‘Preacher of the revolution’ electrifies Tahrir crowds

AFP reports: Once the preacher of a quiet mosque on the edge of Tahrir Square, Mazhar Shahin has become one of the most recognisable faces of the protests that ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February and which now call for the military to step down.

A roar of approval swept through the tens of thousands of demonstrators in Tahrir Square on Friday when Shahin called for the ruling generals to hand power to a government named by the protesters.

“The revolution is the one that thinks, the revolution is the one that decides, it is the one that judges,” said the cleric in his Friday prayer sermon.

“Our revolution was a body without a head. Today, the revolution will have a head,” he said of a proposed civilian government that includes opposition luminaries such as former UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamad ElBaradei.

With his cropped beard and white turban wrapped around a red fez, Shahin looks like the traditional government-appointed mosque preacher who, for years under Mubarak’s rule extolled the regime’s virtues.

But the sheikh has become a thorn in the side of the country’s rulers — first Mubarak, and now the ruling generals — with his vigorous denunciations of their abuses and calls for protesters to hold firm to their demands.

“Few of the revolution’s demands have been met,” he told the protesters on Friday. “The people insist on completing their revolution. Either we live in dignity, or we die here in Tahrir.”

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