Thousands of Islamists protested in Cairo on Friday against violence that has marred anti-government demonstrations, showing support for President Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood politician elected head of state last year.
The "Together against Violence" rally was called by a hardline Salafi Islamist group that waged an armed revolt against the state in the 1990s.
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Al-Gama'a al-Islamiya, whose leadership renounced violence more than a decade ago, has entered mainstream politics since autocratic president Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in 2011.
The Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party said it backed Friday's rally in a symbolic way but did not mobilize supporters for the event, meaning the numbers were smaller than at previous Islamist protests.
Around 60 people have been killed in Egypt since late January in unrest touched off by the anniversary of the uprising against Mubarak and exacerbated by a court ruling that sentenced 21 people to death over a soccer stadium disaster a year ago.
It has been the worst bloodshed since Morsi assumed office, underlining the instability that continues to thwart government efforts to restore a sense of normalcy and revive an economy in crisis by attracting fresh investment and tourism.
The unrest has been stirred by anger at Morsi and his Islamist backers, who the opposition says have betrayed the revolution and sought to monopolize power - accusations dismissed by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Repeating the pattern of recent weeks, Morsi's opponents rallied again on Friday, this time gathering outside El-Quba, one of the presidential palaces in the northern suburbs of Cairo. The activists dubbed it "Checkmate Friday."
The protesters numbered several hundreds. The crowd grew to several thousand after prayer.
"No to Violence. Yes to sharia (Islamic law)," declared a banner held aloft from the crowd. "With our blood and souls we will sacrifice ourselves for Islam!" chanted the crowd. "The people want an iron fist," read another banner.
Morsi's most prominent liberal and leftist opponents have distanced themselves from the violence, saying they support only peaceful agitation. Islamist leaders and their rivals all renounced violence at crisis talks on Jan. 31 chaired by al-Azhar, a Sunni Muslim seat of religious learning.
Islamist groups such as al-Gama'a al-Islamiya were repressed by Mubarak during his 30 years in power. But they have moved into the heart of public life since his fall, alarming secular-minded Egyptians who worry they aim to dominate the new Egypt.
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