December 19, 2012 - 17:38 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Egyptian Islamist groups are planning a mass protest in Alexandria on Friday, Dec 21, a move that will raise tensions a day before the final stage of a referendum on a new constitution that has split the nation, according to Reuters.
The rally announced by the Muslim Brotherhood responds to a violent confrontation between Islamists and their liberal and secular opponents in Egypt's second city last week that ended with a Muslim preacher besieged inside his mosque for 14 hours.
The run-up to the referendum on the Islamist-backed constitution, billed as a major impetus for Egypt's democratic transition, has been marked by often violent protests in which at least eight people have died.
The first day of voting last weekend resulted in a 57 percent vote in favor of the draft basic law, according to official media. The final stage on Saturday is expected to endorse that result as it covers parts of Egypt, particularly rural areas, even more sympathetic to the Islamist cause.
Last week's clashes in Alexandria involved protesters armed with clubs, knives and swords.
"What happened last Friday reveals the ugly face of secularism," said a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group which backed President Mohamed Mursi in his presidential election victory in June.
Opponents of Mursi staged protests in Cairo on Tuesday evening but numbers were down on previous demonstrations.
Mursi and his backers say the constitution is needed to advance Egypt's transition from decades of military-backed autocratic rule. Opponents say it is too Islamist and ignores the rights of women and of minorities, including 10 percent of Egyptians who are Christian.