Religion and politics in Egypt today:Ideological Trends and Future Prospects
Elizabeth Iskander for the Institute Francais des Relations Internationales.
The sudden opening up of political space since the uprising of 25 January 2011 began has given visibility to the range of political and religious streams of thought that exist in the Arab world’s most populous country. Although Egypt’s uprising was largely about reclaiming political agency and social justice for the Egyptian people, religion has contributed to the shape of Egypt’s struggle to redefine itself since the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak on 11 February 2011. Under Mubarak the political scene was often presented in black and white terms as being divided between religious extremists (then normally represented by the Muslim
Brotherhood) and Mubarak’s National Democratic Party. The latter was represented as the only force preventing Egypt from becoming a radical theocracy. This covered over the diversity that is now apparent. It is clear that
Islamists are a powerful political force, yet they also face broad and varied opposition and do not represent the only ideological trend to emerge. Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood did not have an easy victory in
Egypt’s presidential election in June 2012 and continues to face open and direct criticism. Nevertheless, the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power has caused alarm among sections of the Egyptian population and the international community. Evidently, the effect of religion on the political transition in Egypt cannot be ignored if the dynamics of the social and political changes are to be understood.