egypt - AP - February 18 2011
A young boy watches from a rooftop as tens of thousands of Egyptians pray and celebrate the fall of the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak, Cairo, February 18, 2011. Photo by AP
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CAIRO - Egyptian newspapers estimate that two million people took part in the victory celebrations in Tahrir Square. Even if they exaggerate, certainly hundreds of thousands responded to an initiative born, once again, on Facebook: demonstrating in the square every Friday until all the revolution's demands are met.

Friday's rally was first and foremost a test for the revolutionaries themselves - to see if they could still rally the masses and send a message to the new decision-makers that the people are not giving up on their demands. They passed this test with flying colors.

For hours, the flow of marchers entering and leaving the square continued unabated, with thousands more sitting on the sidewalks and lawns. Others gathered around dancing and poetry-reading stages, and in every corner was a mini-Hyde Park: two or three people exchanging opinions as a circle of others listened.

"The most important thing is to have progressive taxation: Whoever gets paid more will pay more taxes," said a middle-aged woman with bare hair and a light suit. A few bearded men in traditional robes nodded approvingly.

Those who stayed home could see and hear the Islamic scholar Sheikh Yussuf al-Qardawi give the Friday sermon from the square's southern stage, after 30 years in exile. Those close enough to the stage could hear him. But most of those who came to pray in the square created small groups of their own. One demonstrator commented that the Muslim Brotherhood was striving for prominence now because during the revolution, it proved to have fewer followers than Egyptians had been taught to fear.

Qardawi began by saying his sermon was addressed not just to Muslims, but also to Copts, charging that interreligious tensions had been created by the previous regime. He congratulated the revolutionaries, saying he wanted to shake hands with each and every one of them, but also urged the young people to be patient about their demands, and not to become "an obstacle on the way to building Egypt until the armed forces can realize the people's demands."

This could be heard as echoing demands by the army and the business sector that workers end the strikes they began last week. But Qardawi was careful to hint that the army's mandate is limited: He said he trusts its promise to accelerate the transition from military to civilian rule.

While some protesters handed out leaflets supporting the strikes, very few, if any, carried signs in support of the workers. Most of the signs urged the army to release the prisoners of the revolution, bring those responsible for killing protesters to justice and put corrupt officials on trial.