The Obama administration is praising Egypt's parliamentary elections as a success. But early results put the Muslim Brotherhood in the lead -- a group that is no friend of the United States.
The election was a victory of sorts for democracy, considering the two days of voting were largely peaceful and featured high voter turnout.
But early returns showed the clear winner in the first round was the Muslim Brotherhood -- whose leaders would like to establish an Islamic state in Egypt.
The group could win 40 percent of the seats in the new parliament, according to preliminary counts.
"I demand the Muslim brothers who practice Islamic politics, put religion aside. Religion is very sacred. Politics is a dirty game and religion is above all," said Christian protestor Osama Jirjis.
One Cairo newspaper headline read "Muslim Brotherhood beating the victory drums."
Another one read "Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis are the majority." The Saudi-style Salafis are even more hardline than the Muslim Brotherhood.
The prospect of an Islamist victory has Egypt's Christians, who make up about 10 percent of thepopulation, terrified that one day strict Islamic law will be imposed. The Christian minority voted for the secular Egyptian Bloc, which could emerge as the second place winner.
There is also a feeling rooted both in paranoia and experience, that Egypt's secular leaning military will not allow radical Islamists to win the next round.
"The Muslim Brotherhood is just a tool to support the military council, and in the next round of elections, the Brotherhood will lose," said Ahmed Issa, a Muslim protester.
The White House has pressured Egypt's ruling military council to go through with free elections, even though a victory by Islamists would leave the U.S. with less influence and fewer friends in the Middle East.