Religion in the Wake of the Revolution

Religion in the Wake of the Revolution

 With the success of the revolution in Egypt and the ousting of Mubarak and his regime, the Egyptian people have now succeeded in creating a new political environment and now the role of religion in political life is under discussion. Religion has always played an important role in Egypt and notably, when Mubarak stepped down, Islamists reemerged in the political arena.

While Mubarak was still in power, the Muslim Brotherhood used religious slogans that were well received by the Egyptian people. Now that the MB has become a legal entity in Egypt, and a variety of opposition groups have rallied to sort out necessary amendments and changes, a debate has begun over the place of religion in Egypt’s future Constitution and renewed political activity by Islamist groups. As Egypt is known to be a religious society, it is obvious that Islam will have a place in the movement toward democracy.

The MB is a fundamental part of Egypt’s religious framework and it is well-respected and holds a moderate, tolerant perception of Islam. For the MB, there is no contradiction between modern democracy and Islamic law that guarantees freedom of conscience and expression based on common decency and equal rights for women. The MB is also committed to the formation of a government based on popular sovereignty. Experience has shown that the MB has managed to form a blend of political strategy with religious principles that form a foundation of ethics and morality.

Article one of the Egyptian Constitution – in 1971 – made Islam the religion of the state and the principles of Islamic law as the basis of legislation. This particular article was not included in the recent referendum but some people feared that if there had to be a new Constitution, such an article may be left out. At the same time, secularists were wary that the article could lead to the formation of an Islamist state, leaving Coptic Christians discriminated against.

Amendments to the Constitution, however, guarantee equal citizenship for everyone regardless of religion, race or creed. Religious identity in a nation need not interfere with political processes, but, at the same time, must be safeguarded .

While Coptic Christians demand equal opportunity to participate in the political arena, likewise Islamist groups, which have been repressed for a long time, are also not to be excluded from political life. Anyone who respects the tenets of religious freedom and the equality of all has the right to participate in the development of a new Egypt. At the same time, any individual or group which incites any form of sectarianism is seen as a threat to democracy.

Islam in Egypt is multi-faceted and no one group can say it represents ‘Islam’.

Muslim Brotherhood represents moderate Islam, the Wasat party offers a more progressive interpretation of the religion, and the Salafi movements take another way altogether and their views are manifest in their denouncement of the revolution which they see a rebellion against authority.

The existence of such groups does not necessarily mean that Egypt’s new-found freedoms are under threat. In fact, the open arena of Egyptian politics will give religious groups the opportunity to present a message that will be attractive to the wary Egyptian mainstream.  Radicalism, on the other hand, is a danger in that it contradicts the newly-established law and will guarantee that those who support it will be politically marginalized.

Egyptians have just successfully overthrown authoritarianism, and are not ready to have it return in the guise of religion. Islam in Egypt will never be allowed as a tool of oppression, but as a means of tolerance and liberty.