Qaradawi, a spiritual leader to the Muslim Brotherhood here, sought to reassure Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority saying “in this square sectarianism died” and praised Copts for linking hands to symbolically protect Muslims while they prayed during the uprising.
“The regime planted sectarianism here … in Tahrir Muslims and Christians joined hands for a better Egypt,” said the theologian, who has lived in semi-exile in Qatar for decades.
And while he praised Egypt’s new military rulers, he warned that they must quickly restore civilian rule.
“The real message here was, 'Don’t mess with us Egyptians,' " says Shadi Hamid, research director at the Brookings Institute’s Doha Center in Qatar, who joined the crowd at Tahrir today. “It’s a clear message to the military, warning them that people are still willing to come out in massive numbers and it’s going to continue indefinitely if needed.”
The devout crowd, many of whom turned out to hear Qaradawi give his first public speech since 1981, was also a reminder that huge sections of Egypt take their Islamic faith seriously – and that real and open democratic reform will almost certainly lead to a stronger role for the faith in the nation’s political life.
“Qaradawi is very much in the mainstream of Egyptian society, he’s in the religious mainstream, he’s not offering something that’s particularly distinctive or radical in the context of Egypt,” says Mr. Hamid. “He’s an Islamist and he’s part of the Brotherhood school of thought, but his appeal goes beyond the Islamist spectrum, and in that sense he’s not just an Islamist figure, he’s an Egyptian figure with a national profile.”