Whatever happened on Friday, Soltan pledged, the groups opposed to the new government would continue to take to the streets. "The blood of over 4,500 martyrs will not go in vain," he said. "Even if you disperse today's protests, we will keep coming back tomorrow, and the day after.… The Ministry of Interior is the military's professional thugs; once they have been defeated, the military will have no choice but to back down."
For Farag, the Muslim Brotherhood has already become a bystander in Egypt's crisis. On Aug. 14, he said, crowds ignored the group as it urged people to go home. "It was out of our control," he said. "People were angry for blood after security burned our mosques and insulted our religious institutions."
Farag's attempts to find a middle path through the crisis seem increasingly out of place in today's more violent Egypt. His words had been a jumble of contradictions in the weeks before the recent bloodshed: He swore the Brotherhood was peaceful, but vowed they would die marching before the Army's and police's guns. He explained this was not provocative -- it was a matter of basic rights. He deplored the Islamists' turn to extremism, but believed that the Egyptian security forces' violence and the West's failure to take a firm stand against the coup had pushed the Brotherhood in this direction.
"In the long term, the international community is giving birth to people with no hope who will take revenge," he said. "The West is creating a generation of terrorists."
Even as the sit-in at Rabaa al-Adaweya was crushed, he said, he saw his former comrades become radicalized. These were people he had known and debated with about the need to push for gradual change through democratic institutions -- now they smiled cruelly at him, and he looked down at his shoes. Nothing was clear to him anymore.
"I am not the person you met before. I am angry. I am caught in a chaotic way," he explained, as he drove through the Cairo night. "I won't pick up arms, but I cannot blame the people who do."