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The protesters are also unsure of what will come next but they are alive to Western fears that this is an Islamist revolt. Five minutes on the ground belied that suggestion. This was not an attempt to turn Cairo into Kabul, nor was it a rerun of the Iranian revolution of 1979. The language of the protesters was framed in the Western idiom of freedom, liberty and human rights. The festive atmosphere inside Tahrir Square where men and women mixed freely to the sound of nocturnal music, was a far cry from anything Islamist hardliners would tolerate. Islamic symbols or slogans were also conspicuous by their absence in these protests. 

I asked Saad Rais, the young man whose brother was killed by police, whether Islamists might take over. A heavyset man behind him sporting a thick beard burst into life: "Don't call us terrorists. We are no threat. We don't want war with you, with America, or Israel. We just need our rights for all Egyptians, Muslim and Christian. We will defend the churches like we defend the mosques."

Christian participation in this movement has sometimes been overlooked. The way these protests worked was that people would gather in their local area and then march to Tahrir Square, collecting bystanders along the way. Whenever new arrivals reached the square, the protesters already inside would rush over to welcome them, chanting anti-government slogans. On more than one occasion I saw protesters arrive in the square being jointly led by imams and priests holding hands. 

One protester from Tahrir Square, who went by the name of "Shamoussa", tweeted her feelings once the internet was restored: "We're Christian and we're out on the streets protesting! Stop bullsh***ing about Islamists!" 

There are legitimate concerns, of course, about the Muslim Brotherhood (sometimes called the Ikhwan). Founded in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna — and officially banned in Egypt since 1954 — it is the oldest contemporary Islamist movement. Suggestions that the Brotherhood can be tempered and that it is learning the value of pragmatic compromise after years of participation in Egypt's electoral process were not borne of the facts. Institutionally it remains as reactionary and extreme as it has always been.

The day before the "million-man march" I travelled to Shubra, an impoverished area just north of downtown Cairo, to follow a Brotherhood procession as it marched to Tahrir Square. It was the first time since being in Cairo that I had seen an even vaguely anti-Semitic poster (though I would see more later). The protest was relatively small although it gathered momentum as it proceeded through the city. 

A spokesman for the Brotherhood, Khaled Tantawy, admitted in Tahrir Square: "The Muslim Brotherhood did not start [the protest movement]. The idea came from the Egyptian youth and all categories [of society] decided to participate". 

The Brotherhood is undoubtedly a part of Egyptian political life, but it is not on the brink of power. It is not even the most popular party among ordinary Egyptians. When the protest movement first emerged, the Ikhwan was slow to react, only mobilising four days after it first began. In Tahrir Square itself, their numbers were always negligible. 

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