Thousands march in Cairo in support of Morsi

Supporters of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi march in Cairo, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012. The Muslim Brotherhood, from which President Morsi hails, hopes for a large turnout at the Saturday rallies to counter opposition protests.
AP Photo/Thomas Hartwell

(CBS News) Thousands of people waving Egyptian flags and hoisting large pictures of the nation's Islamist president are demonstrating across Egypt in support of him.

The Muslim Brotherhood, from which President Mohammed Morsi hails, hopes the turnout at today's rallies will counteract earlier opposition protests. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets twice this week opposing Morsi's decrees last week to grant himself sweeping powers.

Morsi says he acted to prevent courts led by former regime holdovers from dissolving the assembly and delaying a transition to democracy.

"The people support the president's decision!" chanted crowds outside Cairo University, where several thousand had gathered.

Saturday's rallies also aim to show support for a draft constitution passed by an Islamist-led assembly early Friday.

The constitution, drafted by a panel dominated by Morsi's Islamist allies, could be put to a referendum before the end of the year, reports correspondent Holly Williams.

The draft constitution gives Islamic Shariah law a bigger role. It also empowers the state to protect "morals and values" - but there are few details on what that means.

Also, a clause that specifically guaranteed equality for women was removed.

Brotherhood activists in several cities passed out fliers calling for people to come out and "support Islamic law." A number of Muslim clerics in Friday sermons in the southern city of Assiut called the president's opponents "enemies of God and Islam."

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Lillian Wagdy, a blogger, believes the draft constitution could be used to violate her rights.

"You take your salary from my taxes - you have no right to tell me how to live my life, how to dress, how to talk," Wagdy said. "You have no right to put me in jail because I'm expressing my opinion on the Internet or in the streets. And this is what they did in the constitution."

On Tahrir Square, Egyptians from many walks of life agree with her.

Ahmed Hamdi, an ultra-conservative Muslim, told CBS News that if Egyptians want democracy the constitution should represent all segments of society - not just the Islamists.

Egypt's revolution of two years ago was supposed to mark the birth of a new democracy - but some here now fear that one group of Egyptians is trying to impose their own views on everyone else.

On Friday protesters flooded Cairo's Tahrir Square in the second giant rally this week, as Egypt appeared headed toward a volatile confrontation between the opposition and ruling Islamists.

The protests have highlighted an increasingly cohesive opposition leadership of prominent liberal and secular politicians trying to direct public anger against Morsi and the Islamists — a contrast to the leaderless youth uprising last year which toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

The opposition announced plans for an intensified street campaign of protests and civil disobedience and even a possible march on Morsi's presidential palace to prevent him from calling a nationwide referendum on the draft, which it must pass to come into effect. Top judges announced Friday they may refuse to monitor any referendum, rendering it invalid.

If a referendum is called, "we will go to him at the palace and topple him," insisted one protester, Yasser Said, a businessman who said he voted for Morsi in last summer's presidential election.