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Egypt Protesters Demand ‘Arab, Islamic Identity’ in Tahrir Rally

Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Egypt’s main cities of Cairo and Alexandria today with demands including the preservation of the country’s “Arab and Islamic identity.”

“We will not accept an alternative to the laws of our God,” read one of the signs in central Cairo’s Tahrir Square, according to footage broadcast on state-run Nile News.

The demonstration in Cairo is the largest since protesters rallied three weeks ago to demand that the government speed up political and economic reforms after the January uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak. Debate over the role of religion has intensified as Egypt prepares for its first post-Mubarak election, due in November.

About 60 percent of Egyptians say the country’s laws should “strictly follow the teachings” of Islam, according to a survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Center in April. Seventy-five percent had a favorable view of the Muslim Brotherhood, the biggest opposition group in the Mubarak era and frontrunner for the parliamentary vote, the study found.

Mathar Shahine, the leader of today’s Islamic Friday prayer in the square, had earlier called for Egypt to “preserve its Arab and Islamic identity,” and described members of the country’s Coptic Christian minority as “our partners in this nation with the same rights and duties as everyone else.”

Another demand of protesters in recent weeks has been the acceleration of trials for Mubarak and officials charged with corruption and killing protesters at the start of the uprising.

The trial of the former president, his two sons Alaa and Gamal, ex-Interior Minister Habibi el-Adly and others will begin in Cairo on Aug. 3, the Middle East News Agency said yesterday, citing Mohamed Manie, assistant to the justice minister.

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