Egiptas: Sekuliarizmas, Šariatas, and the Prospects for an Inclusive Democracy

Manaras šorbagy

The relationship between religion and politics is at the top of the politicalagenda in Egypt, ir, as I shall argue, it has important implications for thepolitical rights of Egyptian women and minorities. However, the issue is not asimple secular/religious divide. It is, rather, the problem of how to define thenature and characteristics of a civil, democratic state that is neither a theocracynor an Islamically “naked” public space. !e Islamist/secularist dichotomy is afalse one; it has little or no relevance to actual political processes and possibilitiesin Egypt, where a middle ground is both theoretically and practically conceivable.Such a middle ground, however, must be deliberately sought and found byEgyptians, so that a national consensus on the relationship between religion andpolitics can emerge.For a brief time, such a consensus seemed possible. Hopes were highbetween 2005 and early 2007. But those possibilities collapsed in 2007. !ispaper examines the reasons for this collapse. Reasons, I will argue, that lie incorrectable political failures of actors across the board, rather than any inherentimpossibility of creating an inclusive democracy in a Muslim society.Understanding Egypt’s Current Predicament2005 was an unusual political year in Egypt. Many taboos were broken in streetprotests and by the independent press. Domestic political pressure to begindemocratic reform was mounting to unprecedented levels. Moreover, in theirconfrontation with the regime, many political forces shrewdly took advantage ofthe U.S.’s democracy rhetoric without buying into the Bush agenda or allowing92 SECULARISM, WOMEN & THE STATE: THE MEDITERRANEAN WORLD IN THE 21ST CENTURYthemselves to be exploited by the Bush administration.One of 2005’s most promising developments was the publicacknowledgement, for the first time, that a generation of young activists andintellectuals had succeeded, over more than a decade, in acting across ideologicallines. !e Egyptian Movement for Change, also known as Kefaya,1 was onemanifestation of these efforts and an important illustration of the possibilitiesof this new politics.

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